In this blog post, I will bring together two topics that I enjoy writing about, which are autism and friendships. Making meaningful friendships is something that a good number of people on the autistic spectrum find challenging. I will talk about why people on the autistic spectrum find making meaningful friendships challenging and how this can be made easier.
One of the main reasons why some people on the autistic spectrum struggle with making meaningful friendships is because they find it difficult to navigate the unwritten rules of friendships. Examples of unwritten rules include, taking the initiative to start conversations and arrange catch ups, as well as understanding body language and emotions. From my personal experience, navigating the unwritten rules is important in order to make friendships that are genuinely meaningful and strong, otherwise you will end up with just surface level friendships. These unwritten rules aren’t explicitly taught, but friends would expect you to be able to follow them. If it is clear that someone is not following these unwritten rules, for example if they are always talking about the same topic, then that is a red flag in a friendship.
Another reason why people on the autistic spectrum struggle with making meaningful friendships is due to anxiety, and anxiety can cause various challenges. One specific challenge relates to anxiety in certain social environments. Some people on the autistic spectrum would be prone to sensory overload when they are in a loud or busy social environment. Sensory overload causes to increased anxiety in most cases, which can lead to people on the autistic spectrum avoiding busy or loud social environments. Whilst avoiding certain social environments may help with sensory overload, it can also result in missed opportunities in making and building friendships. Furthermore, people on the autistic spectrum may have had some bad experiences in the past when it has come to friendships. This can cause anxiety when it comes to making and maintaining future friendships.
Following the points above, it is important to appreciate that many people on the autistic spectrum want to make friends. Some people think that most people on the autistic spectrum want to be unsocial and don’t value friendships, whereas that is not the case. As mentioned in the above two paragraphs, challenges such as anxiety and navigating the unwritten rules of friendships can prove to be barriers in making friendships, no matter how much effort you put in trying to make friends. Whilst there is no easy solution to anxiety or navigating the unwritten rules of friendships, facing challenges when it comes to making friends is very different to not making the effort to make friends.
For individuals on the autistic spectrum, it is important to be proactive in overcoming the challenges of making meaningful friendships. You should be proactive in understanding the unwritten rules of friendships. This may seem impossible at first and can take time, but it will make your life easier when it comes to making a variety of friendships. Furthermore, you should also be proactive when it comes to dealing with your anxiety. This can be done by trying to identify the causes of anxiety, reflect on how anxiety has caused challenges with friendships in the past, and finding ways to overcome your anxiety when it comes to making and maintaining friendships. Talking to someone you trust can really help with finding methods to overcome your anxiety. Note that everyone’s situation is different, and the points I have mentioned in this paragraph may not help everyone on the autistic spectrum.