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Why phone calls are stressful for autistic people. Do you wonder why your autistic friend never picks up their phone/returns calls? You may think they are being rude or simply don’t care etc. That’s not the case actually. Believe it or not, phone calls can be stressful for us
These are some but not limited to, reasons why autistic people are uncomfortable with phone calls.
In general unexpected things can be stressful for autistic people. Keep in mind that everyone is different. Unexpected sounds can spook someone with PTSD, anxiety, etc. The phone ringer is one of those things. It’s quiet in your room, you’re vibing and a loud ringing noise suddenly throws off your groove. Just like how a loud rumble of thunder could spook you or a loud firecracker. A loud ringer could be an anxiety trigger. As I said below, if you schedule an appointment you will expect the office to call you. You just may not know what time. Not knowing when the person will call you, or what they want to do makes the phone call stressful before it happens
My struggles with phone calls vary
When I make an appointment, I know they will call you a few days before to confirm or inform you regarding what you need. I’d like a heads-up if you must call me. Just a simple text asking if I am around to talk. And if I am not up for talking I’d like that to be respected. This was difficult when I met this guy at the eatery, Read more about that here
The reason I need this heads up is to prepare, to make sure I’m somewhere quiet, if I am someone loud it will be difficult to know what’s being said. I can make notes on possible things to talk about. I can come up with a time slot ( eg I can chat for 15 minutes before I have to get ready for an appointment)
Also, the reason I’d like a heads up is that I need to recharge, I don’t even live stream, after doing a spoon-draining task like cleaning, grocery shopping, or laundry. Disabled people or Chronically ill people don’t have energy like abled people.
I mentioned in the post the guy randomly calls me in the middle of the night. I did not like that. Now anyone can argue I should have my phone on silent if calls bother me. The difference is, that you would expect calls in the daytime. You’d know to silence your phone. If I was a nurse working a night shift and I slept in the daytime, yes I would mute my ringer.
You would expect calls during the day. Not in the middle of the night. Unless there is an emergency. If you have a friend in another country, they still would respect you and you two would work out a system. The guy just assumed I was awake and wanted to talk. I have a video coming out where I talk about what happened. For all he knew, I could have an early appointment and I went to bed early or I went to bed early because I am doing something spoon-draining (like grocery shopping)
I would have been pissed at this guy for waking me up to pressure me into having sex with him. I talk about this in the blog post I hot linked.
I will have trouble remembering everything in the convo. This was a drawback when I met that creep. he asked me if I had kids when I said “no” he said “good. They are a huge responsibility” Then called me in the middle of the night and said he wanted kids. If I had it in writing (text, email) I can look and see word for word.
This is a drawback with phone appointments.
Auditory Processing Issues
I explain this as “audible dyslexia.” Dyslexic people’s brains mix up what they see when reading, which makes reading hard. Auditory processing issues, at least for myself, sound like that but my brain mixes up the words that I hear. On the phone poor audio, weak signal, or loud sounds in the background will make hearing what the person is saying difficult. Asking them to repeat themselves will complicate things on both ends. Now with Covid places having mask rules, if the person is wearing a mask then I will have an extremely hard time understanding them.
I mentioned in my video if I don’t know how to respond to a certain case, I would not have time to think over the phone vs a DM. When that creep pressured me to sleep with him because I texted, I was able to show the messages on my IG, Twitter, and Facebook and everyone agreed the guy is bad news. I couldn’t have done that with a phone call.
Visual cues help, you cannot use those on the phone.
Also most if not all autistics use cues like body language, facial expressions, etc which are impossible to use over the phone. In person, I don’t always have to talk. I can nod, and motion to let the person know I’m listening. I cannot do that over the phone
I also need time to think about what I want to say. I can give a cue that I am thinking, which I cannot show over the phone.
I believe my phone anxiety came from this. When I was on summer break from school (I was going to be in the 10th grade) I texted a friend I met when I was in Jr. high and asked them what were their summer plans. If they did not want to talk, rather than telling me that they were busy or whatever, they went off on me.
Other times I used to call “friends” from school. It was on a weekend, they’d reject my calls, and give me the wrong number. If they didn’t want it I would have respected that. unlike that creep I met, who wouldn’t listen when I told him I don’t give it out to people I don’t know, I would have respected them if they didn’t want to give their number out. Especially if they didn’t know me well enough and needed to know me enough.
What you can do is respect the person’s preferred method of communication. I prefer text/DM/e-mail. Text messages allow me to think about what I want to say, I don’t have to reply if I’m not up for it.
I felt like it wasn’t going to work with that guy since he preferred calls; phone calls overwhelm me.
The guy gave zero warnings before calling, Just a simple, “hey I want to call you right now, is it OK” then if not I can give a time that would work for the both of us.
This is possibly why its tough for me to get a partner. Its tough finding people who prefer text/DM like me. You know what they say. Never say never.