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How to Talk With Friends When You Have Autism

Medically reviewed by: Catherine R. Rama, PhD

Have you ever wanted to play with someone, but didn't know how to ask? Knowing what to say is easy for some kids. But if you have autism, it may take a little practice.

Talking with others is one way to make friends and keep the friends you already have. But talking is more than knowing what to say. People also give clues about how they're feeling — like smiling when they're happy or crying when they’re sad. Here's advice on how to get along with people.

How Do I Introduce Myself?

Introductions don't have to be a big deal. Say say hello and share your name. If you’re meeting a grownup, you could also say, "Hi, nice to meet you.”

The key is to smile, look the person in the eye, and be interested in what they have to say. When you do these things, it helps others know that you're friendly and interested in talking.

Here are some more ways to start a conversation:

  • Say, "Hi, what's up?" to someone in the hall or when you enter a classroom.
  • Act friendly, smile, and say, “Hi, mind if I join you?” in the cafeteria or library or just say, “Hello."
  • Offer to share something like an extra pencil, or give a compliment like, "Your backpack is nice" or “I like your shoes!”
  • Invite someone to join you by saying, "Do you want to sit here?" in the cafeteria or library, or asking “Do you want to play too?” during  a group activity.

If it helps, practice what you might say with a parent or other adult you trust. This way, you'll know what to say the next time you want to talk with someone.

How Do I Keep the Conversation Going?

Everyone likes to talk about their favorite things. So when you're with someone, ask questions like: "What do you do for fun?" or "What's your favorite show?" Asking questions shows that you're interested in your friend.

Now keep the conversation going. When the person answers you and says something like, "I enjoy walking my dog," comment on what they say. You could say, "I have a dog too," or "What's your dog's name?" You might even nod your head and repeat back what the other person said: "Oh, your dog's name is Spot."

This lets the other person know that you've been listening and understand what was said. Taking turns talking back-and-forth is what makes a conversation.

When Should I Talk About Something Else or Say Goodbye?

When you're speaking with someone, it's important to know when to talk about something different or say goodbye. People are ready to talk about something else or end the conversation when they:

  • no longer make eye contact with you
  • look past you or around the room
  • check their phone or do something else
  • change the subject
  • don’t answer you back

Sometimes a person will make it easy for you and say, "I have to go. Bye." If you need to leave, you can say, "I have to go," "It's been nice talking," or "It was nice to meet you," if you just met.

If you're texting with a friend or talking online, it's a little harder to tell when someone wants to end the conversation. You can stop texting or typing if the person doesn’t respond after the last two things you sent.

What Else Should I Know About Talking With Someone?

When you're talking, it's important to know what to do and what not to do. To make others feel comfortable:

  • Talk about different things. Don't spend too much time talking about one thing or the other person might get bored. Some things you can talk about are animals, sports, food, movies, or video games.
  • Choose things to talk about that you both like. For example, it can be boring listening to someone talk about how airplanes are made if you're not interested in airplanes.
  • Let the other person speak. Make sure you give the other person a chance to talk.
  • Don't get too close. Give the person you're talking with plenty of space. Stand the length of one arm (or more) away.
  • Be friendly. Be sure to show you’re listening to the other person by smiling, nodding your head, looking at them, or asking follow-up questions.
Medically reviewed by: Catherine R. Rama, PhD
Date reviewed: April 2024