An important part of life, besides family, is friendship and companionship. Friends, acquaintances, partners, boyfriends, girlfriends are all a major part of the human experience. Autism makes it very hard to connect with others. But it isn't impossible.
To this day, I still consider myself somewhat insular and distant. I find myself in conversations where Im just standing there and listening. I am an insider on the outside, so to speak. But I do still have people I consider friends. My definition of friend is someone I can connect with on a level similar to family. Not the same as family, mind you, but close enough that there is an affinity.
I have quite a broad stroke of friends, from my school days, university days, and various people I converse with online. Speaking with people online is easier for me, I guess. There's a distance to it, but I do feel that the connection is still there. Sometimes I meet people in person, or I converse with them on Skype or Facebook through video calling. I do meet some people in person, but sometimes that can be a little challenging for me into situations that I don't find comfortable for a reason.
I asked a few of my friends to write a brief paragraph about their friendship with me. I specifically told people not to sugarcoat it, and to be as honest as possible. They will remain nameless:
'well you're a great friend, you're always really straight forward and say what needs to be said even if people don't want to hear it. that's a good thing though. but sometimes you say things without thinking about them and upset or annoy people and that's not so good, but I know I usually put you in your place or call you out. I know you don't mean it, but other people might'
'Ben has been a great friend to me because he doesn't judge, he looks at things from a neutral position. Which is a great attribute to have. As someone who has autism themselves it good to find someone who understands the struggles.'
'I guess you could say I'm a friend of Ben's. We've never met before, but we're still very close. We met through a group on facebook, began messaging, and hit it off. We agreed we looked alike, so we decided to call ourselves "brother and sister" even though we've been raised in totally separate countries. We plan to meet up at some point, maybe when I do my traveling. It's great having Ben as a friend/ brother.'
'Ben's one of the most open, lay all your cards on the table-type of person I've ever met. That's a rarity in a modern world where most of us live behind personas and barriers. He's mad as a box of frogs, but he's very good at that. Above all else, his heart's firmly in the right place, and you can't ask for much more than that.'
'Ben is no different to my other friends, whilst I am aware that autism does affect him, I can see that it doesn't DEFINE him. Ben you are kind and reliable. You are just as human as everyone else, I like the way you talk, I like the jokes you tell, I like the mistakes you make. You're just a good friend.'
'Me and ben go back a long time, years in fact. I remember when I first met him when I started first started Halsnead School; he was the one that was both quiet and loud at the same time. You never knew what to expect of him but you always knew whatever it was it would be doctor who related. In fact ben was my first proper friend at In primary, we spoke regularly and would always discuss which in our mind was the best doctor; we even made our own doctor who club! My friendship with Ben has always been one of many laughs, we joke, we act sarcastic and tend to have a dirty side, ben more than most. Despite his autism ben is a good, honest and loyal person and always been that way as friend to me, he has a heart as pure as gold and I'm happy to call him my friend.'
"Ben, one word. Lovely. The most genuine person I've ever met. I still remember that day we went to subway, and you were just so down to earth. Keep doing you"
Friendship is a hard concept that I have to work on in order to maintain. Harder than most, anyway. I am a very insular person, which is typical for people such as myself. Being Autistic makes it harder to make friends. Some people don't understand what it entails by befriending Autistic people.
We can be a pain at times, but it isn't impossible to make friends with Autistic people, and it isn't impossible for Autistic people to make friends. It is hard to try and keep up with friends, and can be hard to socialise. In regards to hanging out, try and do things you and your friends are both happy to do. If you feel confident, try stepping out of your comfort zone.
Published by Ben Attwood