We’re honoring Autism Acceptance by publishing April Accommodations — meaning adjustments that other people can do for  the autistic people in their lives. (For the flipside, as in things that make life harder for autistics, please see  our Autism Checklist of Doom.)

Today, we’re hearing from Elliot Keenan, who wants people to use pictures, not just words, to teach him about ideas and concepts.

What is a small switch in behavior other people can make, to ease your life as an autistic person?

When you’re trying to teach me something, show me a picture. Show me a graph or a diagram or an illustration.

Here’s an example: Math. I’m horrible at math. One of the first statistics classes I took in grad school was on linear regression. The basic idea of regression is that you draw one straight line that best represents the data points in front of you. The regression line follows the same general formula as any line: Y = M*X + B, where M is the slope and B is the Y-intercept. The slope of a regression line is essentially equivalent to the correlation between variable X and variable Y.

Most of my classmates thought of regression this way. Do you find it confusing? I do. When I think about regression, I “see” in my mind’s eye a line. I can’t “see” a formula or a bunch of numbers and Greek letters floating around like letters in a bowl of alphabet soup.

On a quiz, there was one question that nobody could answer correctly, except for me. The question was: if variable X and variable Y become less related, what happens to B? My professor asked me to explain to the class how I solved this difficult problem.

I saw a straight line with a slope of 1; then I grabbed the top right edge and pulled it down, to make the line flatter. I saw that the line hit the Y axis at a higher point. Therefore, B increases.

My professor scratched his head. “Huh,” he said, “I guess it does.”

It’s the same with giving me locations or instructions.

How will this accommodation make your life easier?

I have trouble orienting myself in space, and simply telling me where something is isn’t particularly helpful. I would be able to find things and understand complex concepts easier if people used illustrations.

What is one thing that brings you joy?

My cat!