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Making Friends: Answers for Teens With Autism

Medically reviewed by: Laura M. Dewey, PhD and Tetsuo Ted Sato, PhD

What Is a Friend?

Friends are people that you can have fun with. Friends share, hang out together, and laugh with each other. A friend likes you for who you are.

A good friend can cheer you up when you are sad, and keep you company when you are lonely. Friends stick up for each other when someone is mean, or being a bully. In fact, having a good friend can make it less likely that a bully will bother you. That's because friends stand up for each other.

Your friends may change as you get older, but some friendships can last your whole life.

Where Can I Meet New Friends?

You might have heard the saying "There are no strangers, just friends you haven't met yet." Friends are everywhere. Start by looking around your classroom or in the cafeteria. Other places you might find friends include:

  • school clubs, sports, and music groups
  • after-school activities like swim practice, karate, or soccer
  • pools and parks
  • camps
  • places of worship
  • social skills groups (these groups help people practice talking, listening, and building other friendship skills)

What Should I Look for in a Friend?

It's easy to make friends with someone who likes to do the same things you do. If you like to draw, try to find someone who likes to do that too. Maybe you love board games! 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, doesn't 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
  • lets others join in
  • is interested in what you have to say
  • makes you feel good

If you are wondering if someone could be a friend but you're not sure, talk to your mom, dad, teacher, or another trusted adult. An adult can help you decide if someone might make a good friend.

What Do I Say?

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

Here are some other tips:

  • Offer to share something, like a pencil in class if the person lost theirs.
  • Say "Do you want to sit here?" or "Can I sit with you?" in the lunchroom.
  • Give a compliment, like "Cool sneakers!"

Just as you like to talk about your favorite things, so do friends. So when you're together, ask your friend questions about himself or herself. "What do you like to do after school?" or "What do you do for fun?" and "What's your favorite band?" will make your friend feel special and keep the conversation going.

What Else Should I Know?

When you're making friends, it's important to know when to end the conversation or say goodbye. People are ready to talk 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
  • changing the subject

If it helps, practice talking to a "new friend" with your mom, dad, or other trusted adult. This way, you'll know what to say the next time you meet someone you like. If someone doesn't want to be your friend, that's OK. But don't give up! There will be other chances to meet new friends.

Medically reviewed by: Laura M. Dewey, PhD and Tetsuo Ted Sato, PhD
Date reviewed: December 2017