Autism Spectrum


leaving school and leading your own life

Making friends



Was your son or daughter able to make friends at school? Could they establish friendships out of school?

Do they want more friends or do they seem to be happier on their own?

Leaving school can have a huge impact on the ability to maintain friendships.

Up until now, your son or daughter has had a ready made potential social group of friends that they have seen every day at school.

After school they may move into new work or study circles with new people.  

Life after school is less structured and often different things happen on different days. It can be harder to get to know people when you see them less frequently.

If your son or daughter was able to make friends outside of school they already have experience of making and maintaining friendships in a less structured environment. They should be in a great position to form new friendships after school life.

And there’s good news too. There are many places to find new friends and many things that can be taught to help friendships develop and flourish.

Friendship is also closely tied in with some other topics, like dating and work relationships so it’s a good idea to look at all of these sections of the website.

Making and keeping friends, like all of the social skills we use every day, can be improved over time and at any age. In fact, everyone can improve their abilities in this area and many people do find that they get better as they get older.

Click on Our Stories if you would like to read some personal stories about making friends.

Have you tried the strengths and weaknesses exercise?  Did you do that? How do they rate for the skills and personal characteristics that make friendship possible?

Here are some things you might feel they need to work on:

  • Where to find friends
  • How to make new friends
  • How to tell if someone wants to be a friend
  • How to tell if someone is interested romantically
  • Engaging in social chit-chat
  • What are the social rules at work? Or on a date?
  • How do they look? Dare we ask… how do they smell??!!  Please do look at our Looking good and Personal hygiene sections. These things ARE important!

We have tips and resources in this section of the website to help you assist your son or daughter with many of these issues.




Understanding friendship

First, the basics – what makes a good friend? It is important that they understand the nature of friendships – especially the two-way nature of friendships i.e. that friends are people that they enjoy being with and vice versa.

This give-and-take that is required for successful friendships can be hard for young people with autism to understand, however it is something that we can teach along the way.

Your son or daughter may also need encouragement in this area, as they have likely had some negative experiences in this regard over the years.

And does your daughter or son know the difference between a bad friendship and a good friendship? That’s a vital life skill and one which they will need to be taught.


Finding friends

One of the first steps is to know how to find a potential friend outside the school environment. Think about what your so or daughter likes doing or what they are interested in.

Sharing interests is the basis for many friendships amongst all sorts of people. So, engaging in hobbies and pastimes that they love can be a good way to find like-minded friends.

They could be following a sporting team, or playing a sport , they might love online gaming or playing a musical instrument. If they find a group that shares their interests, they are off to a good start.

If your young person has special interests and passions, then this is a terrific starting place for friendships.

Depending on their interests, there may be clubs or social groups that they can go to.

You may need to call ahead and chat to someone first, to explain your son or daughter and to ask for a buddy who might help settle them in.

The online world provides a wealth of opportunities for forming friendships and much as these can be fraught with difficulties and pitfalls, they can also work really well.

Just be aware of the issues and keep an eye on who your son or daughter is in touch with, do pop over to visit our Social Media pages for advice on keeping up to date with online trends.

Your young person might also be interested in social groups specifically for people with autism.

Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) runs a social group for adults in Sydney, read more here.

Autism Community Network (ACN) has lists of social groups in Sydney and NSW. Find the website here.

For those outside of NSW, contact your state Autism Association for information about social groups and social activities for young people on the spectrum.

It’s important to say here that the choice to have friends is a personal one. Everyone is different in this regard – some people like to have lots of friends and some people prefer to have one or two.

Some people like to spend lots of time with their friends and others like to catch up less frequently. There are also some people who really enjoy time on their own.

Whatever makes your son or daughter happy is ok. This section is for those young people who want to make friends but need some tips on how to do this.


Getting started

Once they find someone they would like to be friends with, they need to see if the feeling is mutual.

The best way to do this is to make a few approaches and see what happens. They could try sending a message on Facebook and see if the person responds. It’s better not to start with a friend request.

After getting to know someone, they could ask the person for their mobile number. They could ask if they want to catch up on the weekend.

If they get a positive response, things are off to a good start.

Some young people will be able to come up with ideas and make these approaches with minimal support. Others may need  help to get things started.

Many young people with autism will gravitate to others on the spectrum. Although there can be some inherent difficulties in this situation, sometimes it is a great fit.

It is really important though to know when someone may not be interested – one suggestion is the “Three strikes and you are out” rule.

You might want to go over this one with your son or daughter i.e. if you make three approaches to someone and they say no, then the other person is probably not interested and you shouldn’t ask again.



 You can read more about making friends and other useful social skills in a great book called Preparing for Life by Jed Baker.

This book is specifically for young people living with autism and has sections on friendships, dating, workplace etiquette and conversation skills.

It is also a great resource for parents as each section as some really useful activities and exercises that you can work through to address any gaps they may have in these areas.

Areas covered include:

  • Where to find friends
  • Don’t try too hard too soon
  • Sharing friends
  • Avoiding touchy subjects and insults
  • Complimenting
  • Respecting others’ views
  • Minding your own business
  • Avoid bragging
  • Dealing with peer pressure and avoiding setups
  • Empathic listening
  • Showing caring for others’ feelings through empathic statements
  • Deepening relationships- sharing personal information
  • Conflict resolution/assertiveness
  • Dealing with teasing
  • Showing good sportsmanship
  • Getting attention in positive ways


Jed baker book

There are also some other useful resources for parents in this area.

The Science Of Making Friends: Helping Socially Challenged Teens and Young Adults by Elizabeth Laugeson.

Rread more at:

This book for parents offers a guide to improving core social skills and the rules of friendship. It comes with a DVD showing examples.

The book is based on the evidence-based PEERS program from UCLA, a manualised social skills intervention used mainly for young people with autism spectrum disorders.

More information on the PEERS program at:

The very affordable FriendMaker app has many of the videos and information found in the book above.


Growing Up On The Spectrum by Lynn Kern Koegel and Claire LaZebnik

This excellent book has a large section on making and maintaining good friendships and  supporting and expanding communication and conversation.

Read extracts on Google books here.

Growing Up On Spectrum

The Model Me Kids Video Modeling  series is aimed at children and teenagers, however they provide very straight-forward instruction on basic social skills.

This series using a video modelling approach that has shown to be effective. Although these are aimed at children and teenagers, they may be useful for your son or daughter.

Topics covered include:

Conversation Cues


Tips and Tricks

Confidence and Bully Prevention

Organisation and Motivation 

Here is a video clip of this program:


For some of you, these tips will be enough to help you get your young person on the right track.

However, if you feel that they need more help in finding and making friends ask your GP to provide a referral to a psychologist who provides social skills training.

Click on Our Stories on the right hand side of the page or click here to read personal stories about making friends.