Without you even knowing it, there is a good chance that someone you know is diagnosed with Autism, a medical condition that can be characterised as a social communication disorder and which can range widely in severity. Or, perhaps you have been diagnosed with Autism yourself. A diagnosis of Autism is not a one-size-fits-all situation and each Autistic person is as individual and unique as a single fingerprint is! The first thing you need to know is that this isn't something that defines you, however it can make socialising that much harder, but acknowledging that in itself, is a step in the right direction towards learning more about how to socialise more easily, if that’s something you would like to do.
Making friends and building new connections can be tricky. I think that we can all agree it's tough sometimes, and even more challenging when picking up on social cues and communicating freely isn't something that comes naturally. However, you mustn't be hard on yourself if this is the case for you. So take a breath, and give yourself a break. Remember, the right people will be in your life for you and will accept you for who you are. It's about compromise, and whilst relationships will always require some level of effort, they should be a two-way street – meaning that everyone involved should benefit from the happiness and fun that friendships can offer.
What to look for in a friend
Practice makes perfect. Do you know that old saying, "if at first you don't succeed, try and try again"? Getting along with every person you meet and would like to become friends with isn't realistic, but don't give up! Like learning to dance, drive a car, mastering a new game or a different language - socialising can require a little work. By being consistent and keeping at it, you'll soon find your groove. There will be specific tactics you'll pick up along the way, and you'll quickly realise what works for you and what doesn't.
Learning a new skill and finding a group activity can be rewarding in more ways than one. Extending your knowledge and skills is a massive confidence booster, and it gives you something to talk about. In addition, it's never too late to take on a new project, join a class or start ticking off that bucket list. You never know where it will lead!
If the thought of getting out there and diving in at the deep end is just too daunting, then how about joining an online community of like-minded people? By becoming a member of an organisation that specialises in supporting people with ASD, you're not just potentially going to make new friends but you could also have the opportunity to meet and connect with someone special. It's a safe way to have access to events and have those 1:1 interactions to help you get to know people and find out what you like and what you're looking for.
Check out some frequently asked questions on Nice 2 Meet Ya (link: https://www.nice2meetya.com/faqs).
If you feel like your confidence is running a bit low, here are just a few celebrities with Autism who could give you that bit of inspiration. (Link: https://www.psycom.net/autism-famous-people).
Sir Anthony Hopkins (Oscar award-winning actor - Silence of the Lambs), Dan Aykroyd (comedic actor – Ghostbusters!), Susan Boyle (singing sensation - Britain's Got Talent), Daryl Hannah (actress - Splash), Albert Einstein (um, genius!).
The world needs the Autistic brain's perspective to thrive and fully experience the full range of thought and intellect. So make sure you're out there and connecting with people. Your way of thinking could be just the insight they're looking for.
The world can feel like a lonely place at times. So this begs the question, do you carry on feeling alone and isolated, or do you take control and make an enlightened choice to expand your world and be a part of the conversation? Your journey starts here!