Making Friends: An Autistic Adult’s Guide

If you find it difficult to form and maintain connections and relationships, you may become socially isolated.

You may find social interactions challenging or overwhelming. It may appear that other people know how to communicate and engage with one another intuitively at times. Of course, this isn’t always the case. As an autistic person, you may believe that because of your social difficulties, other people may not understand you.

The right assistance and information might help you build new friendships and make them last.

What exactly is social isolation, and why may I feel it?

Many autistic people are socially isolated. This could be attributed to a variety of factors. As an example:

  • You may believe that non-autistic people are unwelcoming or unwilling to interact with you.
  • You could prefer to be alone and enjoy your own company.
  • You may wish to interact with others but lack the necessary confidence or abilities.
  • Due to a lack of awareness of small chat and other social rules, you may find it difficult to establish contacts.
  • You may be attempting to prevent repeating a terrible social experience, such as bullying.
  • You may require more assistance with activities than your family, friends, and/or caregivers can provide.
  • You may live alone, without the assistance of family, support staff, or a social network.
  • You may be unaware of acceptable activities in your surroundings.

Do You Have Adult Autism? (Self-Assessment)

This quick quiz created by an expert might assist you in determining whether you are experiencing symptoms prevalent in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

What can I do?

Social interaction planning and development

It may be beneficial to schedule periods when you may either catch up with old friends and relatives or meet new people. You might want to make a weekly timeline or schedule.

Routines can be reassuring and comforting, but they can also limit social connection with others. You could make the following plans to overcome limiting routines:

  • Introduce change gradually by identifying one new place to visit each week, such as a local shop.
  • Concentrate on venues where you can meet new individuals. You may eventually grow to know folks you see on a daily basis.
  • Practice some small talk, such as “How are you today?” This may help to alleviate your fear of making contact with others.

Anxiety management

Anxiety can make it difficult to socialize. If you have excessive anxiety in social situations, it may be beneficial to discuss this with your doctor. A medical practitioner should be able to offer you assistance and advice, as well as point you in the direction of support services.

Qualified therapists may frequently provide information on ways for reducing anxiety and developing social skills. The advice can sometimes be given over the phone or by email, or a home visit can be arranged.

Seeking social groups

You may be more inclined to join a social club whose members share your interests. It is easier to start and maintain a discussion when members have something in common or enjoy talking about it.

  • discover nearby autism support groups and projects
  • Look for information on local activities, sports clubs, seminars, or groups in your neighborhood online.
  • Master a new skill. This frequently results in the formation of new friendships. Adult education courses in areas such as art, Computing, and food may be available at your local college.
  • If you are employed, inquire with your boss or other coworkers about after-hours activities.

If you prefer to communicate online, you could join our online community, which includes autistic-specific forums. Further information can be found in the ‘Your next steps’ section below.

Participating in a club or activity

If you’ve identified an activity that piques your interest, contact the group leader to learn more about the structure of the activity and to request additional information.

To attend meetings, you may need to become a member of some social groups, which may require you to pay a charge. You should inquire with the organizer about this and determine whether you will be required to pay a one-time cost or commit to a weekly, monthly, or annual fee.

Should I reveal that I am autistic to others?

If you go to a group that isn’t expressly for autistic people, you can choose whether or not to disclose your condition. Providing individuals with this information can help them better understand your needs, and the group may be able to provide more assistance. But, agreeing to ‘disclose’ is a major step. Some autistic people have told us that disclosing puts them at risk of bullying. If you’re joining a group where you don’t know anyone, you may try discussing the problem with your family or friends, or with the group’s organizer.

Pic: ASD

Is this the appropriate group for me?

To decide if the activity is right for you, go along as an observer at first.

If you believe you will require additional assistance to participate in the activity, ask if a family member, friend, or caregiver may accompany you or if the group can provide some extra assistance. Make a note of the activity or group gathering on your calendar.

Don’t feel obligated to stay for the entire activity or meeting, or to go alone – especially at first. You can gradually extend your stay, finally aiming to attend the entire session without any additional assistance.

If you have any concerns in the group, discuss them with the group leader as soon as possible so that they can be remedied.

Connecting with new people

When meeting new friends, having some prepared questions or introductions to start the discussion might be helpful.

  • You could start a discourse about the following topics:
  • the climate
  • TV shows, movies, literature
  • music
  • What did you do over the weekend?

These’small talk’ topics may appeal to some people. Others may find them dull or unneeded. It is entirely dependent on the individual and their hobbies. However,’ small chat’ can often lead to more in-depth conversations, and you may discover that you have interests in the person you’re speaking with. You might enjoy the same TV show, book, or film, or have similar musical tastes.

Some themes should be avoided, for example:

  • comments concerning a person’s appearance, such as saying you don’t like their attire
  • asking someone how much money they make, for example
  • age.

How can a conversation come to an end?

Keep an eye out for signs that someone wishes to stop a conversation with you. They could include:

  • not responding to queries
  • taking a peek around the room
  • claiming to have something else on their plate.

If you’re not sure whether they want to continue the conversation, you could ask, ‘Would you like me to tell you more?’ or “Would you like to talk about something else?”

Recognizing how others are feeling

What you should say to someone depends on how they feel about the subject. It may be tough to know how someone else is feeling. They may not articulate how they feel, and reading body language and facial expressions may be challenging.

If you are unsure how someone is feeling, you can ask them.

Sometimes people lie to make the other person happy or to avoid causing offense. Some individuals refer to these as “little white lies.”

If someone is offended about something you said or did during a conversation, it does not mean they dislike you. Saying apologies typically works. You can inquire if you are unsure why the person is upset.

Try not to be too hard on yourself. Understand that everyone is unique and that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to socialize. Many persons (autistic and non-autistic) struggle in social circumstances, especially when discussing sentiments.

Getting formal assistance with socializing

To participate in social activities, you may require additional support and assistance from people other than your family and friends. You can get more official help from your local government and its social care team by seeking a community care evaluation.

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