AUTISTIC NICK’S GUIDE TO SOCIAL ISOLATION AND HOW TO SOCIALLY INTERACT
Most Autistic people want more friends and connections, but many find forming and maintaining social relationships difficult and confusing. The difficulties autistic people can face filtering out the sounds, smells, sights and information can leave them feeling overwhelmed and anxious in busy public spaces. Combined with anxiety about the public misunderstanding their distress, it can be hard to go out at all.
Without appropriate and accessible support and services, many Autistic people fall into isolation and this can lead to loneliness. Social isolation has been linked to both mental and physical health problems
Possible Reasons for Social Isolation
Many Autistic people experience social isolation. This may be due to a range of reasons. For example:
You may prefer to be on your own and enjoy your own company.
You may want to engage with others but lack the confidence or the skills to do so.
You may find it difficult to maintain contacts due to a lack of understanding of small talk and other conventions of social behaviour – referred to as social skills.
You may need a higher level of support for activities than your family, friends and/or carers are able to provide.
You may live independently, without family, support workers or a social network.
You may not be aware of suitable activities in your local area.
Enabling Social Interaction
Try discussing with someone who you trust, why you feel isolated.
You may find it difficult to be around others for long periods of time and others need to respect this. But it is also worth considering the benefits of having a network of contacts, for when you want company or need support.
If you, or someone that supports you, feel that you spend so long doing an activity on your own that it’s stopping you from doing other things that you need to do, you could make a timetable with time for this activity and other things too.
Routines can provide reassurance and comfort but can limit social interaction with other people. In order to overcome restrictive routines, you could:
Gradually introduce change by identifying one new place to go to every week, for example a local shop.
Focus on places where it is possible to meet new people. In time, you may get to know people you see regularly.
Practice a few bits of small talk, such as ‘How are you today?’, which may help to reduce your anxiety about making social contact with people.
Find social groups and meet other Autistic people
You may feel more motivated to join a social group where the members have similar interests to your own. Having common ground, or something members enjoy talking about, makes it easier to start and maintain a conversation.
For more information click here https://autisticnick.com/resources-2/
If you are part of the NDIS then you can access the allocated funding to get a support worker, if you are looking for a NDIS registered support worker then you can access the following links in your state
Below are links to lists of all providers currently registered with the NDIS. (The data provided here is correct as at 30 June 2019.)
If you are experiencing extreme levels of anxiety in social situations, it might be useful to talk about this with your GP. A medical professional should be able to offer support and advice and may be able to signpost you towards support services.
Preparing To Take Part In A Group Or Activity
Once you found an activity that interests you, get in touch with the group leader, find out what the format for the activity is and ask for a brochure or information pack.
You may need to become a member of some social groups to attend meetings, which might mean paying a fee. You should ask the organiser about this and find out whether you’d need to make a one-off payment or commit to a weekly, monthly or annual fee.
To make sure the activity is right for you, you may try going along as an observer at first.
Don’t feel pressured to attend for the whole of the activity or meeting, or to go on your own – especially at first. Over time you can increase the length of time you stay, eventually aiming to attend the whole session without additional support.
If you have any issues at the group, discuss these with the group leader so that they can be resolved as soon as possible.
Carry on the Conversation
Thank you for reading and I will see you next time for more thoughts from across the spectrum.