“Shut up and wait!” Tigger Pritchard

Now please don’t take offence, but here I am thirty plus years in to my career and I’ve realised one of the best pieces of advice I can give individuals and the best lesson I’ve learned is to “shut up and wait”.

Mind you, obviously it’s not a simple as that! Let me start from the beginning.

I’ve seen the development of some amazing additional and communication aids and resources over the years, combined with fascinating science fiction-like developments in technology, (I can remember black and white TV!).


All too often I see so many interactors pressured into forgetting the basics of communication, pressured by the number of individuals in an environment, crowded classrooms and the need for a “product” from activity sessions. (I know. I was one). Professionals eager to do their very best, but limited by lack of training.

How often do we become totally, wonderfully welcoming and interactive with individuals with additional needs, forgetting for an instant their specific personalised methods of communication? Before we know it, we’ve raised someone’s anxiety and the person before us is “shutting down” all because of the overload we transmitted. Then when we bring out an individual’s personalised communication aids, iPad, visual aids, PECS folder for example, they are not going to be able to access those aids. All this can happen, sometimes at the start of a day, at the earliest interaction, before you know it, those beautiful chances for growth, empowerment, experience, joy, are lost in a moment of overload.

Instead of being totally, wonderfully welcoming, it is far better to get into the mindset of processing, of person centeredness, of just being quiet, of understanding the individual. That awesome person you’re communicating with, will find you easier to cope with if you are friendly and natural, but at their level of understanding and processing!

I employ “shut up and wait” to help us to stop and think!

So why shut up? We are overloading the awesome individuals we work for and with, cluttering up our commutation methods, overloading their senses, starting out a day of interaction by scaring the hee-bee geebies out of someone. (I love my technical terms).

Let’s just look at “me”, how I can transmit an overload:

Voice: tone, content, structure, dialect, level, emotion…

Facial expressions, body movements, arms moving around….

Clothing: colours, patterns and textures…

Smell: perfume, deodorant and the aroma of our coffee…

Touch: too much, too little, too deep, too light…

Watches, bangles…….

Examples of some, can you think of more?

Then add to that, the environment: a shiny table, a bright flickering light, a noisy ticking clock, jazzy picture-filled walls, the hum of computers…see where I’m going?

What is “shut up?” It’s us, realising what may constitute a communication overload for the person we are interacting with, and taking reasonable steps to reduce this overload.

What is “wait”? We give time to process, remembering everyone is an individual, everyone is a person, everyone is wonderfully different.

Why shut up and wait? Why pause, why stop and think? Trust me, it’s awesome, it’s lush, it’s amazing how you can change the potential of that moment, the day, the week, a life, for everyone.

It’s what we are here for: to be human, to communicate, to accept, to include, to listen, to enable, to empower, to let us all be….

Just “shutting up and listening”, that moment of pausing, can change everyone’s lives.

Tigger Pritchard

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Vice Chairperson of the National Autistic Society, Cornwall Branch.