Just because you had difficulty making friends as a kid and feel that you were held back by your autism does not mean that it has to stay that way forever. Developing social skills and learning how to make friends is something that can still happen for you as an adult. All Friends Network (AFN) was created to help people that have autism, cerebral palsy, and other developmental disabilities to find friendships. In addition to planning real life events and launching an interactive Live-LINK social app, we are developing online resources designed to help with a variety of skills that will help members to make and maintain friendships, become more independent, and reap the benefits of these life-changing experiences. Our mission is to help people of all ages with developmental disabilities, with a focus on supporting young adults, to make lifelong friendships.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for people with autism and other developmental disabilities is their own anxiety. The thing is, we are all anxious or nervous about meeting people from time to time, but for some of us, it can stop us in our tracks. Making friends does not come easy for everyone, so it can be helpful to work on developing social skills, build your confidence, and become more at ease in talking with new people. Studies have been done that show a direct correlation between friendship and depression. When people have friends – individuals with whom they share a common interest with – they are able to talk about their feelings and overcome minor issues that could grow into more significant problems. Friendships have many benefits, so it is really worth it to get out there and learn more about making friends with autism.
Young adults have it much harder than small children. It can be a lot easier for kids to just randomly talk and play with whatever kid ends up sitting next to them at school, at the park, or at a social event. Adults feel even more awkward than kids because we are more aware of our differentness, which can increase social anxiety and make us feel even more vulnerable. Someone might tell you not to worry, just to ignore it, or to just get over it – but it’s not that easy. Making friends with autism – no matter where you are on the spectrum – can be a real challenge. All Friends Network was started as a tool, resource, and opportunity for people just like you to have access to online communications, resources, and real-life events where you can learn new skills and practice them with others who may have similar concerns and anxieties as you.
A Safe Place to Make Friends
Another concern for many is finding a safe place where you can make friends and practice your social skills without fear of bullying or rejection. Conflicts can arise when you get out into the world, and that can be really scary for a lot of people. It is much easier to just stay home, play video games, watch television, and become even more isolated. This is a dangerous place to be, whether you are on the spectrum or not. Think of AFN as an autistic friends network where you can meet other members who have similar backgrounds and experiences. There will always be a social butterfly or two in any group, and while that can seem intimidating, it can be helpful to take a cue or two from these individuals who don’t seem to have any fear of meeting new people.
Some of the concerns that people have when they feel vulnerable in making friends are common among all people who are thrust into a new situation. The risk in putting yourself out there can be overcome by the reward of actually making a friend. The emotional exposure fears about being rejected or not expressing yourself effectively can be overwhelming. Developing social skills isn’t just about having a step-by-step formula for introducing yourself and asking questions that will help you forge friendships with others, but that can help to some degree. Courage is something that you can develop over time as well when you practice your newfound skills on others, either online in a Live-LINK chat or in-person at an All Friends Network event. If you would like to join our membership, please contact our team directly by calling 941-587-7172 or using our online contact form to reach out to one of our friendly staff members.