‘How do I make friends?’ is possibly the question I get asked most and certainly one that for much of my life I was asking myself.
It is well known that communication difficulties and trouble understanding social situations are common traits for those on the spectrum so it probably isn’t a surprise that finding and maintaining friendships is a difficulty a lot of us share.
For many years, especially as a teenager, I was desperately lonely and truly craved the friendships those around me seemed to just find naturally. In recent years things have been different. Yes, at times I can still feel isolated but I now have a very diverse and fulfilling group of friends, but getting there took a lot of will power and determination. So what is the magic formula?
Unfortunately there isn’t one. There are plenty of great ways to meet new people and build friendships that could be discussed, indeed it really does take a lot of effort, but this is something I want to cover in a future post. What I wanted to do instead was to introduce you to some of my closest friends and share with you a little about how we met and how our friendships developed. I hope this can give an example of how opportunities for finding great friendships can pretty much present themselves anywhere, even when you’re least expecting it.
I met Marq while on a walk with a club I’d joined. I wanted to get out and have more exercise so joining a group seemed a good idea. Marq was fairly new to the area and we chatted as we walked. We broke the ice over a childish giggle over the name of our walk’s destination… we were heading to a holiday resort in the forest called ‘Sandy Balls’! Before you get any ideas, the name refers to the sandy hills in the area. After the walk we swapped details and arranged to meet up the following week. Our friendship developed from there with evenings watching movies or trying out the latest PS3 game. Most weekends I’d go around Marq’s house for what would be dubbed ‘Steevy Sunday’. We have a very similar sense of humour and have built some very happy memories trying out fun activities or new eateries in the local area. Last year I was very proud to be Marq’s best man as he married Jade. It was so special to be part of their big day and I’m so happy to consider Jade a good friend as well. Steevy Sunday’s are still part of the diary, although now I live further away they are less regular, but that just makes them more fun to look forward to.
Phil is one of my few friends from my teenage years. Soon after receiving my diagnosis at 16 I joined a support group to meet others and build my social skills. It was at this group I met Phil. That period of my life was very difficult and the group provided an outlet and safe haven. Phil was the first friend I made who I felt free to open up to about the struggles I was going through. The experience of the group was very intense but created a lasting bond for us that has stayed the fifteen years since. Even today he is one of the few people I can be totally honest with when things get a bit tricky. We now live quite a long way apart but see each other when we can. He is now married to Pauline and they have four wonderful children together, three of them I’m very proud to be Godfather to. Isabella, Sebastian, Dominic and Harrison all make me very proud and it is so great to hear about their achievements.
I met Kathryn at a mutual friend’s house warming party. Actually, to be more precise I’d met her at the end of the party as we were both leaving! She had just moved to town and we swapped numbers and arranged to meet up. We bonded quickly over fun days out exploring the local area together, partying the nights away in town and putting the world to rights over a few glasses of wine or discussing our pet turtles. Kathryn lives with her partner Sophia and daughter Rosie about an hour from where I now live. I always look forward to their house parties, always the best and rarely uneventful – The attempt at combining two monopoly boards resulted in confused chaos and my shorts splitting clean in two during a drinking game gave everyone something to talk about, but fun is always had!
I met Luke a few years ago at an aspergers support group in a near by town. The group no longer meets but I have remained good friends with Luke ever since. Luke is the life and soul of any gathering and bursts with confidence. Every where we go Luke seems to know dozens of people so any outing together results in a large group forming seemingly from no where. I first got to know Luke properly when we shared a tent together at a summer festival, by the end of the weekend Luke had met and introduced me to pretty much everyone camping nearby, many whom I’m still in contact with! Luke is a great public speaker and advocate for those with aspergers, his enthusiasm for sharing his experiences to help others inspired me to follow his footsteps.
5: Ed & Davita
I met Ed and Davita at Church and got to know them both while taking part in various activities and groups in the church. I can’t point out exactly when and where I came to consider them good friends, it just naturally evolved. There have been many times they have come to my rescue at difficult times in very practical ways, fantastic home cooked food or a comfy place to sleep if I need to get away from home for a few days. I’ve had many fun days out with Ed and Davita and their children Annabelle and Timothy. Last year we had a fun trip to Wilton House. The poor children didn’t get a chance to enjoy the play park, us adults were too busy commissioning the zip-line! We share a love of board games and together we’ve battled aliens to save the space ship, built cities, traded sheep and saved the world from epidemics. The friendship I have with Ed and Davita is very special in that I have had many evenings at theirs where we have simply sat and read or carried on with our own things but simply appreciated the company, as someone who finds socialising tiring, this really is a special attribute. As fellow adventurers, their book case has the best collection of travel books and maps to keep me occupied for hours!
There are many others I would love to be able to mention here but I’m sure there will be chance to make special mention and thanks to some of my other friends in later posts. I hope you have enjoyed reading this post and it has given an insight into the random and diverse ways I’ve ended up finding some truly great friends in some unexpected places. In an upcoming post I will be sharing with you some of the techniques and tips I've found helpful to use when building and establishing great friendships.