Recently someone broached the topic regarding what one can do to begin a friendship with someone on the Autism Spectrum. Since I have Autism and have a few good friends who aren’t on the Autism Spectrum, I have been thinking about this question on and off. Wanting to be someone’s friend and being willing to learn about them means a lot and is a great start to any friendship. Being friends with someone on the Autism Spectrum can be like a cross-cultural friendship in that it takes effort to understand each other’s view point.
I call it cross-cultural because I was formally taught the social expectations and norms that most people, including my friends, learned just by observation and parental guidance. My friends do a lot of things that are helpful to me and our friendships.
They understand that I’m embarrassed by my handwriting, memory, and spelling so they usually do the writing. I am also sensitive to criticism or comments so they are careful how and when they make suggestions. Sometimes I say things that might be accidentally hurtful, for example, not knowing the connotation or second meaning for something I’ve said and not realizing that it hurt their feelings. I’m also not that good at reading body language so when I hurt someone’s feelings, I’m not always aware of what I did or even how to fix it. I appreciate the honesty, trust and tact that my friends use to let me know what they’re thinking and feeling. Also, my friends are aware that I may tire faster or get overwhelmed because I go into “sensory overload” easily. They understand that it takes me more energy to process all the stuff going on around me. I am also really clumsy and not that coordinated so they help me avoid situations that could be problematic for me. I’m lucky to have such good friends, and I appreciate the many things that they teach me about friendship and life.
I also try to give back to my friends to keep things balanced in our friendships. This is something that I have to work at, for example I always offer to bring something if we are having a meal at my friend’s house. If they treat for something then the next time, I treat them to something fun.
I have used many personal examples about my friends, but this just a starting point to get you thinking about friendship and the way friendships can develop. Friendships are amazing, enjoyable and fun. It is definitely worth the time, effort and commitment that makes it work. As always, I hope this was helpful for you and gives you something to think about.