Autistic Friends Network: Developing Social Ability as Adults

Making friends as an adult can be challenging for anyone, but if you have a developmental disability like autism or cerebral palsy, it can be even more complicated. It seems as though children have it easy. A few minutes on the playground together, and they could be chatting like lifelong friends. However, developing social ability is something that many individuals need to work on if they want to make real and lasting friendships. It might take a great deal of effort, but there are programs that can help to make it easier. All Friends Network is a social network for developmental disabilities, enabling people of all ages learn how to make and keep friendships. It is not just an autistic friends network but a program designed for kids, young adults, and older adults with many different types of developmental disabilities.

Acquaintances vs. Friendships

There is a big difference between someone who is an acquaintance and someone who is a friend. An acquaintance might be someone you know from work, school, the neighborhood, or even a group activity. You share something in common, like an interest, a locale, or participating in an event together, but you haven’t really spoken enough to feel comfortable around each other. All Friends Network is developing resources, support programs, and educational tools that members can use to grow acquaintance-type relationships into friendships. Many good friendships can start off as acquaintances, so if you are slow at building trust and initiating conversation, this might be where a future personal friendship may blossom.

Making friends starts by finding something that you have in common. If you have an acquaintance that asks you about where you live, what hobbies you enjoy, or if you like a particular food, that might be an indication that they are trying to learn more about you to become your friend. It isn’t a guarantee that a friendship will be in your future, but it is part of the give-and-take conversations that happen when developing social ability. Our social network for developmental disabilities is designed to provide opportunities and resources that you can use to work on friendships, learn how to grow and deepen relationships, and maintain those friendships for the long haul. It is a step-by-step process that requires you to take that first step and gain confidence as you go.

Close Friends and Personal Friendships

When looking to make friendships within an autistic friends network like All Friends Network, it is crucial to understand that close friends and personal friendships are rare. Most people, regardless of whether they are on the spectrum or not, will only have a few friends within their lifetime that achieve this type of friendship status. It is unfair to expect those who have difficulties developing social ability to make and maintain friendships of this level, especially right away. Building those skill sets is part of what we do at our social network for developmental disabilities. Our goal is to provide our members with the tools, practice opportunities, and events in which to meet others who have common backgrounds and interests.

One of the first steps toward building and growing friendships is to identify how you feel when talking with new people. Learn what makes you comfortable – and what makes you uncomfortable – and make sure you are prepared to know the difference. If you have difficulty communicating, consider using props, carrying an introductory card, or finding other ways to share your thoughts and feelings with others. The more chances you give yourself to get out there, talk with people, and put yourself in new situations that can inspire you to build a friendship or talk with someone you don’t know, the easier it will become over time. Social experiences, discussions about social rules, and virtual practice online through video conversations can also be helpful.

Join All Friends Network

If you are interested in learning more about developing social ability and joining our social network for developmental disabilities, visit our website and contact us via our online contact form. You can also contact us by phone at 941-587-7172 or by sending us an email at info@allfriendsnetwork.org.