When I was first learning about autism, Aspergers and how they presented I read that autistics (across the spectrum) do not want or need friends. Whilst this may be true for some individuals, I think it is more that we see and feel friendship in a different way to allistics (non-autistics). What is friendship? Is it a one size fits all thing, or like other types of relationships are there numerous types?
I am sometimes surprised by when someone says that I am one of their friends, when I have not realised they have an attachment of any kind to me. On the other hand, I am greatly saddened when someone I saw in a positive light, whether or not I classified them as a friends, is cruel or unkind, even if this is to someone other than myself. Recently, I have been concerned on two fronts – people seeing autistics as unable to have friends (mostly about autistic adults) AND people thinking autistics ahould have loads of friends and be super social (mostly thought about autistic children and young people).
I find it bizarre that some clinicans are suggesting that adults who have friends and long term relationships cannot be autistic, whilst at the same time early intervention professionals are promoting the idea of group play as the norm and ideal. Surely playing with a group of people constantly as a child is no different to having friends as an adult? And why would autistics not be able to have friends and relationships? Struggling with social communication is not the same as not being able to connect human to human. In addition why is it that social skills teaching often stresses extroversion and lots of socialising, rather than just being comfortable in yourself around others.
I have friends, good friends, with whom I share an interest in something. I interact with them in a variety of ways in a variety of contexts. I am certainly not the life and soul of the party, but nor do I want to be. Being social is not relaxing for most autistics, this means although we may enjoy it at times, it is too tiring to do incessantly. On the other hand reading or listening to music, in silence, with others OR by myself is very relaxing. Each autistic finds different things invigorating, rejuvenating, relaxing or challenging.
My friends and I accept each other for who we are, quirks and all. We value each other as individuals, no matter what our neurology or any other characteristics. It doesn’t matter what someone wears or how they communicate, what matters is how they treat themselves and others. We can all be kind and respectful, without having to be friends and autistics can be amazing friends just as allistics can, but they shouldn’t have to have lots of friends to be seen as ‘normal’ nor be seen as ‘too normal to be autistic’ just because they can sustain friendships or relationships in adulthood.
Autism is a different way of being in, interpreting and responding to the world around, it does not mean we cannot or do not want friends. What it does mean is that we prefer to be around people who accept and like us FOR who we are, not inspite of who we are.
Friends care about each other and support each other because they have some kind of positive human to human connection , whether that is online, in real life or both.