This article was contributed by Katie Holler, an ASNC Autism Resource Specialist in the Eastern Region and mom to five daughters, four of whom have autism.
“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than a true friendship.”
The words of Thomas Aquinas, a theologian and philosopher from the 16th century, remain true even in our modern age. People on the autism spectrum can sometimes struggle to make and keep friends because they sometimes have a difficult time relating to others and understanding some of the unwritten rules of friendships.
My daughter Erin seems to connect and have great ease in interacting with others on the spectrum. Erin is an eighth-grader in an autism center-based program in her school. The program assists students with autism in developing appropriate social, organizational, and academic skills needed to function in the regular class setting. Erin had struggled and continues to struggle in developing friendships because of her social deficits.
Two years ago, Erin excitedly announced that she had been asked to attend the eighth-grade dance with one of her classmates from the autism program. I was encouraged to see that she had connected with someone in her class and intrigued that it was a male student who was also on the autism spectrum.
There was much excitement about this dance. There was dress shopping and shoe shopping to be done. I remember Erin twirling in front of the mirror and scripting a line from Disney’s Cinderella, “Isn’t is the most beautiful dress you have ever seen?” I will never forget the smile on her face and the happiness I felt at this very typical response to an exciting moment.
It has been two years since that dance. Erin and Hayden still communicate almost daily through email, and without any parental encouragement or planning, both have initiated and arranged meet-ups. Like all teens, they enjoy movies, going for ice cream, visiting each other’s homes, and attending a church youth group together. They have a very special friendship and consider themselves to be boyfriend and girlfriend.
Erin and Hayden’s friendship has also helped to foster a friendship between Hayden’s mother and me. To be able to connect with another parent about teen challenges has been a true blessing to me. It has afforded us the opportunity to share our thoughts and feelings as mothers of two very special people.
Hayden’s mom and I have observed our children and are truly amazed about the ease with which they interact. Nothing about their interactions appears different or unique; they are just two people connecting through conversation.
When I ask Erin what she likes about Hayden, she says: “Hayden treats me nice. He likes to hear about the things I like and have an interest in.” Hayden told his mother that he likes Erin “because she understands him and seems interested when he talks to her.”
One of life’s truest pleasures is to have a friend, a confidante that you connect with and you feel understands and accepts you as a person. As Hayden and Erin grow into adulthood, I hope they continue to grow in their friendship. I hope they continue to be a support to each other through life’s ups and downs. True friendship is a gift to be treasured!
Not every individual on the spectrum may develop a closeness with a classmate. If you are looking for opportunities to meet other individuals on the spectrum and their parents, please consider connecting with one of our Chapters.
You can also find upcoming social events and opportunities on our website calendar.
The ASNC Bookstore also has many books about social skills and relationships.
For more information, contact your local Autism Resource Specialist.
Katie Holler can be reached at 252-756-1316 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Tags: ASNC, autism, autism social skills, autism society north carolina, Autism spectrum, Autism Spectrum Disorder