If you’re an autistic teen who struggles with making new friends and forming connections, you’re far from alone. In fact, over a third of autistic people struggle to forge social relationships with people that they care about.
Making friends might be a challenge as an autistic teenager, but it’s definitely possible. Read on for some ideas on how you can make friends with other awesome people and bond with them authentically.
Create a Routine for Change
Change is tricky for most autistic teens, so if you feel this way, you’re far from alone. Unfortunately, without changing your schedule or your life around a little bit, you’re going to have trouble making friends.
The key to making this work is by adding a change to your routine gradually. Select a block of time at the same time every week to go to a new place. This can be a coffee shop, a bookstore, or a local park.
Focus on going to places where you might find other teens. If you love to read, sitting in the YA section of a bookstore can work wonders. If you love gaming, go to a game shop and try to sign up for a routine group D&D game or something similar.
However, you don’t necessarily always need to make friends at these locations. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. The main point of heading out is to get you used to small changes so that you’re more comfortable adding new things to your routine.
Plus, once you do make friends, you can take them to all the cool places that you visited!
Find People Who Know Your Special Interests
As you know, one of the best things about being autistic is having special interests. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of engaging with your SpIns, and there’s nothing better than meeting someone who’s extremely interested in your infodump (and who will rant about your passion with you!)
This means that it’s important to find friends who value and care about your SpIns. This can be really tricky, but it’s completely possible. Get some merch to show off what you like most. If you meet someone who says that they like your turtle button, for example, and turtles are your SpIn, this can be a great segue into a conversation that lets you show off your knowledge.
Another great way to meet other teens who love your SpIns is online. Social networking sites have groups for pretty much any TV show, book, or game that you can think of. They also have tags for different historical eras, facets of science, and animals.
Check out these groups and tags to scour for potential friends!
Connect With Other Teens Online
Unfortunately, reaching out to people online can be stressful for some autistic teens. While it’s a bit easier than meeting people in real life, you still will probably need to open the conversation up before you can talk about your SpIns and your interests.
Connecting with other autistic teens is one of the best things you can do for yourself. They’ll get you and understand your need to share your passions and ideas.
Special Bridge is an app that’s devoted to connecting autistic teens with other autistic teens. We use unique matching tools to help you find people with interests similar to yours. We also can help you search for people in your area so that you can safely meet up with an adult present.
Everyone on our chat room is disabled in some way, so you won’t be on your own when interacting with others there. This can take some of the stress out of meeting new people because masking, which takes a lot of energy, won’t be as necessary.
Find Comfortable Social Spaces
Once you make a friend online and decide that you want to meet up, you should select a public place that’s comfortable for you both. Sensory-friendly locations are a must. Some of the best include quiet coffee shops and libraries. Libraries are also free, which is awesome.
Parks are also great meetup spots in nicer weather. They also give you the chance to find a comfortable place to sit and hang out.
The bottom line is that you need to choose somewhere where you won’t get overwhelmed. Somewhere quiet and familiar is ideal. Talk to your new friend as well as your parent(s) for some potential locations in your area.
Respect Yourself and Your Boundaries
When you meet up with people, make sure that you always feel comfortable enforcing your boundaries. This can be a physical safety concern in some situations. Healthy safety boundaries might include staying away from adults online or making sure that no one comes into your personal space.
However, in most cases, boundaries are a matter of comfort and emotional safety. It’s important that you tell people if they’re making you uncomfortable once you know them well. If someone you don’t know well makes you uncomfortable or anyone continues the behavior after you ask them to stop, leave immediately.
When making friends, no boundary is too stupid. Nothing is ‘just a part of being friends.’ If you’re uncomfortable with someone using specific words with you or talking about certain subjects, set a boundary.
Respect yourself enough to hold others accountable. Respect yourself enough to know that you deserve friends that make you feel good. After all, any good friendship is based on mutual understanding and respect.
Start Making Friends and Having Fun
Now that you have some tips for making friends as an autistic teen, it’s time to get started. Think about the qualities that matter to you in a friend and how you might interact with people that share these qualities.
Once that’s done, check out Special Bridge’s online service to help you meet people. We can help you connect with those who have similar views, interests, and disabilities to yours. Register today to begin forging lasting friendships!