Saturday, May 21, 2016

Dear Autistic kids: a letter about friendship

I need to talk to you about something a lot of people don't talk about: friendship.

Some people assume that we won't ever have friends. Or, that we will know the “rules” for friendship if we have friends. The first assumption is wrong. The second assumption is sometimes wrong. I know no one explained the “rules” for friendship to me.

People will like you. People will care about you. Sometimes, these people will leave. I have been learning this the hard way. No one told me the “rules.” No one told me that friendships don't often last forever. I am sometimes in a great deal of hurt. This is especially after leaving college. Friends headed off to different parts of the country or even the world. I also moved to a different city for a job.

Sometimes, people move on. This includes these days, when people might have to move more and more for jobs. You might move and find it hard to keep in touch. People might also move for college, or just for other reasons. It doesn't mean they never liked you. Sometimes you will feel used. But that is how a lot of friendships will work, and it doesn't mean they didn't enjoy being friends. A lot of times, both people understand that many friendships are not a forever thing. But people might not have told you that. This is not your fault. It does not make you bad.

Sometimes you might feel close to a person, but they don't feel as close to you. It doesn't mean they don't like you. It will hurt. Figuring that stuff out is hard. It might change how you hang out with them, if you figure it out. It might change as you try to learn what things makes them uncomfortable because they aren't as close.

For example, I would devote myself to people who weren't as close to me. I would always remember their birthdays and sometimes bring them things. I would feel hurt when they didn't remember my birthday, though I didn't expect gifts. But they never expected me to remember theirs in the first place. And it often made them uncomfortable when I gave them things. 

Sometimes, friendships can last a long time. They aren't always short-term. It can be hard to tell which ones will, and which ones won't. Try to see how much work they want to put in to keep the friendship going after it gets harder to be friends for whatever reason, including distance. If they don't want to put in a lot of work, then it might have been a short term one. This is a generalization. It doesn't apply to all situations.

Friends won't always just drift away. Sometimes friends will hurt you and you leave. Or you just don't get along after a while. Or you make a mistake and hurt them. That will happen. We are all people. It doesn't make you evil. It will hurt when these things happen. Having friends is still worth it.

I didn't have a close friend from the time I was 12 to 18 and a half. I had a loose, vague collection of friendly people, but that was all. Fellow students looked at me a lot like I needed to get off the planet. But at some point, people will like you, and people will care. It might take a while, like it did for me. People will like you and people will care. A lot of times they'll leave and occasionally they won't. It will hurt sometimes.

Having friends is still worth it.



  1. I have saved this to show to my son when he is old enough to understand...I wish someone had told me all this a long time ago. Thank you

  2. I have saved this to show to my son when he is old enough to understand...I wish someone had told me all this a long time ago. Thank you

    1. I'm glad you are going to share this, and I'm sorry no one told you.

  3. People still look at me like I need to get off the planet in college. :( Not as bad as in high school, but still bad. Any suggestions?

    1. My one suggestion is to not try to act as normal as possible to fit in - that will probably not work and will just make you tired. Well, technically, the other suggestion is - are there any other disabled students at your college that you know? Do you think they might be interested in forming a student group, maybe with a social support aspect? Even if you don't know any other disabled students, perhaps disability services could email their list serv to gauge interest?