As the parent of a young adult with autism, I am always on the lookout for new friends for my son. He will tell me that he is fine, but I know there are times when he wants to be with someone his own age. And I want him to be with people his own age. He just doesn’t have the social skills to make friends on his own. I believe that having one or two good friends would boost his self-confidence and overall sense of well-being.
A few months ago, I reached out to a young man we met through a volunteer group I belong to. He seemed like a nice young man, so I asked him to join us for lunch and a movie.
The outing began well enough. But then Ryan began repeating questions and bringing up the same topics over and over again. I sensed that this behavior was annoying to our new friend, but I hoped he would become more understanding with time.
We didn’t see him again for several months and then re-connected. He seemed very interested in getting together, so I took the guys out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. This time, things went downhill fast. Our guest became outwardly frustrated whenever Ryan repeated himself or fixated on a subject. I thought the young man could have shown more patience, but instead he just played a game on his phone and ignored Ryan completely.
It hurts so much when people just brush off my son. I know Ryan repeats himself and dwells on topics, but he truly is a great young man. Is it too much to ask for someone to have a little patience or show some kindness? Apparently, that evening it was.
I don’t think that Ryan realized that his “friend” was being rude, but for me it was heartbreaking to watch. I wanted so much to privately ask him to put his phone away and be polite. But I didn’t, because it was obvious that this young man didn’t care.
I will not be asking this “friend” to join us again. If Ryan asks about him, I will explain that we don’t have a lot in common with this young man and that we will invite someone else next time. Will Ryan understand? I’m not sure. But I do know that I can’t have my son with someone who is disrespectful and shows no interest in being around him.
We’ll just keep searching until we find someone with the social empathy to look beyond my son’s disability and be his friend.
Here is some information about social skills to help your child build friendships.