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How to Get Adults With Autism to Socialize

Making friends and maintaining meaningful relationships can be difficult for anyone. However, for those living with autism, social situations are often extremely overwhelming and difficult, leading to feelings of social isolation. The barriers individuals with autism face are unique and typically require specialized support.

Both children and adults with autism often need help when learning how to interact with others in different types of social situations. Working on these social skills for adults with autism can encourage greater participation within the community. This can lead to more meaningful opportunities and relationships, as well as a greater quality of life.

If you have been diagnosed with autism, you do not need to feel alone or isolated. There is support available to help you develop new friendships that can turn into long-term, fulfilling relationships. 

As long as you are willing to put in the time and effort, you can develop critical skills and meaningful relationships. 

See How The Adult Autism Center Can Help You!

Benefits of Learning Autism Social Skills for Adults

Humans are social beings. Whether you are interested in working, going to school, or getting involved in your community, the ability to interact with others is often key to your success. 

If you are someone who has a desire to interact with others, yet do not have the skills to engage with others, there are many strategies and opportunities available to support social development.

Whether you would like to work on communication, timing and attention, sensory integration, or all of the above, you can!

Social skills training for adults with autism offers a wide range of benefits, including:

  • Improving self-esteem and mental health
  • Greater self-advocation
  • The ability to develop meaningful relationships
  • A more satisfying, less stressful life
  • The ability to start a career and maintain that role

Read more: Autism Independent Living

What Is Social Interaction in Autism?

For many individuals, social interaction is effortless. However, for those with autism, social disconnection is common.

Individuals with autism often find communicating and engaging with others hard.This challenge can create adults with autism to avoid participating in social gatherings.  However, the severity of these challenges ranges from one individual to the next, and varies depending on how comfortable one may be with communicating amongst others.  There are a few citations that adults with autism may experience in social interactions. 

The majority of adults with autism will experience difficulty with:

  • Social interaction with others
  • Starting interactions, as well as responding to others
  • Understanding the perspectives of others
  • Taking part in everyday social events

An estimated 40% of people with autism are also nonverbal, which is why they rely on gestures, reaching, using pictures, and other forms of communication. Again, this can make life challenging as individuals age into adulthood.

Where to Meet Other Adults with Autism

Although early intervention is recommended, it is never too late to start.

Social skills groups in the autism community offer opportunities to practice what they’ve learned in a real-life setting. 

Researchers have closely examined the effectiveness of social skills training groups, creating criteria to ensure optimal results.

Social skills groups for adults with autism should:

  • Offer structure
  • Help individuals break down social concepts into more concrete actions
  • Simplify language based on appropriate language levels
  • Encourage partnerships within pairs or groups
  • Focus on self-esteem and self-awareness activities

Compatibility Matters

When you meet someone you are compatible with, either on a romantic or friendship level, this can increase your chances of successful interactions. This concept was studied at the University of Texas. 

Most studies attempt to understand social challenges in autism, focusing exclusively on individual characteristics. However, how each individual influences and is influenced by others is key.

In this study, adults with autism were generally rated as more awkward and less socially warm in a “real-world” social setting, compared to typically developing adults. Individuals with autism had an interaction preference for other individuals with autism, often disclosing more about themselves to those they could relate to. The researchers concluded that social difficulties in autism should be reframed as a relational impairment, rather than an individual one.

As stated by Dr. Noah Sasson, Associate Professor at the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, “If autistic people were inherently poor at social interaction, you’d expect an interaction between two autistic people to be even more of a struggle than between an autistic and non-autistic person. But that’s not what we found.”

To meet people you have things in common with, go to places where there is an increased likelihood that you will have something in common. Although you may enjoy your own solitary interests at home, you’ll need to put yourself out there. If you are a gamer, attend a gaming convention. 

If you love to read or love history, seek opportunities to volunteer at your local library or museum. Of course, always pick an environment that you are comfortable in, accounting for sensory sensitivities.

Recommended reading: Social Skills Activities For Adults With Autism: What’s It All About?

Build skills at group meetings and then put those skills to practice in real-life settings that increase your chances of meeting someone you have things in common with. 

Discuss what you find most challenging at your social skills group meetings. Maybe you can’t make eye contact or find it challenging to introduce yourself. Practice these barriers in that environment, with people you’re comfortable with. That way, when you meet someone you may connect with, you’ll feel more confident.

Where to Meet Other Adults with Autism

Although early intervention is recommended, it is never too late to start.

Social skills groups for adults with autism communities offer opportunities to practice what they’ve learned in a real-life setting. Researchers have closely examined the effectiveness of social skills training groups, creating criteria to ensure optimal results.

Social skills groups for adults with autism should:

  • Offer structure
  • Help individuals break down social concepts into more concrete actions
  • Simplify language based on appropriate language levels
  • Encourage partnerships within pairs or groups
  • Focus on self-esteem and self-awareness activities

Find Communities:
Online, join clubs, get involved with the community, and coworkers. Expand on the benefits or how to do each of these. 

Express yourself: Wear clothes that show who you are, or a graphic tee that shows your favorite superhero. This allows people to ask questions or connect easily. This can also help if you struggle with non verbal communication. Expand on expressing yourself. 

If you are uncomfortable in any situation, make this known. Try to communicate as clearly as possible. If you can, set up meetings or social activities in an environment where you are most comfortable, as this will allow you to be yourself and open up.  Expand on communication and advocating for your needs. 

How the Adult Autism Center Can Help

The Adult Autism Center of Lifetime Learning is the first of its kind. Offering hands-on training and ABA therapy, the goal is to improve the lives of adults with autism — as well as their families.

Visit our programs page to learn more about how we support the autism community.

Contact us today

Heather Davis graduated from Texas A&M University with her Ph.D. in Special Education and is a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Heather has spent 18 years of her professional career working with children diagnosed with autism and their families. In her previous role as the Clinical Director of the Carmen B. Pingree Autism Center of Learning, her focus was to provide on-going staff training to ensure the delivery of high-quality, evidence-based services to meet the individualized needs of each child diagnosed with autism. She is inspired to continue to work in this field by the progress clients demonstrate which helps to improve their quality of life. Hearing individuals speak their first words, gain independent living skills, and demonstrate skills families never thought possible are what drive her to become a better clinician and continue to work with these important members of our community. In her free time, Heather enjoys running, reading, and spending time with her twin girls and husband exploring all the wonderful landscapes of Utah.

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