Interaction is basically where we talk to and be around other people. Interaction for autistic people has always been difficult especially with people we don’t know as we never know what to say and do to start up an interaction.
Interacting with people can be difficult at first as you don’t know them well enough. This is something you can’t plan for but what you can do is plan for everything around it. Down below are a series of steps for how you can plan out a hang out with friends:
Choosing a place you know well will mean you won’t have to worry about anxiety of change (which has been covered in another section) that will come from being in an unknown place. When I go out with my friends, we always go to the same pub/restaurant as we know the prices are reasonable and you choose where to sit allowing us to deal with the big number of us that go.
It’s best to choose a time when this place will be quieter as this will help prevent sensory overload and it will also give you more choices of where to go and what to do in this place. Whenever my cousin and I go out to eat, we always go at the quietest times such as during weekdays and towards the middle of the day so we will more likely be able to get into our favourite place, sit where we want such as by a window with a great view and get better table service.
Having something to do in mind can help break the tension between you and your friend. This can be playing a game such as a board or card game, listening to music together or it could simply be knowing what to say (this is covered in the tab above) as long as it involves your friend as well. You can even find places that promote these kinds of interactions- arcades, geek clubs and karaoke bars. There are plenty of these around so you won’t be short on these activities.
Everyone needs a break at some time and for autistic people, interacting with someone else can be hard work. It helps to have a place to withdraw to and be alone such as quiet room or a place away from your friends. For me, when I need to step away from my friends in the pub, I go to the toilet as it is quiet place and is the one place we all naturally need to visit so it doesn’t look like I am making excuses get away.
If you can’t control anything about the way you intend to meet (up) with someone then you may want to bring someone else with you, another friend that you know rather well. If it is a social group then you may want to ask a parent, guardian, carer (if you have one)or even another friend to come with you, even if it’s just to see you inside. When I go to social events to promote Aspie Heroes, I usually ask someone to come with me as it makes me feel more comfortable talking to other people and having someone else to share ideas with about what I should say.
Knowing what to talk about is not as hard as it seems. The key is to find something in common with the people you want to interact with. To help you understand this, I have come up with ideas down below, starting with what you SHOULD NOT talk about:
There are at least 3 things you should not talk about and they are: someone’s age, what money they earn and anything you don’t like about the person’s appearance. Asking a woman her age is considered rude, asking a person about their money can be quite embarrassing especially if they are on benefits and saying that you don’t like how someone’s appearance is quite offensive as appearance is the most common thing people bully each other over.
Let’s move on to what you should talk about. Firstly, you can start talking about the weather. You can see the weather by looking outside and it affects our day to day life meaning that everyone has something to say about it. This is a form of ‘small talk’ which can help break the tension between people when they talk for the first time.
A simple thing you can ask is “What are your plans for the weekend?” or “What did you do over the weekend?”. This is a recent event in their mind and so they will be able to recall it easily. You can then start to tell them about your weekend and if either of you have no plans for the weekend ahead, you can arrange to do something together which can help build your friendship.
Many people nowadays listen to music on their smartphones which means they will always have their music with them. If you ask someone about their favourite music, this could lead to them playing it for you. From here, you can share your music and you may end up singing and dancing to it which is a fantastic way to break tension between you.
One of the best ways to talk to people is to talk about some of the things you like or ask them what they like. This could be books, music, films/tv or even sports. You may find out that you have a lot in common with someone more than you realise and this can turn into a deep conversation.
Social groups are great way to interact with over people. You can find groups based on your hobbies or based on finding support. We will look at the different types of group you can join down below:
Most social groups have an age range for the things they offer. Some groups are only for kids, others are for aged 18+ and so it is important to check if you are the right age for the particular group you want to join. It also works out better when you join a group whose age is similar to your own. For example, I once joined a camera club for adults and allow I was 24 at the time, the rest of the people where all much older than I was which made feel isolated as I was a completely different generation to them.
There are many groups based around certain hobbies such as art, sports, games and technology. For example, I once volunteered at a tech club called the “Little Sandbox” which inspires kids between 8-16 to get into coding, animation and filmmaking. There is also a gaming hub known as “Geek Retreat” where people can play board or trading card games with like minded people. Remember, there is bound to be somewhere around you city/town shares your passion for a hobby.
You might just want to gather with other people and luckily there are plenty of groups for this. It is important to make sure that a gathering group is safe, clean and that the staff are aware of your disability. A great example of this is “Yellow House” a group that not only allows people to gather together without fear of being pre-judged but also allows people to develop skills in theatre, art and filmmaking to increase their confidence and social skills.
I currently attend a support group for people with ADHD and Autism called “Ladders for Life”. This group is a support group that allows people over the age of 18 to talk openly about their day to day lives living with ADHD/Autism in strict confidence. This group also helps those who support people with ADHD/Autism. The best people to support someone with ADHD/Autism is someone who also has ADHD/Autism.
There is a group I once visited called the “Aspergers Collective” which meets once a month in Liverpool. They provide a social space just for people with Aspergers and Autism. You can interact with other people in so many ways such as talking to them, playing games and taking part in workshops. Interacting with other people with the same disability as your own will help you realise are never truly alone and don’t have to be.
Joining a new social group is a big step out of your comfort zone so you will need to give yourself time to get used to the new environment and new people. If you don’t like the group after at least 3 or 4 weeks, then this group is not for you; this doesn’t mean you have failed, it just means that this particular group is not meant for you so you should move on and find another one. Trust me, there is a place in the world for everyone so you find a place that is right for you.