A lot of people with autism struggle when it comes to making friends. They find that they don’t have the social skills or the confidence to go up and start talking to new people, or to know what to say if somebody comes up, and starts talking to them. They might also find that because they don’t go out independently, or maybe because they don’t go out socially very often, they struggle to meet people in the first place. A lot of people with autism also say that when they do make friends they struggle to keep them. Even though autistic people are generally not as social as non-autistic people, the majority of them still need friends, and value friends highly. The problem is that when somebody has autism, a thing that should be natural, like making friends, can become extremely difficult. Some thing’s that most people do without even thinking about, can be a big challenge for people with autism. The main challenge is that autistic people often find it hard to strike up conversations with strangers. Even though the old saying goes, “`Don’t talk to strangers`”, if you don’t break that rule at some point, you won’t get to know anybody.
The main reasons autistic people don’t tend to strike up conversations with people they don’t already know are (a) they don’t have the confidence – they worry that whatever they say will sound stupid, or that the person won’t want to talk to them, and (b) they often can’t think of anything to say, largely due to the fact that most autistic people are not big fans of small talk. But because most people make friends —- or at least get to know each other quite quickly —- if somebody with autism doesn’t join in the conversation at some point, they often find themselves excluded from groups. Some autistic people are fine with this, but a lot of. Many of them, however, wish that they could join in, but are unsure at which point in the conversation they should join in —– when is it their turn?
Unfortunately the only piece of advice that can be given for this problem is the piece that most people with autism would probably rather not hear —- that they need to face up to their fears, and try to start talking to people. For example, if you are in a new class, ask somebody a question to get a conversation started, such as which school, or college they were at, or if it’s their first year, or a similar question, depending on what environment you happen to be in. The best thing to do in this situation is to try and think of a few questions you can ask a person, before you go in to it. There is no guaranteeing that the person with autism will make friends, but if they are open and friendly, and start talking to people, then there is no reason to suggest that they won’t.
As for keeping friends, that can be slightly more difficult. People with autism will often either be over-friendly with people too soon, — for example, talking to them constantly about their favourite subject, even if it’`s clear the person they are talking to has no interest in this subject;, or they won’t be friendly enough —, for example, not going over to sit with people they know, or not bothering to make plans with them. The main thing that people should remember in this situation is yes, the other person may be their friend, but they are also a person in their own right. If somebody comes up to them and starts talking about computers constantly, and they make it clear they have no interest in computers, and yet the person simply carries on talking about computers, then they may not want to be friends with this person. Equally, if someone starts talking to an autistic person, who then ignores them for two weeks, they won’t consider that person a friend, just an acquaintance. It is important for autistic people to remember that while they should be relaxed enough to be themselves, there are elements in their personality that may be strange, and difficult for new people to grasp.
The fact is some autistic people will find it easier to make friends than others; some do it by pretending to be somebody else, but that can take a severe toll on people, and leave them feeling exhausted and despondent. When I say that some autistic people may try to pass as somebody else, I mean pretend to be neuro-typical; to cut off all outward aspects of their autism, and follow the crowd by acting like everybody they see around them. While this might work in the short term, I am not sure that it is the healthiest thing to do, and also, none of the autistic person’s friends would actually know the real them. The best thing that a person can do is to act like themselves, but modifytailor certain aspects of their behaviour that might be overwhelming for other people —- at least initially —- and force themselves to be a bit more out-going if they do want to make friends. It is impossible for a person to be both anti-social and have friends, and it is up to the autistic individual to decide how much making friend’s means to them. Once that’s decided, then how out-going, and sociable they want to be is completely their own choice.
My name is Paddy-Joe Moran. I am a 19 year old autistic author of two books, and co-founder of autism advice service ASK-PERGERS? If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s, or simply want to talk about it check out my free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?