How to Socialize As an Autistic Teen

Three Methods:Getting ReadyEngaging With OthersHandling the Environment

Many people have a difficult time socializing, but when you're autistic, socialization may be especially discomforting, exhausting, or nerve-wracking. Social struggles are one of the most commonly known symptoms of autism, which says a lot about how much they affect some autistic people. This article explains methods anyone can use in social situations and throughout everyday life so you can more easily cope with (or even enjoy) social occasions.

Method 1
Getting Ready

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    Look your best. If you've put a little effort into your appearance, you'll look more attractive and approachable. (Looking good can help you feel confident, too!) Before going to school, sports, a club, or a social gathering, do the following:
    • Shower (within the past 24 hours).
    • Brush your hair. Try styling it if you'd like.
    • Brush your teeth. Also consider flossing and using sensory-friendly mouthwash (e.g. bubblegum flavor).
    • Put on clothes that fit you well and help you feel confident.
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    Practice confident body language. When you join a social situation (be it a party or even just a small gathering), hold your head up high, take a deep breath, and stand tall. Entering the room is probably the most difficult part so remember you are there for a purpose—to get to know others better.
    • Make it a goal just to get there. You don't have to speak to anyone or do anything unless you want to, but you won't know if this social activity will be something you can ever get any benefits from if you don't go at least once. Focus on just being there as a start if anything else feels a bit overwhelming. Just rubbing shoulders with the others and observing what is going on will, over time, make you feel more comfortable in the situation, and the others with you.
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    Don't fear yourself, or your autism. Autism is not a burden; it gives you notable strengths and can help you be a more inventive, compassionate, and unique person. Instead of trying to hide your oddities, love and embrace them. Your quirks are part of what makes you special. Instead of trying to hide yourself, be the best version of yourself.
    • If you think of yourself as horribly afflicted and hindered, it'll come through in your attitude. Autism won't stop you from making friends. (There are autistic people who have lots of friends!) Instead, see yourself as likable and quirky, with some different needs.
    • Hiding your autism will only make you feel more alone.[1]
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    Try going with a supportive friend. They can hang out with you and offer cues if you're unsure what to do. It may help to admit that you're a little new to the social scene; your friend can look out for you and help out if you need it.

Method 2
Engaging With Others

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    Start small. If you're shy, you don't need to fling yourself headfirst into a noisy party. Maybe a quiet, small-group setting is more your speed. You aren't doing yourself any favors by trying to conquer everything right away. Instead, slowly and gently expand your comfort zone, and give yourself time to adapt. Consider...
    • Hanging out with close friends
    • Going somewhere with people you already know
    • Going to an autism/disability group, where people may be more accepting
    • Events that you know will be low-key
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    Make friends on the internet. Find websites related to your special interests, and social websites. The Autistic community has a notable presence on Tumblr and Twitter. You could also edit wikiHow articles on your special interests.
    • can be a good resource for some people.[2]
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    Practice being friendly and open.
    • At a noisy place, where communicating can be difficult for anyone, gestures are a great way to socialize without having to shout. Use things like thumbs up, phew it's hot gestures and the okay sign just to interact with others in a small way if you usually prefer quiet places and being able to give the other person your full concentration. At parties, craft groups, social suppers, meet-ups, and all other social occasions there'll usually be a few people who are nervous unsure of themselves or plain scared. A small friendly gesture from you, could make someone's day.
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    Look around at the people, and notice their good qualities. Are they attractive? Are they trendy? Are they wearing a nice piece of clothing? Do they have an interesting haircut? Have they customized their wheelchair? Are they wearing a club badge or a band T-shirt? This can be a great way to start a conversation.
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    Minimize self-consciousness by focusing on others. If you keep worrying about what they think of you, you won't be able to have a good conversation. Instead, focus on them. Ask questions, and help them feel interesting. If you find yourself worrying about yourself, wave away your concerns and refocus on what the other person is saying or doing.
    • It's normal and okay to feel awkward or uncertain at social events. The other person can probably be sympathetic if you're nervous.
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    Try letting the other person lead the conversation. You can learn a "formula" to keep asking questions about what they are talking about, letting them do most of the talking. This may be easier than trying to carry the weight of a conversation.
    • Ask the person about something you know they like (something that they mentioned before, a band on their T-shirt, etc.)
    • Encourage them to keep talking about it. For example, "What was it like in Germany?" or "I bet you got some funny stories from that!"
    • Interject briefly with phrases like "I see," "And then what?" or "That's awesome/too bad/ridiculous!"[3]
    • Listen to their stories, and figure out other things to ask about. For instance, if they tell you a funny thing their sister did at the carnival, ask them what their sister is like.
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    Be honest if you are having trouble understanding them. Receptive language problems are often present in autism, and some autistic people feel pressured to hide it. However, this won't help you have a good conversation.[4] Instead, practice scripts like "I'm sorry, what did you say?" and "Could you repeat that?"
    • Feel free to ask to move to a quieter place. For example, "It's loud in here and I'm having a hard time understanding you. Do you want to go outside?"
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    Make it fun and experiment. Dancing, if there's a dancing area and other people are dancing, can be a great way for anyone to socialize. Being part of a group who are all dancing to the same song makes everyone feel included, regardless of your ability to dance. If you want to dance, go for it!
    • If you are brave, you can start the dancing, but it can be difficult to decide if being the only one on the dance floor is good for you or the rest of the party. Join in dancing with a group. You can stand to the side of them and do your own thing or join their group. There might be someone else who is just waiting for the number of dancers to increase by just enough to let them join in.

Method 3
Handling the Environment

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    Only accept invitations to places you feel you will have a decent time at. If your friend invites you to a party and you know it will be loud and smelly, you have the right to say "I'm busy that night" or "That's not really my scene." Choose gatherings where you can be happy.
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    Be very cautious about alcohol. Know what constitutes the legal drinking age in your area, and remember that different people respond to alcohol differently. It's much safer to stay in control of your thoughts and actions.
    • If someone offers, simply say "I don't drink." Most people will leave it at that. If you face peer pressure, keep repeating "No thanks, I don't drink" until they give up.
    • Stay away from alcohol if you have a family history of alcoholism or mental illness. This has the potential to turn very dangerous for you, and make your life much harder.
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    Identify where you can take a break. If it's loud or crowded, you may feel overwhelmed at times and need a brief break before you can comfortably re-engage.
    • Stepping outside for a breath of fresh air
    • Going to the bathroom and washing your face
    • Taking a break in a quieter room (within earshot for safety reasons)
    • Helping out in the kitchen
    • Going to the balcony for a one-on-one chat with a close friend
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    Hang out somewhere you feel comfortable. This might take the form of going up to people you already know quite well and having a chat, or finding a comfortable place in the room where you feel part of the action but not at the centre. Find a comfortable retreat that you can return to if you get overwhelmed or need a little break.
    • You may feel more comfortable hanging out on the fringes.


  • If you're nervous, it's okay. Plenty of people get worried about social gatherings, autistic and otherwise.

Article Info

Categories: Autism Spectrum | Friends