Figurative Language

I saw  hyperbole as today’s daily writing prompt and my first thought was autism.  Not in the same negative context of a politician’s hyperbole.   No.  I thought of autism’s literal thinking. Literal thinking is a diagnostic criterion for autism. Figurative language is a challenge for my children with autism. Their literal interpretations of figurative speech has led to many misunderstandings.

Every day figurative speech use to go right over my son’s head.  It still often does with my daughter.  It is something we have worked on for years. For example,  the hyperbole, “I am so hungry I could eat a horse,” had my son concerned.  He heard it and wanted to know what was I really fixing for dinner.  The idiom “it’s raining cats and dogs”  pretty-floweralso perplexed him.   His literal mind wondered how he could catch them when they fell.  Or when he first heard the simile, “she is pretty as a flower.” He replied, “Except she isn’t as colorful.”   He has  matured and has learned to self advocate.  If he doesn’t understand something that has been said,  he will ask what does that mean. Once a figure of speech has been explained to him, he gets it.

fly-a-kiteOver the years we have spent a great deal of time learning figures of speech.  When my son hears someone spurt out the hyperbole “she is as old as dirt.”  He now knows someone is making fun of a person’s age.  Or if he overhears his sibling say the idiom, “why don’t you go fly a kite.” He now knows they don’t mean we are literally going to fly kites.

When he was younger, speech therapy  helped tremendously.  He has since been phased out. However, we continuously work on figurative language.   It has been an ongoing process of learning.

Should you also be in the process of working on this with your child,  I have included the video link to a figures of speech social story. Below the video,  there are several links that you may also find useful.

How to Teach Figurative Language to Autistic People

SLP – Abstract Language


  1. Yeah, I remember teaching my oldest with parts of Aspergers sarcasm. It took him two years to get it, but I knew with my family, it was a necessity that he understood it. Now he is a master at it and can dish it out as well as getting it.

    Liked by 1 person

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