Nigel has a friend over today, whom I’ll call Riley. Riley has been Nigel’s friend for about five years, and while Riley has several other good friends he would probably rather hang with on a Saturday, he always makes time for Nigel and accepts him, autism notwithstanding.

Nigel has always been a social person, which I think is what propelled him to step outside of himself and learn to talk. When he was about five and not functionally verbal, he would approach NT kids at the playground and try to engage them the only way he knew how: laughter. The problem was that the kids would think that he was laughing AT them, of course, which caused a slew of problems necessitating me to intervene. I think it was because of these unsuccessful experiments in the social realm that Nigel decided if he wanted to have friends, he needed to learn to talk.

One of my favorite sites for autism information is Natural Learning Concepts, which recently posted an in-depth interview with Stephen Shore that I really enjoyed reading. Here is what he says about friendship: “It is my sense that people with autism don’t want to have friends is a myth.  What seems more accurate is that those of us on the autism spectrum have a different way of making friends.”  So profound and yet so simple. I wholeheartedly agree.

Making a friend was a huge milestone for Nigel. And learning how to keep that friend has also been a milestone. It hasn’t always been easy: over the years, Nigel has had outbursts at school, including some resulting in injury to Riley, that I’m sure have caused Riley to reevaluate if it would be advantageous to continue being Nigel’s friend. But Riley does and he is. His presence and his loyalty encourage Nigel’s self-esteem more than anything else, I think. 

God bless the Rileys of the world, and bless their parents for raising them to be such patient, understanding kids. We need a few more Rileys around.

2 thoughts on “Friends

  1. Derrick

    Thank you for sharing. My nephew Anthony is 19 years old with autism. He has never had friends but he most desperately would like to. This is what led me to this website. I am looking for social groups and activities for teens and young adults with autism to connect him with here in Springfield Massachusetts. Anthony likes video games, Six Flags and he loves to dance. In fact he tried out for one of the TV dance shows last year. He says that he just wants to have friends and do what teenagers do. Any information from anyone here is greatly
    appreciated. I can be contacted at

    Thank you

  2. April

    Thank you for sharing this. My son is 16 and for years he didn’t have any friends. Just since being in high school has he started making friends and now has a best friend who is his friend no matter what. He also has a girlfriend which I never thought would happen, but am so thankful that he has found a good girl that accepts him the way he is, doesn’t want him to change and loves him no matter what.

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