Most people who are on the autism spectrum will have difficulty with developing social skills and making friends. The reason for this is that doing new things, including meeting new people, can cause anxiety, be frightening, and, in some cases, may even be confusing. Once you understand the link between difficulties with social skills and autism, it becomes easy to see why this can be such a challenge. Real life events and opportunities, along with education, skill-building, and support, can be helpful. However, once you understand why there are so many issues with autism and friendships, it becomes easier to address. All Friends Network focuses on helping people of all ages with a concentration of young adults with autism, cerebral palsy, and other developmental disabilities.
Conversations, Body Language, and Facial Expressions
These can be three of the biggest obstacles to developing social skills for people with autism. Having conversations – even with people that you know and feel comfortable with – can be a struggle. Talking about topics of interest, such as hobbies or a shared appreciation of something, can make it easier. However, if the person becomes forgetful about what they wanted to share or stumbles over their words, it can spiral into a negative experience very quickly. People who have autism can have difficulty understanding a person’s body language, including gestures and facial expressions. Think of it like trying to figure out if a person is being sarcastic, angry, or humorous about something via text or online chat without emojis and other telling symbols.
Being in a public or social situation can be torturous for some people with autism. Learning how to make friends can be an anxiety-ridden experience – even more so than merely speaking with strangers. For many, the idea of simply trying to make friends is what trips them up because they have high hopes or expectations of success. When talking with strangers, there is no expectation of friendship, so the pressure is off, and the worries decrease. Developing social skills is essential to help kids, teens, and young adults learn how to navigate real life events and opportunities to make friends outside of their family, community, school, and work circles. All Friends Network is developing interactive options to help our members learn more about overcoming social skills and autism to make it easier to make friends in typical situations.
Confidence and Past Experiences
One bad experience with a friendship that did not work out the way it was expected can set a pattern for many people with autism. They anticipate that their negative experience will repeat itself again, and they expect that every new person will behave in the same way. Much like anyone else, fears of failure, rejection, and isolation can be very upsetting. In many cases, it can be helpful to work on developing social skills right away after a bad situation to show the person that not every friendship will end up the same way. Feelings of anxiety, self-consciousness, and negativity can override even the most positive real life events and opportunities, so it pays to be patient. Finding others who have similar developmental disabilities who will understand the barriers they have to making friends can be encouraging.
All Friends Network was designed to be a safe space for people with autism, cerebral palsy, and other developmental disabilities to learn how to engage with others, make and maintain friendships, and become more confident in social situations. Working with licensed therapists and experts who have an understanding of how people on the spectrum think and view friendships can be helpful, as well. Beginning in the fall of 2021, we will be holding monthly social events. Once we are able to build enough membership volume to support our gatherings, we will expand our calendar for real life events and opportunities. AFN Live-LINK is a safe and secure app environment for our members to start building friendships and chatting with new people right away. To learn more about All Friends Network, the AFN Live-LINK app, and our planned events, give us a call at 941-587-7172 or reach out to us via our online contact page to get a call back from one of our team members.