Literal thinking

Some Aspies and autistics tend to interpret things literally, reply to rhetorical questions and may have difficulties understanding figures of speech, idioms, allegories, irony etc.

“I interpret meaning literally. If I ask a group of people, ‘Hey, are you all interested in talking about dimorphism in cats?’ and someone answers, ‘Uh, maybe later Tom,’ I take it to mean, ‘Yes we do, in a half hour or so,’ not ‘What are you? Some kind of geek? No way!’”

- Tom, Aspie from USA

“I have more difficulty understanding time perspectives. If mom asks: ’Can you help me unload the dishwasher later?’ I never understand what she means by ‘later’. It can mean in 5 minutes, half an hour, 2 hours, tomorrow… So I say ‘yes’ and keep doing what I’m doing while waiting for her to tell me WHEN I am to help her. I’ve tried explaining to her that she has to say exactly when she wants me to do something as the word ‘later’ has no real meaning to me.”

- ‘DarknessDescends’, female Aspie from Sweden

Some reply to ‘stupid’ questions with a stupid answer just for fun, others really don’t get it. However, although some of us may have had this tendency as small children and may still reply to the odd rhetorical question, I’d say that most Aspies eventually learn idioms & figures of speech just like everyone else, even if occasional misunderstandings may still occur.

“I think I understood quite early that this type of questions expressed a wish rather than just what was in the words themselves.”

- ‘Salkin’, Aspie from Sweden

“- Can open the window?

- Of course!

People around me have to be more specific than that if they wish me to execute this ability in the moment…”

- ‘missbutterfly’, Aspie from Sweden

“Boss: There is a crate of goods over there.
Me: (thinking, yes I can see that?)

Boss meant to unpacke it and put the goods on the shelves in the store.”

- MsTibbs, Aspie from Sweden

“I never had probems with ‘Can you open the window?’ But I can miss more subtle hints like ‘Oh the garbage bag is really full’ – meant as an exhortation to take it out and put in a new. Among other things because I can throw such comments around without meaning anything but surprise that the garbage bag filled up so quickly this time. “

- ‘alfapetsmamma’, Aspie from Sweden

Also, many Aspies have a very keen appreciation of irony – at least when it’s not directed at ourselves…

Some on the the autistic spectrum may have real cases of Semantic-Pragmatic Disorder.


  1. Ing said,

    OK, enough of this nonsense-spamming, ianpoolton. I’m deleting all your comments.

  2. Ing said,

    I’ve changed settings now so that comments have to be approved, so bye bye to your trolling gibberish-posts.

  3. ianpoolton said,

    sorry i was funny before.apologies.i have ulcerative colitis.autism is the cause.i got ulcerative colitis at 17(im 45 now)and dont know when autism began sometime before.its gotten me into some very stressfull situations and i look back on my life with some regret.symptoms are breathing out one nostril,food getting stuck in throat,bad temper with me and gave me mental health problems but i dont take the having to use lots of nasal sprays and can suck up water with my nose now.bad diets the one ear closed up 6months ago and fluid leaked out(aspergillosis of the sinuses)ive only ever been diagnosed as having ulcerative colitis

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