How to be a Friend or Relative to a Person With ASD
- Listen and don’t be quick to give an answer or response when spending time with your friend or relative with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Simply be there to give a listening ear. You may have to wait longer for a response or possibly weed through a lengthy explanation, but you will learn something new in the end.
- Help your friend develop “cool” ways to manage time or develop new skills. Learn how to use an online calendar or work together to find apps on a smartphone or tablet to work on different skills.
- Take the time to learn about his or her favorite interests, games or hobbies.
- Try not to talk over or about him when others are around.
- Help him work on social skills by trying to engage him in conversations with yourself and others.
- Find discrete ways to correct or give social hints. Build up his confidence in the same way that you would support any other friend in a challenging situation.
- Try not to jump in and make choices for your friend or relative in a social situation. (e.g. If you are going out to eat together, find a way to give him a choice about food or drink options.)
- Always strive to be encouraging and compassionate to your friend or relative with ASD.
Participating in Social Outings with a Person with ASD
It is important for people with ASD to try to integrate themselves into society. If you have the opportunity to include someone on the spectrum in a social outing, there are some things you can do to help that person feel comfortable.
- Try to find a common interest.
- Be very specific in a verbal invite to a person with ASD, and then follow up with an email. This will reinforce the details of the event and the person may be more likely to attend.
- Give the individual a play-by-play breakdown of what will be occurring at the event you are attending, and try to stick to that order.
- Offer to pick the person up and go with him to the event. Make sure you are punctual—some people with ASD are extremely time-focused and don’t respond well to tardiness.
- Don’t be offended by lack of eye contact, motor ticks, or lack of understanding personal boundaries. These are common challenges for someone with ASD.
- Be specific about what makes you uncomfortable or what you think might bother others and convey alternatives to the person.
- If the person seems uncomfortable or anxious in a crowded space, it may be due to sensory overstimulation. Perhaps moving to a quieter, less congested area will help him feel more at ease.
- Offer an explanation about what is happening as necessary (e.g. explaining the rules of baseball in simple terms).
- If you observe someone being mean to someone with ASD or looking at them oddly, it is okay to step in and support the person being bullied. Saying something as simple as, “My friend is just like you, he just learns things a little differently,” can normalize and diffuse a tense situation.