Book review: ‘Is that clear? Effective communication in a neurodiverse world’
Book authors: Zanne Gaynor, Kathryn Alevizos & Joe Butler
This wonderful book provides excellent tips on how to communicate successfully with neurodiverse individuals, it also gives a sensitive and informative overview of what life is like for them and in doing so promotes a sense of empathy and connection. The terms autistic and allistic (non-autistic) person are used in the book and so used for this review.
A participatory book
This book is sensitively written by authors experienced in the fields of language and autism. Zanne Gaynor and Kathryn Alevizos are language specialists who had self-published Is that clear? Effective communication in a multilingual world (2019). This book was read by Joe Butler, an education consultant who had worked with autistic children and young people for over twenty years. Joe could see the strategies included would be beneficial for communicating with autistic people and collaborated with Zanne and Katheryn to create this book.
Importantly, this book is not an allistic person’s view of how to communicate with an autistic person; the development of the book was participatory with autistic people commenting on and reviewing each chapter. Another incredibly powerful message threaded through the book is that autistic people do want to communicate and interact with other people, but they have a different way of processing language which can create difficulties. The book is very clear in its approach, it is not a guide on how to support an autistic individual to understand the allistic world of language; instead, it shows allistic individuals what it is like for an autistic person and how to adapt their language accordingly.
The beauty of this book is that as you learn about how to effectively communicate with autistic people and not overwhelm them, you are not overwhelmed as a reader. The knowledge, expertise and lived-experience included in this book is apparent in every page. The book follows the guidelines it is sharing by being clear, concise and easy to follow.
The book consists of three chapters, covering different aspects of communication. Each chapter is colour coded to provide a visual marker, the chapters are spilt into subsections, usually 2 pages, with clear numbering and headings. Each subsection includes information in short chunks of text, with visuals where appropriate. There are also action items including in each subsection, (i.e. keep your language simple and you message clear) and tasks at the end of the book to help reinforce the ideas shared.
Chapter one focuses on ‘adapting your language’ and it is full of specific areas to consider when talking with what is wonderfully referred to as your communication partner. There are some subtle areas to think about, such as the way many spoken phrases can be ambiguous, complex and confusing for an autistic person, such as the seemingly simple greeting “how are you?” – what are we really asking when we use this phrase?
Chapter two explores how we can be ‘inclusive and not exclusive’ in the way we communicate. This includes being aware of individual differences, such as the amount of time needed to process and respond to a question, being aware of any external factors that might create barriers to effective communication (such as noise) and having visual means of supporting communication if needed.
The idea of ‘different ways of communicating’ is expanded on in Chapter 3, as well as the various places and spaces where we communicate. Areas such as non-verbal and written communication (including on-line), phone conversations and giving presentations are explored. Thought is also given to an area of life which has become such a part of 2020, virtual meetings!
As an Educational Psychologist I am always looking for useful resources to share with parents/carers and teaching staff and I will definitely be suggesting this book as a must read. I also think this book could be used by adults with children and young people (autistic and allistic) to create a shared understanding of effective communication and a real sense of inclusion. This would promote the positive change which is at the heart of this fantastic book.
You can find out more about the book here.