When it comes to social interactions, especially in group settings, it can be a very difficult experience for a lot of autistic people out there. I know from my personal experiences that I sometimes struggle in social settings, whether they be one-on-one or in smaller or larger groups.

In this article, I will explain how I, as an autistic person, often feel in a social situation, as well as some tips to manage social anxiety and build social confidence.

As previously mentioned, for someone with autism, social interactions can be a whole lot more challenging than for anyone else. Autistics tend to feel more isolated from their peers, especially in a group setting, but this can also be the case with one-on-one interactions.

I myself experienced both these during my time at (and sometimes outside of) school, where there would usually be groups of friends just hanging out with each other, and I would be one of the few people left out of a group almost all the time. Or, if I was in a group, I often felt like others would just talk around me and that I wasn’t being included in the conversation.

I also found it quite difficult to find someone else to spend time with who was also on their own, as not many people were in that situation. (Being blind also didn’t help with this very much.) And whenever I did find someone to talk to, I would mostly struggle for topics of conversation, so we would usually just stay silent without talking too much.

During the last few years, I’ve done my best to try and overcome my social anxiety and build confidence within myself to be more socially active with others around me. I’ve looked for more people to talk to and spend time with, both at school and outside of school, and also organised meet-ups with friends, sometimes one-on-one and sometimes in small groups, in places like the city or at a local park. I’ve found this to be rather enjoyable and an overall welcome experience compared to what I’m used to.

Managing social anxiety and building your social confidence can be daunting for many autistics. Some things I would suggest are looking for someone to try and initiate small talk with, if you’re in a group of people and don’t know how to start a conversation. My best suggestion would be to look for someone who looks lonely or on their own with no one else with them, that way it won’t feel as daunting as if you were to walk up to a group and try with them all at once.

Also, the same could apply in a one-on-one situation; look for someone who appears to be on their own without anyone to talk to, and try initiating small talk with them. You never know how things could turn out.

Another thing I would suggest is to try and find someone with common interests between the two of you. It helps if you get talking to someone who likes the same things as you, whether that be only one or a few. This can help establish a good relationship.

If you really want to challenge yourself and get involved with a group, I would probably suggest looking for one to start off with, again probably one with common or similar interests, and try initiating conversations with them: maybe one or two people at first if that’s your pace, and then more and more as you get more comfortable. You also don’t need to limit yourself to just one group; if you like you could also try connecting with multiple groups. You may even discover some of the members of these groups may know people from other groups, whether they be the one(s) you’re involved with, or others you didn’t even know about.

I’ve formed many new friendships using these methods, and I am very grateful for having discovered and used them to the best of my ability. I hope you can get some use out of them as well.

Sam x

Sam Valavanis is an A List Amabassador – find out more about our A List Ambassadors

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