For many people who have the disorder, learning how to make friends with Aspergers can be one of the most difficult life skills to accomplish. Due to a lack of social and communication skills, children and adults with Asperger syndrome often find friendships hard to come by. Fortunately, a few steps can make it easier for Asperger sufferers to forge new and lasting relationships.
Why so Tough?
Like other disorders along the autism spectrum, people with AS suffer from impairment in social interactions leading to difficulty learning how to make friends with Aspergers. Even the most high-functioning children and adults experience social difficulties like the ones in the following list.
- Makes poor eye contact
- Has difficulty interpreting facial expressions, body language and hand gestures
- Seems to lack empathy and the ability to reciprocate emotions properly
- Often makes social blunders such as standing too close to people
- Has trouble recognizing social cues
- Displays difficulty sharing interests with other people
- Doesn't always understand peer slang or humor
- Finds it difficult to recognize who might become a friend
People who are not familiar with AS may find these impairments to be strange and in some cases frightening, which can distance them from the rest of the world. As adolescence and early adulthood approach, individuals with AS become more aware of the ways in which they are different, resulting in loneliness and stress. If left unchecked, these bewildering emotions can lead to anxiety and depression that may persist well into adulthood. Families that want to expose their Asperger loved ones to relationship opportunities is first to seek out areas of inclusion and then to follow some of the steps outlined in the following sections.
Tips on How to Make Friends with Aspergers
Beginning very early in their childhoods, individuals with Asperger syndrome can begin learning effective ways to read social cues as well as how to cultivate the proper responses. Comprehensive treatment plans combined with home and school strategies that adopt some of the concepts discussed here help build these social skills over a lifetime.
One of the most helpful things individuals with Aspergers can do to forge new friendships is learn basic socialization skills as early as possible. Committed to memory and reinforced on a daily basis, these tips instill confidence and give people with Asperger the tools to start long-term relationships.
- Practice eye contact with family members and in the mirror daily
- Practice keeping an arm's length distance during conversation
- Remember to vary the tone of voice
- Allow other people to talk about their interests
- Try not to dominate the conversation with personal interests
- Don't change the subject
- Keep other people's interests in mind
- Answer questions
- Practice good listening skills
- Learn peer language trends like humor, slang and sarcasm
Sometimes, being prepared for awkward silences can save a budding friendship. People with Aspergers typically exhibit a narrow range of interests that others may not care to discuss repeatedly. Teens and young adults can cultivate interests outside of the things to which they are normally attracted so that discussion is more diverse and open to peers. Parents can also encourage this diversity in small children as well. When the conversation hits a lull, try out one of the topics below.
- Video games
Questions are usually the best way to get the discussion started. For example, a person with Asperger might consider asking their friends what kind of music they like, or what movie they like best. It is also helpful to find friends who already have common interests or engage in similar activities.
Emotions are a particular area of concern, but adults and children with Asperger can learn to watch for emotional cues on their friends' faces and in their body language. Computer programs for Asperger patients may supply clear demonstrations of exactly which facial expressions signify which emotions. Practicing this system of identification with family members serves to reinforce the concept of emotional cues.
When it comes to learning how to make friends with Aspergers, there are no simple solutions. With time, practice and dedication people with Asperger syndrome can build friendships with people from all walks of life that will last a lifetime.