Only One Friend

Some individuals with autism do not have many friends. Whether they are averse to personal interaction or they lack the social skills required to make and keep friends, some friendless individuals with autism are perfectly satisfied with the situation. Even if your friend with autism does not care to expand his network, it is in his best interest over the long run to have more than one friend.

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Developing and nourishing friendships prevents isolation, but, more importantly, it keeps individuals with autism from becoming overly-dependent on one person. When our children are young, it is difficult to even imagine their lives as teens and adults. Because we spend so much time caring for toddlers, we are not able to envision a day when we are not “on duty” 24/7. But our children gradually grow up, and, in most cases, become more and more independent. Although some individuals with autism will not be independent, it is certainly in their best interest to help them develop new relationships so they do not depend on just one person for the rest of their lives to help with personal care.

Wise caregivers take purposeful steps early in life to expand their child’s circle of friends. Many individuals with autism tend to resist change and to respond negatively to new people. As a result, we can trigger major meltdowns and temper tantrums with our absence. If we introduce babysitters and relatives and others substitute caregivers early in life, we may be able to help our child learn he has more than one trusted friend. Over time, he will be less dependent upon our presence, and will tolerate new friends lending a helping hand.

If our teen or young adult friend with autism has only one friend, it is not too late to expand his network of friends and acquaintances. Encourage family and friends to hang around with you and your child with autism. Go for a drive, eat a meal together, or spend time watching a favorite video. Over time, your youngster will get used to having “new” people around. These new “friendships” allow you to leave your teenager or young adult in the hands of a familiar person who understands him to some extent.

TIP FOR THE DAY: If your friend with autism has just one friend, he can become isolated and overly dependent on just one person. So take steps now to help make and nourish new friendships.

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.

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