Volume 17, No. 2, December 2022

"We're Operating Closer to the Red": Social Communication Reflections of Autistic Young Adults


  • Aieshea L. Banks & Karen J. Mainess, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA, USA


Social communication challenges in autistic individuals result in a variety of cognitive and affective reflections. This study explores the introspective thoughts about the social communication experiences of 15 autistic young adults to gain an understanding of how they feel during social engagement. An interpretive phenomenological approach was used to analyze the data. Three majorthemes emerged from the data that captured the challenges of the autistic adults: (a) “operating so much closer to the red”, (b) emotional overload, and (c) the highs and lows of social communication. Social communication differences in autistic individuals are attributed to a different neurotype and should not be considered a deficit. However, participant reflections indicate that they perceive a lowered social self-efficacy and elevated stress during social engagement when navigating daily activities. This may result in some individuals to seek professional support services to address social communication needs. The findings suggest that speech-language pathologists should encompass a holistic approach which incorporate person-centered care to work collaboratively with autistic adults, counseling services to address negative emotions and thoughts associated with communication, and consider strategies of stress reduction, such as mindfulnessbased practices, to support whole person care.