What Autism Has Taught Me About Friendship

jodie-friendship1I think I speak for most parents of autistic children or children with autism when I say the biggest lesson I have learned is one involving friendship. (I’m never really sure how to word because both ways can, and have, upset parents in the Autism/Autistic Community. So I will use both.)

And with that I mean that we don’t have, or can’t sustain, many! It isn’t because we don’t want them, or can’t make them, or aren’t friendly. It’s not because we aren’t likable, I hope. For me, in my situation, my circle of friends rapidly deteriorated after my children were diagnosed. People drifted away and stopped talking to us.

I have absolutely no idea why. I guess it could have been a number of things, really. To be honest, I don’t dwell on it because, after the people who weren’t really my friends in the first place stopped talking to me, it highlighted who my TRUE friends were. There may only be three, but they are so close that they are like my sisters. One of them actually is my sister.

Autism has taught me that only the strong and selfless people will stick around to support you.

When my husband, Kenny, and I started our family, lots of friends in our circle of people also were starting a family, and so naturally you lose some and gain more. It’s just the way the world turns—life goes on and friends rotate.

While other friends’ lives settled into routines, and their children hit expected milestones, my life was chaos. It was unstructured and messy. I was irritable and stuck in a life that I hadn’t ordered, with very few friends or people I could trust and talk to, or who understood my children and their quirky ways.

At that point in my life, I learned that autism doesn’t really let you have many friends. People didn’t understand my worries or fears for my child, or my ramblings and rants about people or services that had done us wrong.

Autism was lonely.

My circle of friends diminished into what can only be described as literally the best friends I could have ever asked for. I had never experienced such unconditional love from people that weren’t related by blood. It was overwhelming.

One of these friends is my sister, and the other two are my sister’s best friend Louise, who we “shared,” and her sister-in-law, Natalie. We formed a bond that was so strong not even our partners get a look in. Besides the usual conversations and friendship, we support each other and are always there for each other, in a flash if necessary. We have the best support network that I could ever ask for. It may just be mainly emotional support, but to me it’s the most important kind. My friends are selfless, kind, supportive, funny and accommodating.

Having a child with autism—or two, in my case—limits my social interaction to such an extent that I run the risk of neglecting my friendships and other aspects of my life. Similarly, having a child with autism has the ability to create friendship bonds so strong, you know you’ll never worry about having friends again. Because these friends are for life and, whether they like it or not, they are not going anywhere.

Autism has taught me that only the strong and selfless people will stick around to support you. When you find friends like these, you hold onto them for dear life, because they are so precious that they become an instant part of your family. Above all else, autism has taught me that not everyone wants to stick around for the ride, and that’s fine because after all of the energy has been sucked out of me, the last thing I want to do is fight for friendship!

All I want to do is open Messenger and find out what Beck has cooked for dinner that day, how Louise has styled her hair this week, and how many dresses Nat has bought this time. I want easy, comfortable friendships, and these girls are the most uncomplicated and supportive friends I’ve ever been privileged to know.

Thanks girls!

 

Jodie Eaton

I am Jodie, the mum of three beautiful children. I write to gain awareness, understanding and acceptance of autism, which my two eldest are diagnosed with, along with numerous other disabilities. Please follow me @lotsofloveandaffection.

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