A common perception in the autism community is that autistics don’t want friends. This is very contrary to the fact that we WANT friends. Just our approach and sometimes our focus is different and at times when you blend two on the spectrum together this can be a very unique situation.
Now for myself, you could say two decades ago socialization was a struggle. I wouldn’t talk to anyone I developed a comfort level with, meaning I had to build up a rapport with that person to feel comfortable. I have to give credit to not only my high school teachers, but exclusively my speech and language clinician I meet weekly in a small group session with using technology (and snacks from the neighboring vending machine) mad the remainder of my high school stay easier to manage.
The summer after I graduated High School, I left unsure of my future. I looked into and applied for a program I am at today, a psychiatric rehabilitation program, that encompasses the Clubhouse model. Something I learned was a great future even though I learned the program itself was in dire need of improvement at the time, I have been there sixteen years and it is truly a blessing.
Through them, I have met several people in the program and have held two jobs, the second one my current job of ten years. With it comes the piece of needing to be social with others, and while this helped me get friends, with the help of the staff there and the coworkers at my employer, I was able to slowly attain the skills necessary to be successful socially.
This was proven as in the interview process for employees in the Clubhouse Model, one of the three interviews one goes through is a panel interview of both staff and members of the program (we are called members opposed to clients, as it is of a non-clinical nature.) A staff person who I sat on her interview sixteen years ago said of how shy and clustered I stayed to myself comparing to how I am now being more open about myself and more socially constructive towards others along with how much a grown over those sixteen years.
Same could be proven for my therapist who continually sees the good qualities in me. She has seen me as a born leader, this has made me be more confident in many aspects of my life both employments, programmatic and personal, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. She has seen me since I was a young sixteen-year-old grow and blossom to how I want to be.
Now I do regret not being more open in technical school in the dormitory, however now I have been networking and patching up those past times and being honest about myself and realizing things I should have done back then and that it is a learning experience for all of us and we learn and grow from them. The main thing is that we patch up the past and move on, and I realize that I was normal for being who I am now and feeling the way I did back then and do so now.
Through all that I want friends and it has come easier to me, however I still struggle with not being so self-centered and not thinking about things like being grateful and having empathy. I do have empathy, but at times while I can share my struggles I am not considerate to others’ struggles and how they are and not caring for what’s on their mind more, of which a friendship is more mutual and less one-sided , otherwise, it isn’t a friendship and it won’t be successful.
One may also struggle on controlling their interests or may not like their friends’ interests, however if you feel that you can manage the friendship, be open and accepting to their interests and needs, it will make them feel like they are valued and remember that its not all about you in a friendship.
In closing, I want a friendship, however I struggle with things in it such as not being self-centered and controlling my interests, showing empathy and apathy, so forth. I will hopefully work on it although I sometimes consider myself a loser, but the professionals in my life make me think otherwise.