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 Kate Ryan, who wants people to stop asking her open-ended questions like “How are you?”

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

Instead of asking how I am when you see me, make a comment that I can easily respond to, like something about the weather. (Because there is always something to say about the weather in New England… not sure about parts of the country where it doesn’t change.) Or about my special interest! Or about yours! Or anything that will spark an actual conversation.

If you genuinely want to hear how I am, be more specific. “How’s your new pain clinic going? How are you doing in PT? Are you still going to the Y?”

Remember that it goes both ways. If you want to know how I’m really doing, I probably want to know how you are really doing. These past few years have been hellish for everyone. Sharing your intimate details lets me know it’s okay to share mine.

How will this accommodation make your life easier?

Asking me how I am is confusing as hell, because I don’t know if I’m expected to say ‘fine’ or if you really want to know. And obviously there are some people who really want to know and some people like store clerks who couldn’t care less—but so many people fall into the friend category, and I don’t know exactly how close we are, or if I’m expected to say “fine” or tell the truth, and the truth is pretty damn dark these days for me.

Also it’s really hard to remember who falls into which category, especially because some of these people I’d definitely say fall into the “tell the truth” category except I haven’t seen you in 2+ years or so now. So WTF do you want me to say? I don’t know! It causes me so much angst.

(But remember when I ask I really always do want to know. And I want to know what I can do to help you feel better or celebrate with you.)

What is one thing that brings you joy?

As it stands now, any day when I’m in less pain is joyful. As it stands normally, my niblings (who aren’t things actually) bring me joy because they are utterly hilarious and so much cuter than any other kids you’ve ever met, including your own, I’m sorry, this is the truth.