Autism: Some Of The Challenges With Friendships

Recently a friend of mine came to me asking for friendship advice.

Internally, I was thinking to myself… “Why is this person asking me, someone with a godawful record of successful social communication, for friendship advice?”

The truth is, I’ve actually been told that I give really good friendship advice. About a week ago in speech therapy, one of my peers mentioned that he can give good advice, but for some reason cannot practice what he preaches in real life scenarios. I realized that I am the same way! As ironic as it may sound, people do come to me for advice. I honestly do appreciate people coming to me for help, as it shows how much they think of me.

Coincidentally, the next day in my psychology class, I watched a TedTalk by Dr. Robert Waldinger of Harvard University, the director of the longest study of happiness ever recorded. One thing that Dr. Waldinger mentioned really stood out to me:

“Relationships are messy and they’re complicated and the hard work of tending to family and friends, it’s not sexy or glamorous. It’s also lifelong. It never ends.”

This got me thinking about the friendships that I currently have in my life. I have been struggling with friendships for my entire life, but at this moment I am happy with the connections that I have made. The years of hard work are seeming to finally pay off. At the bottom of this post, I have listed three related posts that explain these friendships.

If there is one thing that I have learned about friendships, it’s that they are messy and complicated. With hard work, however, the results are undoubtedly worthwhile. Although this is the case for everyone, I have often been told that because of my condition, it’s harder for me. The major thing that I still struggle with is handling my own and others’ emotions.

Through trial and error, I have started to learn that different people show their emotions in different ways. I am very affectionate, however, this does not mean that everybody is the same! For instance, I am the type of person that (with really good friends) will usually say “I love you;” this usually happens over text or in person. This is just something that I have gotten used to doing in order to show that I appreciate the people I care about. Sometimes, depending on the person, they don’t say it back. I’ve recently learned that just like some people aren’t as affectionate, some have a harder time saying “I love you” to others (for a variety of different reasons). My mom told me that a lot of it just comes down to their personalities and past experiences. If someone doesn’t say it back, I sometimes think to myself that this person doesn’t care for me as much as I care for them. I think I’ve definitely gotten better at not thinking this way, but at times the thought still enters into my mind. Overtime, I believe I will get better and better at this!

Another similar situation to this is when I hug my friends, as hugging is sort of my go-to action. This doesn’t mean that I only hug; I still give high-fives, handshakes, and fist bumps. Sometimes it is difficult for me to communicate that I want a hug. When I hug someone, not only is it a socially acceptable way to greet someone, but it makes me feel good. The feeling is kind of hard to explain… all I can say is that I love it! (Hint: if I know you, don’t be afraid to give me a hug)! The only downside to this (besides not knowing exactly how to communicate my feelings) is that hugging can sometimes become socially awkward. I don’t think of hugging as socially awkward, however, I have seen some of my peers be turned off when I go in for a hug. It is sometimes awkward for me because at times I do not know if a friend likes hugs or not (and I don’t know how to find out). I try my absolute hardest not to upset anyone, but it’s a normal thing for me to hug a friend! It’s even better when they initiate the hug as well!

Finally, I tell my friends how much I appreciate them! From kindergarten to tenth grade, I was never able to count the friends I had on one hand. Now that I am able to do so, I cannot help myself but to appreciate them! I’ve never really had the luxury of appreciating friends before, so from time to time I feel that my friends think I get a little annoying with all of the appreciation texts. But what can I say, I’m truly grateful!!

Going back to Dr. Waldinger’s quote: in quality friendships, the hard work that is put in is lifelong; there’s always more to be done. I know that I will continue to have certain difficulties with friends throughout my life. This little taste of success that I’ve had with my friends is what inspires me to keep working hard, knowing that more success will follow. All that I can do is keep working.


I made a really cool vlog about my recent experience at the Into The Blue Gala, hosted by Autism Speaks. Click below to view it!

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