Autism and Friendships: Navigating Social Situations on the Spectrum
“Oh man, I love how direct you are! You just tell it like it is!” If you are a person with autism or you have a friend/loved-one with autism, chances are you have said this or been told this before. There are many redeeming qualities to being on the spectrum and having an autistic friend, but there are also many barriers as well. My hope is that I can shed some light on these obstacles as a means of gaining understanding of yourself or your friend.
Social Situations Suck
Let’s be honest, when your brain isn’t necessarily hardwired for social interactions or understanding social norms and cues it is easy to want to stay away from such environments. Desiring connection and to be involved with other people is healthy! Even if this means that sometimes you are standing way too close to someone or have trouble with someone’s words not matching their body language. Although it can be difficult to express this challenge, it is a great way of practicing communication. It also lets people know that although the social setting feels awkward, uncomfortable or anxiety-inducing, you are still open to connection.
Ocean of Emotions
On top of the overwhelming emotions related to interacting in social situations, there can be immense difficulty in managing emotions. Jealousy and anxiety, in particular, may feel like you have no control and you might respond with fear. After all, you have made a new friend, but this friend has other friends and sometimes those friends don’t invite you to do things even though your friend is going… If you know, you know. Please don’t let these feelings push you away from friendship, there is so much to be discovered about yourself and it can truly help you grow.
Once You’re In, You’re In
Loyalty and autism fit together like peanut butter and waffles. When developing new friendships it can be hard to understand how much time and effort to put into it. The autistic person might feel the need to maintain a certain level of interaction at all times; this is just part of the rigidity they experience and can also lead to those oceans of emotions. As a friend, it is important to offer reassurance that the person is still valued, cared for, and you are not pushing them away when you set boundaries. Direct communication is important! The autistic person will certainly be your “ride or die” and they will show up for you; be sure to take care of that loyalty.
Having autism doesn’t mean that all friendships are doomed, it just means that you need to be a little more intentional with understanding what friendship means to you and how you want to operate in them.
At Mind Works Counseling Services in Lubbock, TX, we specialize in providing mental health counseling for adults on the Autism spectrum.
Learn more about the Autism Counseling Services we offer.
Contact us to make an appointment or to let us answer any questions you may have.