How to Share a Dorm with an Autistic Person

Living with an autistic person can be confusing for someone who doesn't understand autism well. However, with a little education and acceptance, your roommate arrangement can turn out to be a fantastic one.


  1. Image titled Become a Process Server Step 1
    Try to find out what your roommate's interests are. Autistic people sometimes have really obscure or unique interests. While most people are interested in music, movies, sports, and whatnot, autistic people may be passionate about something obscure such as different models of clocks, writing sci-fi novels, memorizing digital camera ID numbers, or collecting paperclips. Many autistic people enjoy fantasy worlds, so they may love books and video games.
    • If you share one of your roommate's special interests, then this is an excellent conversation topic! Autistic people are remarkably passionate and knowledgeable about their special interests, to the point that they could discuss them for hours. Your roommate may teach you new and interesting things you had never thought of before.
  2. Image titled Become a Medical Examiner Step 6
    Try to build rapport with your roommate through common interests. Even if you cannot relate to their special interests, you likely have common ground elsewhere. Autistic people often have trouble initiating and maintaining conversations, so it's important to be patient.
  3. Image titled Live in a College Dorm With Someone Who Has a Asperger's Syndrome or High Functioning Autism Step 3
    Find out whether sensory issues exist, and be accommodating. Your roommate may be unable to handle certain noises, smells, or textures. It is important to respect these issues, because they may be highly bothersome or even physically painful to your roommate.
  4. Image titled Live in a College Dorm With Someone Who Has a Asperger's Syndrome or High Functioning Autism Step 4
    Be mindful of noise when your roommate is trying to study, especially if they have sensory issues. Autistic people may have a heightened sense of hearing or startle response, so noise that others could ignore may be extremely distracting or painful to them.
    • They may benefit from earplugs and/or white noise.
  5. Image titled Use Accessories in Interior Design Step 7
    Ask your roommate before moving his or her belongings. Some autistic people like their things to be 'just so,' and misplaced things can be distressing and disorienting to them. Routines help them stay calm and focused, and they may have a unique system of keeping things organized.
  6. Image titled Become a Homeschool Tutor Step 5
    Tell your roommate if their actions are bothersome or disrespectful to you. Chances are, they haven't realized that there was anything wrong with what they were doing. Take them aside and directly explain how a specific action bothers you. Don't be afraid you will hurt their feelings just because they're disabled.
    • Try using the "nonviolent communication" format, or "When you x, I feel y." For example, "When you said my friends were nerdy, I felt upset."
    • Listen to their explanation of why they did it. For example, maybe they consider "nerd" to be a compliment.
  7. Image titled Tolerate a Difficult and Challenging Co Worker Step 12
    Avoid dropping hints if something is bothering you. Autistic people have trouble recognizing subtle cues, and they may not understand what you're hinting at. It's better to directly explain why something is bothering you, and tell them how you feel. This eliminates any confusion, and gives the autistic person a chance to make it up to you.
  8. Image titled Become a Leasing Consultant Step 9
    If you're having a problem, talk to your RA. This is not tattling—this is seeking advice on how to solve a problem. Your RA may be able to offer guidance on how you two can coexist well.
    • Also consider reading articles written by autistic writers, who can explain how many aspects of autism can work.
  9. Image titled Become a Credit Analyst Step 5
    Treat your roommate the same way you would anyone else. There's no need to tread lightly around him or her because of autism. Autistic people may be unconventional, but they're also funny, compassionate, loyal, sincere, and dedicated to helping their friends. With a little patience, acceptance, and understanding, you can end up with a wonderful new friend.


  • If they don't warm up to you quickly, they don't necessarily dislike you. Many autistic people are shy and awkward around new people, and they don't know how to initiate conversation with you.
  • Try to leave them alone when they're studying, as disruptions or distractions can seriously impair their ability to work.
  • Invite your roommate to go with you to social events. He or she may need a little push to make new friends. Helping when needed is great, but don't feel like you need to babysit either.
  • Remember that autistic people are just that: people. They have feelings and needs just like anyone else's.


  • Never make fun of your autistic roommate, no matter how strange their actions are. This is bullying.
  • If it does not work out, then find different living arrangements. If you're usually unhappy with your roommate arrangement, then you aren't benefiting yourself or your roommate by staying.
  • Don't talk down to your roommate. Assume that they are competent and intelligent. Even if they spin around in circles or make weird noises, that doesn't mean that they aren't worth getting to know.
  • Getting involved with autism organizations is great! However, never support an organization that fights autism or is heavily criticized by autistic people. Stay with organizations that give autistic people a meaningful voice.

Things You'll Need

  • Civility
  • Patience
  • Respect
  • Common sense
  • The respect you would give any fellow human being

Article Info

Categories: Campus Life | Interacting with Autistic People