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Social Difficulties and Autism By Shanti Roy


Posted by Shanti Roy on January 19, 2011

This article is to address the difficulties with socialising for people with High Functioning Autism and Asperger’s syndrome.

Auditory processing delay

The difficulty starts with the inability to process spoken words as fast as non-autistics. It might only be small as something as 0.2 second delay but it sure makes it hard for an autistic person to follow a conversation and reply at just the right time. Another issue not knowing when it is appropriate to speak and so they either stay quiet or interrupt while someone is talking which results in people thinking they are purposely being rude.


Sensory Processing Disorder


Another issue that might affect someone with autism follow and participate in a conversation is having more hypersensitivity senses to visual stimuli and sound. It depends where the social interaction is taking place but usually it is in a crowded and noisy environment to the autistic. This could be a school playground, the lunchroom at work, inside a cafe or restaurant, or even outside. Autistics may also be hypersensitive to temperature, light and touch. This all gets in the way of following and participating in a conversation.

Lack of interest


If an autistic can get past the crowded and noisy distractions they still may struggle with saying anything at all because they are so absorbed by their own special interests, which many people may or may not find interesting. Even if they do find them interesting people soon tire of someone with autism speaking about their special interest because of the intensity they speak about it with and it soon comes clear that it is all they want to talk about. It’s not their fault. They really do try to take an interest in others if they realise they aren’t but it’s just the different thought process of autism that makes them struggle with it.



Once the autistic has built enough social skills to have a few minutes of conversation with other people another stumbling block for them is when it comes to taking things too literally. People make jokes about each other to better bond with them but to an autistic the joke is misunderstood by being taking literally or worse taken as an insult. It takes a great deal of practice for someone with autism to overcome this. At times they may be able to pick up on sarcasm and at other times fall back into their usual literal ways. 



Because people with autism have a different way of thinking and experiencing the world they may not always fit the standard of normal and so may dress how they like, which also has a lot to do with tactile sensitivity. For their impulsiveness in conversations because they don’t know when it’s their turn to speak they may be rejected by people for being annoying. And people might think their behaviour such as stimming and hand flapping may be odd and also reject them for this.

It may take a very long time for an autistic to find the right sort of friends who don’t mind these behaviours at all and accept them for who they are. But because of past bullying an autistic person is reluctant to go out and look for those types of friends and may assume every non-autistic will make fun of them.

Every day of their lives an autistic person has a large amount of difficulty in areas where non-autistics do not but the most difficult one is nearly always in social interaction. With a lot of practice and patience they can get better social skills and find friends who will support them and want to do things with them. As the years go by their social skills get better. Although sometimes they don’t or they become worse from social anxiety and depression so they rely on other people to take care of them. In worst cases they become avoidant and it should be up to them to decide if they want to socialise or not. Being forced into socialise can have disastrous results.