Building lasting, meaningful, social connections can sometimes be a real challenge for many people and also for those on the autism spectrum. It can be hard to know what is appropriate in conversations. The ability to understand social boundaries can provide the opportunity to start and maintain friendships, engage in ongoing romantic relationships and successfully obtain and sustain employment. Successfully engaging in social activities can also improve self-esteem and reduce the risk of depression and anxiety.
There are many types of social relationships. For each there are social boundaries and cues. What is acceptable in family, romantic or other social relationships may not be appropriate in professional relationships. We have some relationships where we can see the person we are talking to, but we also conduct relationships through electronic communications, such as phone calls, where you can hear but not see the person you are speaking with.
Some challenges in building social connections can include:
- Deciphering how to act in personal relationships to professional relationships
- Developing conversation starters or “small talk”
- Understanding social boundaries and cues
- Picking up on sarcasm during conversations
- Engaging in social activities, including team activities
- Building connections
- Understanding the intended tone of voice through electronic communications
- Celebrating special occasions – while Christmas other other special occassions throughout the year can be a fun and exciting time it’s important to understand that many people find this period challenging because they don’t have strong family ties or social networks. This feeling can be experienced by people both on and off the autism spectrum. To learn more about how to get through this time, please visit The National Autistic Society and their page on Christmas.
To help with these challenges, a group of people on the autism spectrum has written an information sheet called ‘social boundaries’ for people on the autism spectrum. The information sheet is designed as a brief guide to social boundaries and includes some ideas on how to manage them. To read the social boundaries information sheet in full, click here.
Supporting the support
Everyone needs support every now and then and a social balance in their lives. More often than not parents and carers to people on the autism spectrum can neglect their own needs or put them to one side. It’s important that parents and carers to those on the spectrum also feel connected to their friends, community and people who are in similar situations to gain support.
To read about one father who, in his own journey to support his son on the spectrum, now supports over 800 families with a person on the spectrum click here.
To feel more connected to parents in similar situations to yourself, visit The Autism Community Network’s for the online forums, where parents have the opportunity to help other parents facing similar situations.
Aspect Practice ‘Social connections’ newsletter and podcast
To download Aspect Practice ‘Social connections’ Conversations newsletter and podcast, click here. In this edition, the podcast is about ‘making music, making friends’ and shows the exciting work coming out of Club Weld. Club Weld is an Aspect initiative developed in collaboration with Western Sydney community arts organisation, Information & Cultural Exchange (ICE), to provide music-making opportunities for adults on the spectrum and other disabilities.
To view past Focus newsletters, click here.
- Aspect social boundaries information sheet – written for people on the autism spectrum, by those who are on the autism spectrum.
- Aspect Annual Research Update
- Launchpad – A website developed for young people on the autism spectrum and their families. It has information about becoming independent and developing skills for study, work, social life and managing your health and legal matters.
- Aspect Adult Social Networks – local social groups that reflect the interests of the members. For more information on joining a social group or starting one in your area.
- Aspect Social Groups – a great way to form new friendships. The social groups offer a wide-range of leisure activities in Penrith, Central Coast and the inner west of Sydney.
- The National Autistic Society – website has valuable information on social skills for adolescents and adults
- PEERS® – for Young Adults is an evidence –based social skills intervention program for adults. The website has downloadable research publications and resources for sale.
- I CAN Network – a social enterprise founded by people on the spectrum that mentors young people on the autism spectrum.
- Gig Buddies Sydney – a registered not-for-profit organisation committed to promoting the rights of people with learning disabilities to live the lifestyle of their choosing. Gig Buddies Sydney believe that people with learning disabilities have the right to stay up late and have some fun.
- Meetup Friendship Groups – meetup is located all over the world and is an online social networking portal that enables people with similar interests to organise meetings. The list of interest groups is almost endless and includes movies, astronomy, food, Adult Aspies Social Group Sydney, Eastern Suburbs (Sydney) Parents of Kids with ADHD & ASD.
- The Australian Human Rights Commission – has information on what constitutes sex discrimination and sexual harassment.