Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties

Couch potato?
Couch potato?

  ‘By the book.’ 

‘Pull your socks up.’

‘Couch potato.’

‘Driving me nuts.’

‘Under the weather.’

‘Let your hair down.’


Imagine if you understood these sayings literally.  What would you expect to see?   If you only understood what people SAID and not what they MEAN you would miss so much of what was being communicated to you.

Some children and adults with Asperger’s and autism miss out on a lot of social activity because they cannot understand what everyone is talking about a lot of the time.

Conversations tend to start on one topic move to another, involve idioms, jokes, sarcasm, innuendo, refer to past experiences and are full of people’s opinions and attitudes.
People with ASD find it difficult to process language as quickly as typical people and so it takes longer to work it out and its hard to keep up…meanwhile everyone else has moved on…

So what can we do?

If you know a person with ASD then speak clearly (but don’t over emphasise – that’s just silly)  and pause occasionally. Try to avoid using idioms and phrases unless you know they understand them.  You could explain them as you go along.

Driving me nuts?

Driving me nuts?

“You’re driving me nuts…in other words I’m frustrated by you asking me the same question over and over again!”

If it’s a younger person there are some great games available to teach these phrases or you could arm yourselves with a book of English Idioms.


There are websites for people learning English as a second language which have lists of idioms and their meanings.  Some of them have downloadable worksheets you can use.

Another good site is

Have fun with language! Michael Barton, a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome has written his own book to help others  (It’s raining cats and dogs by Michael Barton)  @MichaelBarton22

Make your own book about idioms and sayings.  Get a scrapbook and take your own pictures of the literal meanings of phrases like I have done in this post and write what they really mean underneath.

Send your photos to this blog if you like and I’ll use them to show others!

Grab an idiom by the scruff of the neck! (means that you should get on with it with enthusiasm!)

This post is just a drop in the ocean (only a small part) of all that could be said on the subject!  So don’t bite off more than you can chew (do too much in one go),  don’t get bogged down (overwhelmed) and break a leg (good luck!)!




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