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Marc Segar 1974-1997


A Survival Guide for People with Asperger Syndrome


  • It may be known to you that the art of conversation is carried out within a set of constraining rules.
  • When people take part in a conversation, what they say normally has to follow on from the last thing that was said. We stick to the relevant so that the conversation flows smoothly.
  • Be careful of stating the obvious. You may also wish to avoid asking questions when you can work out the answer for yourself. This way, the conversation covers more useful ground.
  • Try to avoid repeating yourself or rephrasing yourself when you have already been understood. This may be rather difficult because repetition of thought is quite fundamental to autism. However, I take the approach of always looking for new things to think about. This seems to have been quite a successful move.
  • Also, some people reply to things you say before even giving you a chance to finish your sentence. However, if they have anticipated you correctly then their is usually no need for you to finish.
  • If you say something that doesn't make sense to the people around you, they might get annoyed but will probably forgive you. After all, everyone does this sometimes. Just don't do this too often.
  • If there is something you need to say which is not relevant but is important, for example "Bob phoned for you today" or "there's something I'd like to talk to you about which is worrying me", it is best to find the suitable person when they're not having a conversation. Try to find the right moment, get your timing right. If you need to pass on a phone call and think that you might forget if you are kept waiting too long, just write it down and leave it by the phone.
  • If what you need to tell them is vitally important, for example "Bob has just had a nasty knock on the head and is lying unconscious", then you MUST interrupt their conversation.
  • To join in a conversation, you need to listen to it. Listening can be extremely difficult, especially if you have to keep your ears open 24 hours a day, but you can get better with practice. The most important thing to listen to is the plot of the conversation.
  • Be on the look out for eye contact from other people as it can often mean they would like to hear your point of view.
  • It is easier to listen if you don't make any assumptions or pre-conceived ideas about what someone is going to say.
  • Some topics of conversation are taboo subjects and if you are in doubt, they are sometimes better left alone.
  • When a conversation becomes emotional, people often say things like "cheer up", "it'll be all right", "oh that's wonderful!" or "well done!". When you try to say these things, they might sound rather corny and sentimental at first, but they serve the same purpose as remembering to buy someone a birthday card. They serve to open up the conversation and invite the other person to express how they feel.

General Knowledge

  • Although it is often true that autistic people are better at picking up details, this is only when making a conscious effort to do so and there may be great problems in picking up the right details.
  • Also, getting absorbed into ones own head-space every other moment can make it extremely difficult to "learn things on the trot" which is the way most non-autistic people are used to doing it.
  • It might be difficult to join in a conversation if you don't have the general knowledge which is needed. The problem with this kind of knowledge is that there is no one source from which you can find it out but here are some tips:
  • General knowledge in conversations is usually about sport (in the UK usually football), pop-music, films, politics, the media, TV, peoples computers, clothes, hobbies and going out. It is, however, rare to find someone who is an expert on all of these things.
  • Many teenagers and young adults who are into music put more emphasis on the pop-stars than they do on the music they write. Sometimes they even select their partners on the basis of who they look like in the world of music or sport. Sometimes with this type of person, you just have to accept that you may not be compatible and look for friends elsewhere.
  • With reference to this last statement, sport (e.g. football) can also be quite selective. Sport is often a highly patriotic occupation in that people are friendly to each other if they support the same team but argue with and confront all those who support different teams.
  • TV, radio, magazines, libraries, video libraries and newspapers can help you learn about these topics. Also, many leaflets which can be found in magazines give you a list of all the most popular albums, CDs and films. To force yourself to learn about things which don't interest you, however, may be a waste of time since you won't really want to join in with the conversations about them.
  • If you decide to teach yourself the general knowledge you need in certain conversations, it is important that you also try to learn by listening to the conversations themselves, paying special attention to famous people when they are mentioned. This can make the learning process much faster.


  • Picking up people's names can be a problem but it is very important for topics of conversation involving famous people or the following of plots to films, books and especially to detective stories.
  • Picking up names of people you know personally may also be difficult but it is not quite as essential as you might think. If you remember not to ask someone's name more than two times and after this, if you still can't remember the name, to listen out for the next time someone calls it, you can usually get away with having a bad memory for names.
  • It helps to remember names if you make a mental note linking them with faces, for example, thinking things like "Sarah's the one with the nose ring" or "Bob's the one with the moustache".
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