"Use Your words"

A parent asked how she could teach her son to "use his words" (instead of some other method of expressing himself) to describe his feelings. I responded:

If your son is like me (and many other autistics), then he doesn't always have access to the words that would express what he is feeling. He doesn't always know what it is he is feeling. Instead of saying "Use your words," perhaps you could figure out (with him) how you might be able to help cue him to do a self-analysis in order to locate and identify and, finally, put into words the feeling that is causing him a problem.

The use of words can be the end of a long, complicated process for many on the autism spectrum. And getting started on that process can use up an amount of energy unrecognized by those (NTs) for whom the whole process is both subconscious and faster than conscious thought.

What I did not say in my response but will add here is: Some adult autistics respond with anger to hearing the phrase "Use your words," or even to reading it in print. It is the kind of phrase that can become emblematic of the way people continue to insist on compliance with impossible standards, never noticing that their expectations are based on a reality autistics do not share.