State the Facts

Some people with autism need the detailed descriptions and social stories well in advance to give them time to prepare emotionally for transition or for an upcoming event. Others tend to focus on the reality of the moment, making extraneous explanations and detailed advance preparation rather irritating. In some cases, it is better if we just state the facts.

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+ Matter-of-fact reports. Anticipation of upcoming events can actually add stress and increase agitation for some individuals. If our friends tend to take life as it comes along, we might want to adopt a matter-of-fact reporting style, just announcing the schedule for the day without adding extra detail.

+ Minimize fanfare. Although some individuals with autism need the extra preparation, others deal with upcoming events and changes better if we minimize the fanfare. For example, in the case of moving to a new house or school, we can simply announce the new event by saying something like this, “In May we are moving to this white house with a grey roof.” Then, the next week, we might say, “Your bed and books and toys will move to a new room in May.”

The straight forward, no-frills style of announcing new events or happenings can be much more acceptable than a long, detailed explanation like, “Honey, Dad needs to move closer to Granny so he can take care of her, and mom has a new job in Adamsville. So, Son, I am sorry that we will have to move away from our home. I know you love our home. And I know it will be hard for you to move away from a place you love and into a new house. But, don’t worry, Son. We’ll let you help us pick out a new home in Adamsville, one that has a big bedroom just like your bedroom. And we will find one that has a big backyard with trees just like our house here. I promise you will learn to love your new house. The important things is that we will all be together, Son, so, don’t you worry, we will help you make this change and will help you feel comfortable in your new home.”

TIP FOR THE DAY: Some people, whether they are diagnosed with autism or not, would not have dreamed of worrying about the move if it weren’t brought up. The long explanations and effusive apologies can be a red flag that increases anxiety and builds stress. So, in some cases, it is better to simply announce the facts and move forward.

NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me a confidential email at with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism.

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