In the 4th post of this series, I will be talking about ways in which you can be a good friend to someone with autism. A good number of us know at least one person that has autism, and some of us are friends with people that are on the autistic spectrum. Throughout my life, I have been blessed with some amazing friends, and you don’t really need to do anything differently to be a good friend to someone with autism. However, there are a few things that I believe are important to take into account, which I discuss in this blog post.
Have an idea of what autism is and how it affects them
When your friend tells you that they have autism, you may not know anything about the condition. And whilst you are not expected to be an expert, you should certainly make the effort to ensure that you have a brief idea of what autism is. And this is not hard to do. There are many, many resources online on the internet which are easily accessible and explain autism in more detail. Furthermore, you can ask your friend how autism effects them if they are comfortable in saying. However, even if your friend is not comfortable in opening up about their autism, you should still be proactive in finding more about autism. This shows that you genuinely want to be a good friend.
Focus on their positive qualities rather than the things they struggle with
Every person that is on the autistic spectrum has positive and wonderful qualities that can help them thrive, and this is really important to remember. There might be things that your friend particularly struggles with, but if you focus too much on that then you may unintentionally judge them because of their autism. A good way to think about it is that people on the autistic spectrum are just like all of us in that they have their brilliant qualities as well as things that they struggle in. When we become friends with someone, we tend to focus more on their positive qualities rather than the things they are not so good at, and the same should apply when being friends with someone with autism.
Try and help and support them with things they struggle at
Leading on from the previous point, if there are things that you know your friend struggles with, then instead of judging them for it, try and help them. For example, I struggled a lot with coping with change, which I discussed in more detail in part 2. A handful of my friends helped me in different ways when it came to dealing with change, such as helping me find coping strategies as well as allowing me to share my feelings with them. This is something I am incredibly grateful for and value. You don’t have to go out of your way to help your friend with the things they struggle with, and even just being there as a source of support can improve their confidence massively. We are all grateful for people that help us and provide support with things we struggle at, and being able to do that to someone else is really satisfying and rewarding.
Don’t be afraid to give them constructive criticism when it’s appropriate
This point is probably the one that people think about the least compared to the above 3 points. However, I still think it is really important. Overall, I have found that friends really appreciate it when you give constructive feedback on things or situations that they could have done better at, and the same applies for most people on the autistic spectrum. From my experiences, I knew that I wanted to improve on the things that I was not so good at, and I would always value the friends that were willing to give me constructive feedback that I could take forward. There are two things that I want to mention here. Firstly, whenever you give constructive feedback, you have to make it clear that you are doing it from a good place and for their betterment. You don’t want to come across as someone who is being downright critical, as that can really dent their confidence. Secondly, every autistic person is different, which means that although some don’t mind you being direct and upfront when giving constructive criticism, others would take that badly. Once you get to know your friend better, you’ll work out the best way in giving constructive feedback, whether that is being direct about it or not.
Are there any other tips you would add to this?