Originally posted on https://www.specialbridge.com/make-new-friends-while-living-with-autism/
Autism affects over 3.5 million individuals in the world, many of whom seek the same comforts as everybody else around them. One of the biggest (and most common) of these is meaningful relationships with other people.
When you’re living with autism, making new friends can be a challenge. However, it’s certainly possible.
Read on for our guide on how to make new friends when you’re living with autism.
How to Meet and Make New Friends When You’re Living with Autism
Making new friends when you’re living with autism can be a challenge at first. If the idea seems overwhelming, you may be overthinking things. After all, individuals with autism make friends in the same ways that everybody else does.
If you’re not sure where to begin, start by taking a look at how friendships are typically formed. Everybody has to make new friends by getting out there and meeting people. Luckily, in today’s modern age, there’s more than one way to do it.
Here are some of the most common ways to meet new people:
- Join an online forum or chat community. You may find it easier to break the ice behind the comfort of a screen at first. Plus, you’ll already be with people who share similar interests with you.
- Become involved in a club, class, or regular social gathering. Search for gatherings in your area that interest you. You may find some new friends there and form lasting relationships.
- Attend parties and other events with acquaintances. Say “yes” to invitations out and make a point to be friendly. You may wind up making new friends on the spot.
As you set out to make new friends, just remember to stay true to yourself and don’t force any situations that make you uncomfortable. You’ll make more friends if you’re relaxed, positive, and at ease.
How to Read People
In many cases, you’ll have to be the first to approach people if you’re looking to make friends. As you meet more and more people, you’ll find that shyness isn’t just an autism thing. In fact, most people have a hard time approaching strangers and striking up a conversation.
Approaching new people is difficult, without a doubt. Especially since we all must face the fear of rejection in some capacity. However, people often give off nonverbal cues that let us know right away whether or not they like us and are interested in carrying the conversation further.
Here are a few things to watch out for when approaching a new person:
- Are they smiling at you? If they are, then that generally means they are pleased to talk to you.
- Are they actively engaged? If they seem standoffish or disinterested, don’t force things any further.
- Is their body pointed towards you? This is often a nonverbal cue that they are welcoming you in.
As you are making new friends, just keep in mind that it’s not easy for anyone, autism or not. Be patient with yourself and don’t let rejection get you down.
How to Make Conversation
Once you’ve started to make new friends, you should take steps to keep the conversations going. Although this may seem intimidating at first, especially if you’re shy, there are a few things to keep in mind to help things run smoothly.
Here are some hints for keeping a good conversation going:
- If it’s a new person, try to keep the conversation general by asking about their interests or asking how their day has been going.
- Avoid taking over the conversation with your particular interests. Many individuals with autism have a few subjects that they’re especially passionate about, but others can find this off-putting at first.
- When in doubt, ask the person about themselves! A general rule for socializing it to make yourself interested in others rather than trying to make them interested in you.
As you practice more, making good conversation will get easier. Just be sure to look out for how the other person is reacting and, most importantly, don’t interrupt them or abruptly change the subject.
Things to Remember When You Are Making New Friends
When you’re living with autism and trying to make new friends, you may find yourself faced with some unique challenges. However, you shouldn’t let these discourage you. After all, there are plenty of people out there and some of them are bound to be compatible with you.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you make new friends while living with autism:
- Many individuals with autism (and those without it as well) often feel inclined to spend time on their own. This becomes even more common as you get older. If you’re not feeling like being social, it’s completely okay to spend time alone instead.
- You may find more meaningful connections with other individuals with autism, since you already understand each other’s experiences. If you find yourself with very few friends, many of whom are autistic as well, that’s totally okay too. Build relationships in a way that makes the most sense to you.
- Part of making new friends is maintaining those relationships. Be sure to stay in touch and nurture friendships where you find them.
- Just because someone doesn’t specifically ask you to join them doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want your company. Pay attention to nonverbal cues and don’t be afraid to join the group.
Making new friends is difficult for everyone to some degree. When you’re living with autism, it can seem especially challenging at times. The most important thing to remember is not to give up on yourself and stay positive throughout your interactions.
Extra Advice: Dating and Relationships
When you make new friends that you share a strong connection with, you may decide to try and enter a more serious relationship with that person. If that’s the case, then remember to take things slowly and be perceptive of that person’s feelings.
Even if you really like a person, you can’t immediately expect a relationship to come from it. The key is to be patient and let the relationship develop naturally. If the situation is right, things will unfold naturally.
Many people struggle with finding ways to make new friends. Although autism may make things more difficult, you are capable and worthy of fulfilling relationships if you desire them. All it takes is a little practice, patience, and perceptiveness.
Check back soon for more tips and tricks to overcoming your anxieties and living a happy, fulfilled life.