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Helping People with Asperger's: Making Friends

written by: Debbie Roome • edited by: Linda Richter • updated: 11/14/2010

People with Asperger’s syndrome have problems with social skills and communication, and this can make friendship difficult for them. In spite of this, most Asperger’s people desire friends and can be taught how to relate to others.

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    Asperger’s Syndrome and Friendship Problems

    Asperger’s syndrome is characterized by a number of weaknesses in social skills. These include the following traits that hinder a FreeDigitalPhotos, hand in the sky, Luigi Diamanti person from making close friends:

    • Lack of empathy
    • One-sided interaction
    • Pedantic, stilted speech patterns
    • Inappropriate body language and limited use of gestures
    • Limited facial expression
    • Obsessions that are talked about constantly
    • Social immaturity

    In spite of this, there is normally a genuine desire to connect with other people. Parents and specialists can work with Asperger’s lonely sufferers to teach them how to use appropriate body language and speech.

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    Ways for Helping Asperger’s People Make Friends

    Family members are often the best ones to help people with Asperger’s syndrome learn social skills. While specialists can give guidance, parents and siblings are the ones who repeat the information day after day and teach the Asperger’s syndrome person how to be a friend. Here are some helpful tips on teaching friendship skills:

    • Discuss friendship and what it means.
    • Talk about body language and role play with the Asperger’s person to help him learn about eye contact and facial expression.
    • Set limits for discussion of special interests. Explain that the other person also has interests and needs to be listened to as well.
    • Teach the Asperger’s person how to give and take by introducing activities such as taking turns to place pieces into a puzzle.
    • Practice conversing and stop the Asperger’s syndrome person when it is time for the other person to speak.
    • Teach him what signs show that his friend is getting bored or needs to do something else.
    • Suggest one-on-one interaction, as this normally works better for a person with Asperger’s syndrome. He will tend to get confused and overwhelmed if trying to interact with a group of people.
    • Someone with Asperger’s often mistakes friendliness for friendship. Explain to him what the difference is between the two.

    Family members with Asperger’s syndrome will generally respond to parents and siblings who are trying to help them. They know they have problems with forming friendships and will often apply themselves to working on the necessary skills.

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    What Kind of Person will Befriend Someone with Asperger’s Syndrome?

    With effort and perseverance it is possible for people with Asperger’s syndrome to build friendships. While many children and adults do not have the patience to reach out to an Asperger’s person, there are some that do. These people often have nurturing personalities and are warm and caring.

    Another group of potential friends includes those who share the same interests as the Asperger’s person. They may or may not have Asperger’s but will relate out of a shared passion for their hobby. Look for clubs where the Asperger’s syndrome person has a chance to meet people such as these.

    Asperger’s lonely sufferers can be helped in a number of ways to make friends. They generally need a good support network at home, and if they can make even one friend, it will make a great difference to their happiness levels.

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    Resources

    The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, Tony Attwood, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2008

    Asperger’s Syndrome – A Guide for Parents and Professionals, Tony Attwood, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1998

    Asperger-advice.com at http://www.asperger-advice.com/asperger-how-to-make-friends.html

    Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Luigi Diamanti

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