My Autistic Child has no Friends. What Can I do?
This is such a difficult experience as a parent. All you want is to help your child to be their happiest self. And yet you cannot be there to hold their hand and give them friends. So what do you do?
First thing to do is assess what your child actually wants. We live in a neurotypical society with neurotypical expectations however your child may not. And that’s Awesome. We might see our child playing alone or opting for time by themself as their inability to make friends, in fact it may be just the way they choose to spend their time. The only way to be sure of this is by asking them. You can ask them how they like to spend their time, ask them if they wish they had more friends etc.
Ok, assuming now that they want friends but are struggling to make any there are things that can help. We must validate our Autistic children. Building their confidence is key to empowering them to feel secure in social situations. Autistic children are very sensitive and are aware they are “Different”. This can mean that they feel no one will want to be their friend.
Remind them of all their wonderful traits, interests and skills. Neurodivergent kids do not hear enough positive things about them so we have to make an active effort to remind them at every opportunity. Furthermore we have to encourage them to think positively about themselves. You can challenge your child to think of five things every day that make them a good friend. By the end of a week you will have 35 reasons. You can hang this on the fridge or in their room so they can see it every day and add to it when they think of new ones.
The next step is to understand that ND kids will experience friendship and all relationships differently to neurotypical people. Autistic people generally don’t enjoy small talk and prefer to engage in deeper meaningful conversations of interest. This can mean their conversation style is more direct.
Additionally autistic people aren’t blinded by some of the restrictions of friendship that Neurotypical people are. Often Autistic people make friends with people of different ages and genders more easily than their NT peers. This is because Autistic people don’t observe the social hierarchy. These differences in communication might mean that the types of friends that your autistic child might develop won’t match your perception of traditional friendship, and that’s ok!
Finally to help your Autistic child develop new friendships try and engage them in activities with similar kids. This may mean using their interests to sign them up to groups. Many autistic children who are considered “shy” thrive when they are speaking about their special interests and can connect quickly and deeply with those who share them. Additionally surround your Autistic child with other Autistic people. Modern research suggests that Autistic people don’t have any problem with socialising. In fact issues with socialising are only present between people of different neurotypes. If you surround your child with other Autistic kids then they will socialise authentically and freely. At Konfident Kidz we offer a social programme designed to support families of autistic kids and to allow the students connect with likeminded kids. You can find more information about these here!