Autism and the Dreaded Phone Calls

Have I mentioned recently how much I love the internet?

Sure, the ‘bottom half’ of the internet (or ‘comment sections’, if you prefer) can sometimes make me fear for the future of humanity, social media can be frustrating, and don’t even get me started on the baffling nature of Snapchat!

But, as well as letting me avoid actual shops and actual people (except the non-stop line of delivery people marching up to our door!), the internet often lets me avoid phone calls.

I hate phone calls.

I might have mentioned that once or twice before.

(But, seriously, I fracking hate phone calls.)

It is not at all uncommon for autistic people and/or those who suffer from anxiety to have ‘issues’ around both answering the phone and, even more so, making calls.

Rationally I know there’s very little risk associated with talking to someone on the phone (unless it’s a Galaxy Note 7, of course) but I still feel about making phone calls much as I’d expect to feel if I met Donald Trump (nauseated, confused, anxious and more than a little despairing).

So, what the smeg’s going on?  Why are phone calls so difficult me and so many other autistic people?

Well, there’s certainly a sensory element.  I struggle to concentrate on what I can hear from the phone in one ear if there’s pretty much any other noise going in the other.  To have even a brief phone conversation, I have to turn any music off and take myself away from other people as a minimum.

Any noise at the other end or static on the line or a time delay also completely throws me and adds to my panic.

Additionally, autistic people typically take longer to process auditory information…so you can probably see why purely sound based communication is a lot more effort.

Lastly, of course, phone calls are also essentially really intense social interactions and social interactions tend to be…problematic for people on the autism spectrum.  Added to the usual stress of trying to figure out tone and making sure my responses are appropriate, there are no shared distractions to focus on and no way of seeing gestures or using them to aid understanding.

So, between all my problems with noise, a slower processing speed, finding speaking to people stressful already and the scrutiny I feel under when on the phone it’s not really any surprise I detest phone calls unless to someone I really know and trust.

It’s alright, though.  If you – like me – struggle to make phone calls, just follow my handy guide below!

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1 Comment


  1. I’m not autistic, but I don’t like making phone calls either. I can’t see the person on the other end and have to guess at the 93% of conversation that is non-verbal. I also can’t tell if they like me, which is odd, I know, but something which is important to me. It’s also the unknown factor – will I dial the number correctly? Will I get the right person? Will they understand what I’m talking about? Will I get cut off and have to start all over again?

    Much better and safer to write an email!!!

    Reply

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