Friendships and Autism – what YOU need to know

We are all social beings, some more than others.

The common belief is that autistic children are not social or don’t like to engage in social settings. There is a massive difference between those two statements. The one statement assumes that autistic children do not want friends, whereas the other assumes that some social settings might be trickier for them to manage. The latter is the more accurate assumption when speaking to actual autistic adults.

There might be a need for a friendship, but the external factors, such as going to a noisy coffee shop, meeting your potential friend there, making small talk, and trying to find this interesting, all while the coffee machine’s noise distracts you seem like it outweighs the positives of the actual potential friendship. It’s easier to speak online and engage with their interests from the comfort of their home, although your child craves interaction from peers. We all know how easily habits are formed and this can merely be the reason why autistic adults are also seen to have fewer close friends.

How do I work on building friendships from a young age then? Expose your child to sensory stable environments or focus on increasing their awareness of sensory needs in various environments (or both!). The focus should always be on increasing self-awareness and then gradually move to self-regulation. Self-awareness increases the more we support our children (and then gently fade this support) in becoming aware of their sensory needs – which activities calm them, which excite them, and what type of input they require throughout the day. Self-regulation will happen slowly from more and more practice.

There are other strategies to include before an outing to a friend, during, and after and we would love to share this with you in another video. The important factor is that we need to ensure our child is aware of the sensory input they might experience and prepare for these in their way, which we can help with.

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