“Anything but the phone!”: Communication Mode Preferences in the Autism Community

Philippa L Howard*, Felicity Sedgewick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)
248 Downloads (Pure)


The communication skills and styles of autistic people have been the focus of much research, but little work has explored the communication preferences of autistic adults themselves. This study examined how autistic adults prefer to communicate in multiple scenarios. Two hundred and forty-five autistic adults completed a novel questionnaire that required six communication modes to be ranked in order of preference across seven different scenarios. Participants also provided qualitative responses to further explain their rankings, and completed the Autism Quotient, the Generalised Anxiety Disorder scale and the Camouflaging Autistic Traits Questionnaire. Quantitative data indicated that email ranked highly when accessing services, seeking customer support and communicating about research. When communicating with family, friends, in employment and in education, both face-to-face and written modes (email or text message) were preferred. In the qualitative data, four main themes were identified: Not the Phone, Written Communication, Masking versus Autistic Communication and Avoiding Communication. There is a clear message that mode of communication can be either enabling or disabling for autistic people. A reliance on phone calls can create barriers to access, yet the option to adopt written forms of communication can improve accessibility. For known connections, the preference for face-to-face communication is dependent upon how close and accepting the relationship is.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2265-2278
Number of pages14
Issue number8
Early online date25 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.

Structured keywords

  • SoE Centre for Psychological Approaches for Studying Education


  • adults
  • autism spectrum disorders
  • communication and language
  • technology


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