Supporting your Autistic Child to Make Friends

"My son (high functioning autistic) really struggles making and keeping friends. Is there anything I can do to help him with this? He is content to play by himself for the most part, but I can tell he feels left out and would really enjoy have some playmates."

When a "neurotypical" child (i.e., a child without ASD level 1 or High-Functioning Autism) makes friends, parents are not often involved in the choice of the friend or the facilitation of the friendship. 

But, the parents of an child on the autism spectrum should be  active participants in helping him make and keep solid friends.

Part of the process involves concretely teaching the child how an "average" (for the lack of a better term) friend should act. Teaching him politeness, restraint in some situations, and how to talk and establish good eye contact with others will help this child learn skills that aren’t innate to his development.

Finding a child to be your son’s friend in the school situation often takes careful planning and effort. It genuinely helps if you volunteer in the classroom and get to know the other students well. If you can find a receptive, relatively quiet child who would make a good friend for your son, ask the child’s parents if the two could play together. Bear in mind that rowdy or noisy children may be a source of distress to a child on the spectrum.

If your child is one of the many who have specific interests or musical ability, make the effort to link him up through groups or clubs of children with similar interests. Often, having a similar interest as another child will help facilitate a relationship between the two. 

Even if your son doesn’t have a special interest, consider something structured, such as the boy scouts or a church group, from which friends can be found and maintained through regular contact.

It’s probably not a good idea to invite a bunch of kids over for a sleepover. Rather, one child playing with your son at a time has the best chance of success. If the other child seems to have some maturity, explaining the condition of high-functioning autism to that child may help avoid the frustration some children feel around "special needs" kids.

Your son may not be receptive to a friendship in all cases, and he may prefer to play alone. In that case, wait until you see signs of receptiveness before attempting to facilitate a friendship. 


·         Anonymous said... Also when you see him having some interaction with other kids, make a fuss of him, show him that what he is doing is good and this will also encourage him.
·         Anonymous said... Autism means our kids have gaps in their social and emotional development and ability to think flexibly (and therefore behave adaptively). There's no quick fix for this - it takes an NT child 5 - 10 years to learn all the complexities of friendship and thats kids without developmental gaps. We've used Relationship Development Intervention very successfully with my son to fill in some of those developmental gaps. He is now very connected to others. He still struggles with lots of things but he's much less egocentric and more able to step into the skin of what it means to be a friend.
·         Anonymous said... How ever hard it may seem you need to keep putting your son into this social situation. Im thinking he is still young? As when they get older it does get a bit easier. My son has come on leaps and bounds by continuously putting him in the situation. Learning the correct social skills is very difficult for kids on the spectrum and if we force them into the situation then there will come a point where their interaction will change for the better.
·         Anonymous said... I have the same problem with my 5 yr old. She cries when the kids outside don't want to play with her or goes in the house. It makes me sooo sad
·         Anonymous said... It helps to practice what to say in different social situations; especially at the start of conversations. Really breaking it up in concrete language, like "when someone says hi, say hi", "when someone says I want to play say ok". I like power point- you can use clip art to illustrate a little social story book of potential scenarios (like when someone is playing with you remember not to walk away). Also getting together with other kids who share his common interests helps too. This is what I've learned with mine anyway!
•    Anonymous said… Boy, I can relate to this one! My daughter just "lost" her best friend because of my daughter's hellacious tantrums when things don't go her way, or if she starts to feel rejected. Her friend won't return calls, and her mom won't allow my daughter to play at her friend's house. The mom made it clear that she will not tolerate that kind of "behavior" in her home. I just want to cry for my baby. :-(
about an hour ago via mobile ·
•    Anonymous said… I have this problem as well and it really worries me. My 7 year old son gets on with girls who are a lot younger than him but other than that he cant seem to keep friendships.
•    Anonymous said… I need help with my son on this to. I know there has to be more kids in the school system that's have the same problems but they refused to help me get a group together. I think that it would help them to know they are not alone in the world!
•    Anonymous said… I think so many Aspies are like this. I'm a military member so we move a lot and so do people around us, unfortunately. What I found useful is finding other Aspies and normal kids as well. You have to network. Other Aspies have the same problem so it works out for both kids. On top of that you already know the other parent goes through the same stuff.
•    Anonymous said… look up groups on yahoo, you might find something! Also, talk to a speech pathologist or a local OT, they would probably help you. Our old office let people put thongs in the office, maybe you can start a group yourself.
•    Anonymous said… mine is a loner too, but he likes the older boys next door. They are aware of his syndrom and even invite him out to play now, and it makes him so excited. My son also loves to bowl, so this summer we are putting him in a bowling legue for kids. Our thought is to make socializing a postive experience by associating it with something he loves to do anyway. Plus it is a much more controled enviroment, he won't have to deal with any teasing or other kids being mean.
about an hour ago ·
•    Anonymous said… my daughter cant make friends or keep them i feel bad for her its really hard for her to keep friends
•    Anonymous said… My oldest son had problems with friends in elem. school, but it got better in jr. & sr. high because there were more kids with his interests. Joining band really helped.

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