Interacting with Others

The general public tends to assume people with autism do not interact with others, but, in reality, the range of social interaction in autism is very broad. The scope ranges from individuals who seem literally oblivious to other people on one end of the scale to individuals who are very friendly, even overly friendly with family, friends, and strangers.

Listen Now:


continue reading

Some of our friends with autism are lethargic, withdrawn, and non-responsive. Others are disconnected from people and immersed in their own world. They may reach out to others, but usually in a manner to use that person’s hand as a machine to get them a drink or a book.

In contrast to the disconnected, non-responsive peers, some individuals with autism hit, bite, scratch, or grab anyone who comes near. It may be that they are trying to communicate frustration or anxiety, or they may be trying to tell that person to get out of their personal space.

As we move further down the scale, we find individuals who tolerate the presence of other people and respond to questions or directions, but do not typically initiate any interaction. And other individuals with autism enjoy group gatherings, but they have difficulty controlling their excitement, so they scream or talk very loudly, jump vigorously, bite their hands, or run unexpectedly.

Some individuals with autism interact appropriately with others at home, in school, and on the job. They may need some help with conversational skills or other social skills, but, in general, they get along with other people just like their peers.

On the far end of the social interaction scale, we find people with autism who are overly-friendly. They may stand too close, talk incessantly, or have an obsessive interest in one person.

TIP FOR THE DAY. No matter where our friends with autism stand on this broad range of social interaction, we can help them develop social skills necessary to enjoy interactions and friendships with other people.

NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me a confidential email at with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.