There is a common misconception that autistic people, both children and adults, are not social—or rather, they do not want to be social. This could not be further from the truth. Autistic people, just like those without autism, want friendships, and social interactions; however, many times these interactions are difficult at best or nearly impossible at worst. Sometimes the best place to find a “friend” is amongst those who are most like yourself.
Many of us on the autism spectrum feel disconnected from the world and people around us. This happens mainly because we do not “see” ourselves in other people. Other people speak different, say one thing but mean another, and ask questions they don’t really want us to answer. We are often lost in this confusion making social interactions stressful, and exhausting. Author, C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship is born at the moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…” But—where do you find friendship when you don’t find anyone like you?
Activity Based Interactions
One of the best and easiest ways for a person with autism to interact socially is through focused activities. Social interaction for the sake of socializing or chit-chatting is hard for those on the autism spectrum; however, if a group of people are getting together to “do” something (play video games, board games, poker, soccer, scrapbooking, etc.) it gives the autistic person a point of reference and the interaction a purpose. Harness the power of the autistic persons “special interests” to encourage social interaction. For example, if their special interest is romance novels, finding a book club to join may harbor meaningful interactions.
Turning to Virtual Support: Social Media, Blogs, and Specialty Forums
There are a host of virtual support groups for both parents of autistic children, and autistic adults, but beyond formal “support groups” many autistic people find comfort, and friendship online. [Blogs by Autistic Adults], Twitter, [Facebook Pages for Autistic Parents], and forums like The Wrong Planet are all places that autistic individuals can talk with other people on the autism spectrum. This is not only helpful to those of us on the spectrum, but also to parents, friends and caregivers because they can take a look at the spectrum from a different perspective.
It is hard to feel connected with the world around you when you feel lost and alone. All people with or without autism need to feel a part of a community, and have friendships. Finding those who share their special interests can help foster relationships. Teaching younger children how to communicate with friends via email can also help to ease the stress of communicating face-to-face, like having a virtual pen-pal. Many autistic adults find communicating in writing, or through email preferable to face to face or verbal communication. Adults may find support and camaraderie online.