Why Having Autism Might Make Social Events More Difficult


This resource provides information for individuals with autism about reasons why having autism can make attending social events a more difficult experience.

Sensory Differences

The ways that you perceive taste, sound, smell and touch could be more sensitive to you than it is for other people.

Example: a crowded meeting room with multiple people talking could be more overwhelming and confusing to you than other people who don’t have your sensory issues.


Self-stimulating behaviors can be a repetitive movement or vocalization that is thought to be self-calming.

There are both positives and negatives associated with stimming. It can be calming to individuals in many settings. However, it can also be embarrassing or stigmatizing depending the context or people around.

Difficulty With Social Cues

Introducing yourself or joining a conversation, missing social cues to see if a person is interested or uninterested, and difficulty focusing or staying on topic are all common.

These are a few of the ways in which social difficulties can make it harder to meet new people.

Back and Forth Conversations

It can be confusing to know whose turn it is to speak and when to listen.

  • It can also be frustrating waiting your turn to contribute to the conversation.
  • It can also be easy to space out or lose your place in the conversation.
    • Staying on topic can also be an issue because it’s easy to get distracted and think about something that others may not associate with the conversation.

Unusual Hobbies or Interests

Having uncommon hobbies or interests can make it harder for others to connect or to keep your audience engaged.

Researching common interests beforehand could be helpful in connecting to others.

Unusual Outfit Choices

Wearing either outfits that are old, outdated, or inappropriate for the occasion/weather can be uncomfortable.

It can be confusing or overwhelming to figure out what to wear to each occasion and how to adapt it to your sensory needs.

Difficulty Finding Topics in Common

Sometimes it can be hard to find things in common with strangers.

Using common conversational starters like the weather, entertainment, family, sports, or current news can be good ways to find common interests that you share.

Past Negative Experiences

Overthinking past experiences can make it hard to form new impressions or be open to new experiences.

Those experiences can make doing new things or meeting new people very stressful or anxiety-provoking.

Difficulties in Being Flexible

Going to an event or social occasion can involve many changes that occur quickly.

It can be difficult to adjust to different details than had previously been discussed.

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This information was developed by the Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT). For more information, please contact ASERT at 877-231-4244 or info@PAautism.org. ASERT is funded by the Bureau of Supports for Autism and Special Populations, PA Department of Human Services.