Autism is a spectrum, meaning it has a spectrum of features. One of these is communication. One cannot have the ability to communicate without assistance and likewise individuals such as myself can be very articulate, however we are all classified as being autistic. Although it may not seem as such, I sometimes struggle with communicating socially with the less articulate because I am indeed socially awkward.
Autistics want nothing to have a friend, without a doubt. For some that can be a someone a program friendship or other mutual connection. But me being an articulate, it can be difficult to stoop down someone’s level because it drains out all the energy that we have in our battery pack. To neurotypicals, this may seem like when we are struggling with this, we don’t want to be with them. However, we do, its just sometimes we need to recharge our batteries or take what they are wanting in small doses as it may be too overwhelming to autistics.
We as autistics that struggle with this balance must remember that the less skilled are reaching out to us because they sometimes look up to us and how we have overcome obstacles that they may not have yet or ever will. We as autistics need to sometimes take a trip down memory lane when we may have been called out on something or were bullied in the past and think about the person seeking our attention. Is it a healthy wanted attention? Do they really value where we have come and what we have done in our lives? Then they are likely looking for nothing but someone to connect with, swap stories and just have someone to call their friend.
Yes, we want to support others, but when having to slow down our pace to someone else’s level can be challenging for us that are very articulate. It’s like having to slow the speed on what we are saying sometimes or having to be interested or come up with topics that one may not understand. Or, we may be super hyper focused on something so much that they are bored to death and then it can produce a negative outcome.
As autistics, our physical and mental health must be of top priority. If that friendship becomes challenging or toxic, we must healthily let it go. However, we mustn’t do so in order to make the friend in question offended. Start out slowly by sharing in simplest terms how it makes you feel and that it would be healthier not to be friends. They may not understand, but they probably want to know as the person they see rather than the person who is struggling, overwhelmed and frustrated.
Autism is hard. Autism Acceptance Month proves that. There is no one size fits all approach for autistics to interact with others or who will accept them for who they are, although they should, it too may be a challenge for them as much a challenge for the autistic. We must be respectful of when both autistics and neurotypicals need their space and time away from us and be sure they are ready to regroup when they are both ready to do so, otherwise the frustration and toxicity of the negative environment will continue eventually leading the friendship to erupt in a negative outcome for all parties involved.
However, as I want to challenge myself, I as you should remember that we don’t all have is easy as everyone else in the world and some may never get to the level of independence or articulacy that you are at. They want to be a friend because they probably think you understand them for who they are and they want someone who can listen to their world for a little bit. I encourage anyone that knows if someone else in the autism or special needs communities are struggling to reach out to them and give them a little bit of encouragement and support, because living life on any spectrum or special format can be difficult for many and all we want now is to know that we are heard.