Adulting: What is a Friend To You?

Let’s admit it, Autism, no matter where you are on the spectrum is hard. However, we are a strong and resilient kind that never gives up our hopes and dreams. More than likely, when we have a goal in mind, we tackle it and overcome it. While people with autism are oftentimes known as introverted, backwards or shy, many of want the same things neurotypical people have in their lives, friendships and yes, possibly a relationship.

Educating youngsters today with autism on social skills is what I call a true blessing compared to two decades ago when I first received my diagnosis as a teenager. It was a “chop shop” of programs that had no basis or research simply because there was little education back them, especially in non-urban areas such as where I am from. There is still a lack in this in my county and I fight for the need for additional autism supports for both children and adults with autism. Autism doesn’t end at 18. We have lived once the school doors close and sadly either you jump off the peruviol cliff into congregate care or you return secluded to your parents’ or caregiver’s responsibility while trying to find a good social outlet.

While I still attend a vocational training program 1-2 days a week where it is intertwined with my employment. My social development there has grown with my comfort level with others which has related out of there. I have socially developed over the past decade and a half since being there. With that being said I do contact some of my peers, but it can be hard to communicate with them simply because I am not at their maturity level. Being independent, I long for friendships. Social media has helped to some extent and I am grateful. The principal issue is techniques in properly communicating with others and understanding that I need to at times need to maintain my own boundaries and not submerse myself in a friendship in the manner of an addiction.

I, like many other adults with autism can only entertain myself so much. I have worked hard throughout most of my adulthood to loosen the attachment with my family and strive for independence. It has become easier, yet at times it can seem as if it is a struggle. There is only so much others can do for me and I realize that I to have to have a part in discovering friendships with others. For people with autism because of our challenges we just can’t go to places that adults meet due to sensory overload like bars and clubs. Sometimes transportation can be a barrier and anxiety can overload any component of a friendship.

Yes, I understand that we are in a global pandemic and that getting out with others is a struggle. Life can be hard in these challenging times to say that you have someone with challenges that doesn’t inherit toxicity of other factors or stir away from you feeling validated. Likewise, I and many others do have feelings contrary to the common myth that we can’t feel what other people are struggling with. They say with this virus that we are all in this together. Friends are a hard commodity that can be challenging in these times, let alone and adult with autism.

While I am thankful for the opportunities, I do have, I struggle sometimes with defining what I want in a friendship and God Forbid a relationship someday should this pandemic end. I know that communication has to be a two-way street and me imitating conversation isn’t my strong suit and others will get offended with the need for a balanced friendship or relationship. Regardless, it is a need for all people with autism and it can be a challenge to speak for ourselves and say that we need time for us because we live in fear of rejection. We just want to be accepted and included for who we are. What we are my vary from societal norms and may appear challenging to some just as we may experience social anxiety with developing friendships. I suggest to anyone who has the ability to be honest and manage these qualities to invest in a friendship or potentially a relationship with a neurodivergent individual. Don’t pity us or feel bad for us. Treat us as you want to be treated and help us when we struggle because we will be loyal to you because we ant someone who will care about you, although we may experience challenges in showing it, we truly want to be a part of someone’s life.

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