Preparing a document for someone with autism
Every person with autism is different, so there are no absolute rules about how to make a document autism-friendly, but the general principles listed below should act as a useful starting point.
- Write all information in plain English – that means being as clear and brief as possible and avoiding using jargon (words that are unusual and can be hard to understand). If you can’t avoid using jargon, explain it. This is helpful for people with and without autism alike!
- Avoid abbreviations such as “e.g.”, “i.e”. or “etc.” and always spell out acronyms the first time you use them in a document
- If you are using the names of services, other organisations, teams etc., explain what they do, as not everyone will have heard of them, and some people may not feel confident asking.
- Use short sentences. Bullet points can also help to break up information.
- Use an uncluttered layout and at least size 12 font. For Easy Read or Large Print information you should use at least size 18 font.
- While everyone has individual preferences, generally the best fonts to use are sans-serif fonts such as Helvetica, Verdana or comic sans. If you use a serif font many people with autism say they prefer Garamond.
- Put headings in larger letters, not all in capitals. Bold font is the best way to make things stand out, rather than underlining or italics.
- Many people with autism find information easier to read if it is printed on a light-coloured background (cream, light yellow or green are good choices). It can also be helpful to change the font colour to dark blue or brown.
- Some people, particularly those with learning disabilities, may require information in Easy Read, which has pictures or photo symbols and is not the same as plain English. However, be aware that many people with high-functioning autism or Asperger syndrome may not need Easy Read information, and may not want to be given information in this format. If in doubt, produce two versions and offer both.
- Even if you do not produce a whole document in Easy Read with pictures or photo symbols, you may want to consider including a few pictures where appropriate to support meaning or help people know what to expect.