Imagine you are learning a new language, you join a class and you are told they are at the same level as you. When the class begins you realise these people are actually far more advanced than you and you can only pick up parts of what is being discussed.

Now imagine you are introduced to the concept of idioms…Idioms have huge contextual, underlying meanings and require the person to have a solid language skills alongside an understanding of cultural norms.

Here are some idioms from Japan can you guess what they mean?


  1. Ten men, ten colours
  2. Pulling water to my own rice paddy
  3. Not seeing is a flower

It is not a simple process to unpick understanding idioms and it is something which needs to be taught explicitly. Many autistic children are not learning language at the same rate as their peers. Their literal understanding stems from this need to have simple language and concepts for longer than many other children of the same age, therefore underlying meaning can be missed or it comes later. As children become more competent in their language skills they can still often miss hidden meanings and even mask the fact that they have not understood concepts. It is our job as adults to ensure we always making these hidden meanings explicit to assist this learning journey.

Below are the Japanese idiom meanings – how many did you get right?


  1. different strokes for different folks
  2. Doing things for own benefit
  3. Reality cannot compete with imagination

Published by OutsideTheBoxHelen

Hi, I’m Helen this I am autistic, ADD & part of a neurodivergent family. I am also an academic in Autism research and a teacher. This is my blog about my journey through life while being an ‘outside the box’ person; sharing real life experiences, poetry and academic research on neurodivergence.

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