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How to Make Friends When You Have Autism

Medically reviewed by: Catherine R. Rama, PhD

Making friends when you have autism can take some work, but it’s worth it. Friends are people you can have fun with. Friends share, play together, and laugh with each other. A friend likes you for who you are.

A good friend can cheer you up when you feel sad and keep you company when you are lonely. Friends stick up for each other when someone is mean or being a bully. If you have a good friend, bullies may not pick on you.

You may have different friends as you get older, but some friendships can last your whole life.

Where Can I Meet New Friends?

Friends are everywhere! To meet new friends, start by looking around your classes or the cafeteria. Think about which kids you would like to play with at recess. Here are some other places you might find friends:

  • after-school clubs (like photography or math) or sports (like karate or soccer)
  • pools, parks, and playgrounds
  • camps
  • places of worship (like churches, temples, and mosques)
  • social skills groups (these groups help kids practice talking, listening, and building other friendship skills)

What Should I Look for in a Friend?

Look for someone who likes to do the same things you do. That means if you like to draw or play board games, try to find someone who likes to draw and play board games too. Whatever it is, try to look for a friend who likes what you like. When you have things in common, there's more to talk about.

Liking the same things is important, but it's even more important to find someone who is nice. A person who is mean, makes fun of others, does not listen to the teacher, and gets in trouble at school is not a good choice for a friend. Choose someone who:

  • smiles at you
  • shares and takes turns
  • lets others join the play
  • is interested in what you have to say
  • makes you feel good

If you're wondering if someone could be a friend but you're not sure, talk to your parents, teachers, or another grown-up you trust. A grown-up can help you decide if someone might make a good friend.

What Do I Say to a Friend?

Once you've found someone you think would be good friend, look for chances to smile, say "hi," and be friendly.

Here are some other tips:

  • On the playground, walk over, act friendly (smile), and say "Hi, can I play too?"
  • Invite someone to play with you by saying, "Hi. Do you want to play?"
  • Offer to share something, like an extra pencil or marker if the other person needs one.
  • Say "Do you want to sit here?" or "Can I sit with you?" in the lunchroom.
  • Say something nice you notice about the person, like "Cool sneakers!" or “Nice shirt!”

Most people like to talk about their favorite things. So when you're with friends, ask them questions about themselves. Try, "What do you like to do after school?" or "What do you do for fun?" and "What's your favorite show?" or “What’s your favorite video game?” This should make your friends feel special and keep the talk going.

What Else Should I Know About Making Friends?

When you make friends, it's important to know when to end the talk or say goodbye. People are ready to speak about something else or do something else when they give clues like these:

  • not looking at you
  • looking past you or around the room
  • doing something else, like looking in their bookbag or looking at their phone
  • not talking back
  • changing the subject

You can practice making friends with your parents or other grown-ups you trust. Pretend they’re new friends. This way, you'll know what to say next time you meet someone you like. If someone doesn't want to be your friend, that's OK. But don't give up! You will have other chances to meet new friends.

Medically reviewed by: Catherine R. Rama, PhD
Date reviewed: March 2024