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Autism: Developing Friendship Skills

11 March 2024

In this article, Tracy Bowyer, Parenting Coordinator from The ADHD Foundation Neurodiversity Charity explores how to support autistic children and young people with building and maintaining relationships with their peers.

Encourage interests

Does your child have a specific interest or hobby? Use this as a way to help your child develop friendships. Encourage them to engage with other children with the same interests. Enrol your child in a club or a team where they can practice this skill. This will benefit your child as they will be doing something that they enjoy, and they will be able to make friends due to having that common interest.


If your child is struggling in social situations, it might be worth sitting down with your child and coaching them to interpret social situations. If a specific event has happened which has caused your child to become anxious in social settings, discuss with them what they think went wrong. Come up with solutions that would help prevent this from happening again. This will help your child to understand what they can do to get the most out of social interactions and will help them to feel more confident in the future.


Giving your child the skills they might need in social situations will make them feel more prepared and confident to do it on their own. Practice interacting with your child. You could incorporate this at mealtime or on family outings. Practice taking turns in conversations and teaching them how to respond to certain questions. You could invite them to join a game and teach them how to work with other people to take part in activities. Modelling these interactions will help your child understand what to expect when interacting with others.


Help your child learn how to self-regulate. Teaching your child to self-regulate will help them to be able to recognise their responses and reactions to interactions in social situations. Help them learn about their triggers and discuss with them what they can do to help regulate their emotions during social situations if they are feeling overwhelmed. This will help your child to feel more settled in social situations and will prevent them from becoming anxious or upset, therefore making it easier to build and maintain stronger friendships.

Explore barriers

Understanding the root causes of your child's anxiety or distress in social settings is crucial for helping them overcome these challenges. Engage in open conversations with your child to explore what triggers these feelings. Brainstorm strategies together to help prevent or control this. Try offering new opportunities that will avoid your child's triggers. For example, if are part of a football team, but find the number of people overwhelming, explore alternatives such as smaller teams. This will allow your child to be confident in social settings and they will find it easier to make friends.

Watch the webinar

Click below to watch the full webinar delivered by Tracey Bowyer, Parenting Co-Ordinator from The ADHD Foundation Neurodiversity Charity.

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