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9 Tips on How to Make and Maintain Friends as an Autistic Teen

April 17, 2024

There’s a common misconception that autistic teens are anti-social and don’t want to have friends. This is untrue. Most of us want to have social lives, friendships, and a sense of belonging, just like everyone else. So, how do you make friends as an autistic teen?

Friendships can be extremely positive and beneficial. A friend is someone you can talk to about your interests, someone who gives you advice and guidance and supports you during difficult times. Friendships can make navigating our teenage years easier.

Advice often means more when it comes from someone who has walked in your shoes. Perhaps these tips for making friends from an autistic teen will spark some inspiration!

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1. Be a good listener

Take the time to truly understand and support your friends when they are talking to you. It’s important to make sure that you’re listening as much as you’re talking about yourself.

If you’re monopolizing every conversation, your friend isn’t getting anything out of the relationship. It’s vital that you truly listen and are not just waiting for your friend to finish talking so you can say what you want to say.

If you’re waiting to speak, your friend will pick up on this. I suggest that you try to strike a balance by letting your friend talk about half of the time.

Unfortunately, if your friend feels like they can’t get a word in when they’re around you, it’ll be hard to have a balanced friendship.

If you find that you frequently (accidentally) interrupt your friends, say something like: “Oh, I’m so sorry, go on.”

2. Be dependable

One of the most important aspects of being a good friend is being dependable. Your friend should be able to rely on you for encouragement and support.

Nobody wants to be friends with someone who isn’t there for them. Your friends should always feel like they can count on you, especially when the going gets tough.

If you’re only there for fun and carefree times, you’ll be no more than a superficial, fair-weather friend.

Two teen friends supporting each other
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3. Be loyal

Always be loyal to your friends, and be prepared to defend them if others start gossiping about them. If your friend tells you something in confidence, don’t talk about it with anyone else.

After all, you wouldn’t be happy if someone you confided in told everyone your secret.

If you get a reputation for being a gossip, your friends will stop confiding in you and may even decide that you can’t be trusted. This could jeopardize your relationships.

4. Give thoughtful advice

Being a good friend involves seeing your friend’s situation from their perspective. That way, you’re able to give advice without insisting that your friend does whatever you say.

Although it’s hard to do, try to avoid giving unsolicited advice to your friends. Instead, only share your advice when your friends have asked you for it.

Giving unsolicited advice could be interpreted as lecturing or being bossy and overbearing.

5. Disagree with your friend in a respectful way

At some point, good friends will disagree with each other. After all, we all have different views and perspectives. A disagreement doesn’t have to be a big deal.

On the occasions when you don’t see eye to eye, disagree respectfully and be willing and open to seeing things from your friend’s perspective.

Respect your friend’s feelings and generally respect them as a person. Good friends show respect for each other by being openly and mutually supportive.


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Remember that you want to be a positive addition to your friends’ lives. When a friend shares something that you disagree with, it’s okay to say so. In a non-judgmental way, let your friend know what you think and why.

6. Be generous

Although you shouldn’t be generous all the time, being generous with your time and affection is an essential aspect of being a good friend. Accommodate your friend’s wishes whenever you can, provided this is done in a fair and balanced way.

Do something nice for your friend just out of the goodness of your heart, not because you want something in return. Reciprocate their acts of kindness with caring deeds of your own. 

If you get a reputation for being selfish, demanding, and only being around your friends when you need their help, people will be less likely to want to be your friend.

A word of warning – there’s a big difference between being generous at the right time and letting people take advantage of you. If you feel like you’re always helping your friends and getting nothing in return, then you may have a problem.

7. Help your friends with their problems

Try to be the kind of person your friends turn to in a crisis. Let your friends know they can lean on you and be their shoulder to cry on when times are tough.

If your friend feels less alone, it’ll be easier for them to deal with their troubles. Don’t feel pressured to fix your friend’s problems. Sometimes, just listening and being there is the best way to be a good friend.

If your friend is going through a crisis, try to help in any way that you can. For example, if your friend is sick and absent from school, take class notes for them.

Part of supporting your friend is providing emotional support. Sometimes, it can be hard to know what to say. I suggest you avoid saying something like: “Everything will be alright” unless you know this for sure.

Giving false reassurance, no matter how well-intended, can make the situation worse. Instead, let your friend know you’re there for them. You don’t have to say anything if you can’t find the right words. Sometimes, just listening is enough.

8. Learn how to take a joke

Jokes among friends can make friendship fun and amusing. If you’re sensitive to jokes or being teased, work on learning to accept well-intended and affectionate jokes and teasing. 

Two girls laughing https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/autistic-teen-friend-maintenance-tips/

However, keep in mind that there is a fine line between teasing and bullying. Sometimes, it can be hard to distinguish between the two.

If your feelings are hurt, or you feel that the teasing is getting out of hand, don’t be afraid to tell your friend. A good friend will be respectful of your feelings.

9. Be yourself!

Be the best version of yourself. Don’t change who you are so you can make a new friend. Pretending to be someone that you’re not will take its toll on you and will eventually backfire. 

Not being yourself also calls into question the entire friendship. After all, friendship can’t be authentic if you don’t reveal the real you.

Being autistic is simply another way of being 

What distinguishes us from other teenagers is that social skills and interactions don’t come naturally to us. Almost all autistic people find it hard to make and keep friends.

Most of us struggle to understand body language and to pick up subtle social cues. We tend to be literal, to speak our minds, and to find sarcasm confusing. Many of us also suffer from debilitating social anxiety, making us appear unfriendly, distant, and aloof.

Our social skill difficulties become even more challenging in our teenage years when social interactions become more complex and harder to decipher. Despite these social challenges, most autistic teens want to be like other teenagers.

We want to have friends who understand, encourage, and support us. We want to have fun. We want to have the typical high school experience.

Although making and maintaining friendships is harder for autistic teens, we have many of the essential qualities that make us ideally suited to being a good friend. Since we know what it’s like to be bullied and judged for being different, our experiences have made us more compassionate, kind, and accepting of others.

This article was featured in Issue 123 – Autism In Girls

FAQs

Q: How do you make friends as an autistic woman?

A: Making friends as an autistic woman involves finding common interests or activities where you feel comfortable and understood and then gradually building connections through shared experiences and genuine communication. It’s also important to embrace your unique qualities and seek out communities or support networks that appreciate and celebrate diversity.

Q: What are common Asperger’s friendship issues?

A: Common Asperger’s friendship issues often include difficulty understanding social cues and maintaining reciprocal communication, which can lead to challenges in forming and sustaining meaningful relationships. The challenges of navigating the unspoken rules of social interaction may make it harder to engage in typical socializing behaviors.

Q: How do you become friends with someone with autism?

A: To be friends with someone with autism, approach with empathy, patience, and an open mind, recognizing and respecting their unique communication and social needs. Engage in activities they enjoy, communicate clearly, and be accepting of their individual differences to foster a strong and meaningful friendship.

References:

Black, M.H., Kuzminski, R., Wang, J. et al. Experiences of Friendships for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum: A Scoping Review. Rev J Autism Dev Disord 11, 184–209 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40489-022-00332-8 

Sosnowy C, Silverman C, Shattuck P, Garfield T. Setbacks and Successes: How Young Adults on the Autism Spectrum Seek Friendship. Autism Adulthood. 2019 Mar 1;1(1):44-51. doi: 10.1089/aut.2018.0009. Epub 2019 Mar 11. PMID: 36600691; PMCID: PMC8992803. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8992803/ 

Sedgewick F, Crane L, Hill V, Pellicano E. Friends and Lovers: The Relationships of Autistic and Neurotypical Women. Autism Adulthood. 2019 Jun 1;1(2):112-123. Doi: 10.1089/aut.2018.0028. Epub 2019 Apr 13. PMID: 36601533; PMCID: PMC8992810. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36601533/ 

Lily Cresswell, Rebecca Hinch, Eilidh Cage, The experiences of peer relationships amongst autistic adolescents: A systematic review of the qualitative evidence, Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, Volume 61, 2019, Pages 45-60, ISSN 1750-9467, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rasd.2019.01.003

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