For a person with autism, forming and keeping friendships can be tricky. They may not know how to start a conversation. Body language can be confusing. Anxiety may increase their tendencies to be tonguetied. They may not understand why when they reach out to a friend, the friend doesn’t respond right away. They may worry what they did wrong. Often, people with autism lack the self-confidence needed in social situations.
Oh wait a minute, these are the same reactions as almost everyone out there–on the spectrum or not. Just because a person with autism is different, it doesn’t mean they don’t crave companionship. People with autism are just like people not on the spectrum. Some are social butterflies. Others are not.
Autism changes the way a person’s brain and body work. This may make it difficult for them to speak. Twenty-five percent of people on the spectrum are non-verbal. They may not communicate the same way everyone else does, but they do communicate. Sometimes they use sign language, picture cards, or a pen and paper. None of that changes the fact that they can be smart–sometimes scary-smart, passionate, talented people. People who deeply value friendship.
In a recent study comparing neurotypical women aged twenty to forty with women the same age on the spectrum the most significant difference found was that while neurotypical women tend to collect a large circle of acquaintances, women on the spectrum choose one or two close friends and get to really know them.
J is fortunate. He attends an Early Childhood Development school where he can make friends, but more importantly, he has cousins. Cousins that accept him the way he is. To them, he’s not “on the spectrum.” He’s just J.
GLENDA THOMPSON, aka Grandma Bear, resides in Charlotte where she is hard at work on the first novel in a series about Texas Rangers with dark secrets. She is also writing a series on Autism for the Pleasanton Express. These are a combination of research and personal experiences.