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Why is it so hard for autistic people to make friends?

Friendship is an essential aspect of human life, providing a sense of connection, belonging, and support. However, for individuals with autism, making friends can be a significant challenge. Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviors. These challenges often make it hard for autistic individuals to develop and maintain meaningful friendships. In this blog post, we will explore the reasons why it is often hard for autistic people to make friends and discuss strategies to promote inclusivity and understanding.

Fear of Vulnerability

One of the primary reasons why autistic individuals may struggle to form friendships is their fear of vulnerability. Autism affects how individuals express their emotions and thoughts, making it difficult for them to initiate and maintain social connections. The fear of rejection and judgment plays a significant role in this barrier. Autistic individuals may be hypersensitive to negative feedback, criticism, or feeling misunderstood, which can inhibit their willingness to open up and develop friendships.

Additionally, autistic individuals often experience sensitivity to criticism. Even well-intentioned constructive feedback can be overwhelming for them, leading to a reluctance to engage in social interactions. This fear of being judged or evaluated can prevent them from reaching out and fully participating in social settings, making it harder to establish friendships.

Social Anxiety

Social anxiety is another factor that contributes to the difficulty autistic individuals face in making friends. Social situations can be overwhelming for individuals with autism, as they may struggle with sensory overload and difficulties in processing social cues. The combination of heightened sensitivities and challenges in interpreting non-verbal communication can lead to anxiety and discomfort in social settings.

Additionally, the fear of making social mistakes or faux pas can amplify the anxiety autistic individuals experience. The struggle to understand social norms, unwritten rules, and subtle social cues can make them feel out of place or anxious about potentially embarrassing themselves. This fear of social blunders, coupled with the sensory overload, can create significant barriers to forming friendships.

Lack of Social Skills

Autistic individuals often face challenges in developing and demonstrating the social skills necessary for making friends. Difficulties with non-verbal communication, such as maintaining eye contact, interpreting facial expressions, or understanding body language, can hinder their ability to connect with others. These non-verbal cues play a crucial role in social interactions, making it hard for autistic individuals to convey their thoughts and emotions effectively.

Furthermore, autistic individuals may struggle with understanding and interpreting social cues. They may have difficulty recognizing when someone is happy, sad, angry, or bored, making it hard to navigate social interactions and respond appropriately. This lack of social understanding can lead to misunderstandings and difficulty in building meaningful connections.

Moreover, limited empathy and perspective-taking abilities can also impact their ability to make friends. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, and it is a fundamental component of building meaningful relationships. Autistic individuals may struggle with grasping the emotions of others or understanding different perspectives, which can hinder their ability to establish connections on a deeper level.

Misunderstanding and Stigmatization

Unfortunately, autistic individuals often face misunderstanding and stigmatization from neurotypical peers. Stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding autism can lead to social exclusion and make it harder for individuals with autism to form friendships. Lack of awareness and understanding of autism can lead to awkward or insensitive interactions, causing the autistic individuals to withdraw or feel isolated.

Communication barriers also contribute to misunderstandings. Autistic individuals may have unique communication styles and preferences, which can be misinterpreted or misunderstood by others. This can create a sense of disconnect and hinder the development of friendships.

Support and Intervention Strategies

While making friends may be challenging for autistic individuals, there are various support and intervention strategies that can improve their social interactions and increase their chances of forming friendships.

Social skills training and therapy can be instrumental in helping autistic individuals develop and refine their social skills. These programs provide individuals with autism the tools and strategies they need to navigate social situations and build meaningful relationships. Learning about communication techniques, non-verbal cues, and conflict resolution can empower autistic individuals to engage more confidently in social interactions.

Peer support and group activities can also facilitate the formation of friendships. Being in an environment where there are others who share similar challenges and experiences can provide a sense of camaraderie and understanding. Participating in group activities, such as special interest clubs or support groups, can create opportunities for autistic individuals to connect with like-minded individuals and form friendships based on shared interests.

Building a network of understanding and accepting individuals is crucial for facilitating friendship for autistic individuals. Educating neurotypical peers about autism and fostering a culture of inclusivity and empathy can create an environment where autistic individuals feel accepted and valued. Encouraging open communication and providing resources for support can help bridge the gap between autistic individuals and their peers.


Making friends can be a challenging endeavor for individuals with autism. The fear of vulnerability, social anxiety, lack of social skills, and misunderstanding contribute to this difficulty. However, with the right support and intervention strategies, autistic individuals can overcome these barriers and form meaningful friendships. It is essential for society to foster inclusivity, understanding, and empathy for individuals with autism. By creating a more inclusive and accepting society, we can ensure that autistic individuals have the opportunity to forge friendships and experience the many benefits that come with meaningful social connections.


  1. Making Friends When You’re On The Autism Spectrum
  2. How people with autism forge friendships
  3. Making friends – a guide for autistic adults
  4. Why Autistic Children Struggle with Developing Friendships
  5. Why do people with autism have trouble making friends?