Idioms Infuse Insanity and Frustration Into Autistic World

“It’s raining cats and dogs!”

“He’s having a hay day”

“Let’s toast the bride!”


Toast the bride…are you serious?

Being autistic can throw one for a loop, metaphorically speaking, when it comes to everyday communications that the rest of us take for granted.

Idioms like the quotes above are second nature, even funny, to us yet can be confusing and frustrating to the autistic.

They might look up looking for falling cats and dogs, or really think you’re going to toast the bride like a piece of bread gets “toasted.”

What appears to be an obvious joke and other “humorous” events can be a serious issue for an autistic. Imagine for a moment if someone told you, with a grim look on their face, that they really were going to “toast” the bride. That would certainly be cause for alarm to the average law abiding citizen and no doubt put you on edge at the very least.

Beyond lack of comprehending slight-of-language, an autistic may also lack a sense of reality, especially in situations concerning safety.

Many times, people don’t recognize a child as having autism until the child behaves strangely and/or misses obvious social cues. Complicating matters, autistics may have a strong reaction to external stimuli such as sound, sight or touch.

Jonathan couldn’t stand crowds when he was younger.  We thought it was because of the loud noises, as he always covered his ears.  We were at a party and all he could do during the entire two hour event was continually run in and out of the room in a circle saying “e….x….i….t….” out the door.

Of course, this behavior made perfect sense to Jonathan.

What events or circumstances have you observed in everyday life that caused an autistic confusion?

What safeguards or procedures have you put in place to help an autistic stay safe?

How have you explained to an autistic, after they are confused, what something like “It’s raining cats and dogs out there” really means?

Share your story with me by leaving your comment below.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of


P.S. Here are tips, strategies, and tools you need to aid your understanding of an autistic’s perception on reality.

To download a video presentation that will help you understand the unique perception of autistics, click this link:


  • October Mom says:

    I had to teach myself to really think before I spoke when my son was very young. My son didn’t want to hold my hand as we were walking to the store, he wanted to run into the parking lot and I held tighter as he pulled harder and got away. I blurted out, “if you don’t get back here I’m going to kill you.” (Yes, terrible choice of words and the last time I ever spoke like that again) I caught him again at the same time I blurted that out and he threw himslef on the ground kicking at me, crying and yelling “Please don’t kill me!” over and over.

    People were passing by me with glares and threats to call the police. I felt terrible, as I wasn’t seriously going to do such a thing..but my son, almost 4 really took those words seriously.

    After that, saying “i’m going to kill you”, “I will wring your neck” had to be removed from my vocabulary. (they don’t sound very nice anyway :) )


  • Claire Spencer says:

    I found this great book on idioms at a Scholastic Book Fair when my son was in elementary school. I love that it not only explains the idiom, but gives you the history as well.

    At one of the many autism-related workshops I’ve attended as a parent over the years, I heard of a fantastic “project” implemented to help a student with autism. The class created their own list of idioms, and the child (with high-functioning autism) was picked to be the secretary of the project. He kept a book listing all the idioms/figures of speech where we don’t actually say what we mean. Any of the kids who heard someone using such a phrase reported it to the secretary who wrote down both what the person said, and what it actually meant. Love this idea!

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