Being A Flexible Friend With High Functioning Autism

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Walking up to the playground Catelyn would count.

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5…. I have 5 new best friends.”

Off she would run to engage these new playmates.

So how was it when we were leaving the playground an hour later, she was playing alone?  She and the playmates had parted ways, no longer interested in being any kind of friend or acquaintance?

Autism and Social Skills

Declan and Catelyn both have issues when it comes to socializing.

Declan doesn’t understand social cues.  He gets to close to others and touches them.  He does not do well volleying a conversation or know what to say.

Catelyn’s issues with socializing are much different.  Catelyn has issues with flexible thinking.  She can be very rigid, is not open to sudden change or trying to do things in a new way.

High Functioning Autism and Social Problems

Declan and Catelyn want to be social.  They enjoy the company of others, are not passive, aloof or introverted in any way.

Both do not always see an entire social scene, understand what is being said to or asked of them, or how to respond.

With High Functioning Autism, Catelyn has a hard time seeing things from another person’s point of view.  During play, she does not realize how stubborn or bossy behavior affects others.  She does not always realize she has hurt someone else’s feelings and does not realize that saying, “I’m sorry” will make the person feel better.

Can you guess which child is Catelyn in these pictures?



Catelyn was invited to a birthday party where they got to dress up like Diva’s, get their nails painted, make a lip gloss or perfume, and walk the runway.

Catelyn didn’t want to dress up in the color the birthday girl chose.  She did not like the lip gloss the birthday girl chose.  Catelyn had a hard time trying to think about the birthday girl, the birthday girl’s feelings or the birthday girl’s wishes for her birthday.

The birthday girl was tolerant of Catelyn’s rudeness.  The other girls were getting mad at Catelyn for ruining their friends party.

Yet, none of this affected Catelyn.  If I had not seen these pictures I would have never known Catelyn was difficult at the party.  She had come home from the party unaffected.

Was she just being original?  Free-spirited, strong-willed Catelyn?  Her behavior hurt others and she was unaware.  She lost friendships that day.  What was happening?

A Flexible Friend

Catelyn did not realize she was being an inflexible friend.  She was unaware of the feelings of others and how here behavior was having a negative impact on her relationships with others.

The good news?  The problem with socialization has been identified.  When Catelyn was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism a lot of earlier events and behaviors started to make more sense to me.

Also, since we have identified the problem, we know how to help.

Catelyn is involved in weekly therapy appointments.  Her therapist works with Catelyn on social skills and cues with different tools and techniques.  Catelyn and her therapist look at different social events and discuss what would be a good thing to do or say.  For example, if someone fell down and get hurt.   What do you do?  Why?   Catelyn didn’t know, and that’s okay.  She is learning!

Catelyn does well with worksheets, like the ones found here.  She will do the worksheets with her therapist, or bring them home and do them for homework before her next session.  Thinking about a social situation and her role in a social situation has brought an awareness she did not previously possess.  People on the autism spectrum can learn social skills the resource found here.

In the past, Catelyn had voiced she didn’t have any friends, and was sad.  I am happy to say that Catelyn is making and KEEPING some new friends.    Now, she is learning skills and awareness she did not previously possess.  She is starting to think of others and enjoying others.  We are super-duper happy for her!







12 thoughts on “Being A Flexible Friend With High Functioning Autism

    1. Thank you! I will – and no worries – we chose to spell it a little differently. Thanks so much for your comments!

  1. Catelyn is a special child, she is original, she is meant to be that way. I love the fact that she has a strong will, to want to be different, although mindful that it will also cause difficulties…. I am sure she will come into her own when she is older and does not have to conform all of the time….. you are such a good mum ?

        1. Oh no, I think she will come into her own as well. She is learning! All is good! And of course I loved the compliment 🙂

  2. Catelyn sounds like she’s doing great and learning social skills as she goes along. My son had a friend at our house today – it’s a holiday here. His friend has High Functioning Autism and Asperger’s. My son loves him, but says sometimes he can’t control his temper at school. The two had a great time and his mum was delighted as it’s the first he’s been at a friends house without his parents. I’ve limited knowledge, but was aware that there might be some issues and was ready for them. Their play date was a dream, just laid back and doing what they both like 🙂

    1. Wow, that’s fantastic! We let Catelyn go to the birthday party on her own and realized later she wasn’t ready for that kind of independence (even though she was 7). I am excited for her to make a friend that she could have some play time with because I feel she is ready now. Your experience has me excited – so glad for you, your son, his friend and his parents. Huge success all around!

      1. I’m no expert, but I think it’s because it was calm and there wasn’t much going on to put him out of his comfort zone. My nearly 8 year won’t go to parties without me yet. I hope your little girl gets to have a play date soon 🙂

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