Why friendships are important for children and teenagers
Friendships help all children and teenagers develop socially and emotionally.
Friends and friendships can boost your child’s confidence. They can also give your child experience in managing emotions, responding to the feelings of others, negotiating, cooperating and problem-solving.
Autism and friendships
Autistic children and teenagers are usually keen on friendship. But they often need support to understand and learn skills for making and keeping friends. These skills might include:
- starting and having conversations
- working out what other people are thinking and feeling
- taking part in activities with other children
- understanding facial expressions and body language
- adjusting to new social situations
- solving social problems, like how to sort out disagreements
- finding and meeting people with similar interests.
Social skills can help autistic children and teenagers know how to act when they’re trying to make new friends. Role-play, video-modelling, social stories, visual prompts and social skills training can help with social skills for autistic children and social skills for autistic teenagers.
Making friends: helping autistic children and teenagers
You can give your child opportunities to meet new people and make friends. Here are some ideas.
Find out what activities your child enjoys
Identify your child’s interests and strengths, and help your child meet children who enjoy similar things. This could be through a playgroup, a special interest club at school, or an after-school class.
Invite potential friends to your home or on outings
If your child goes to school, you could ask your child if there’s someone in their class that they’d like to be friends with. You could ask your child’s teacher which children are showing interest in your child, or which children have similar interests.
It can help to plan things that your child might like to do with others. You can plan these activities with your child if that works:
- For younger children, try fun activities and games that also encourage cooperative play. Some children do better with structured activities that don’t involve open-ended, imaginative play.
- For teenagers, try outdoor activities like tennis, or indoor ones like baking or playing a video game. If your child and their friend share an interest, they could do something related to that.
Some children and teenagers feel more comfortable at home, but others might not want someone else to touch their favourite things. If this sounds like your child, you could put away the things that your child doesn’t want to share or you could organise something out of the house – for example, a trip to the playground for younger children, or to a museum or aquarium for teenagers.
Use resources in your community
Enrolling your child in playgroups and after-school activities can help to promote friendships. You could try activities that are related to your child’s interests, like astronomy, chess, Lego or computer coding clubs. Structured activity groups often work well for autistic children and teenagers – for example, Girl Guides, Scouts or martial arts.