ASD is frequently referred to as a social disability. Individuals on the autism spectrum frequently experience social cues and situations differently than neurotypicals (those not on the autism spectrum). This can result in misunderstandings, hurt feelings and isolation from the social group.
Sometimes an environment that is uncomfortable due to loud noises, strange smells, or bright lights can hinder someone with ASD from focusing on the social situation and impact the individual’s ability to interact appropriately. Reading nonverbal cues are difficult for these individuals, they may not pick up on facial gestures or body nuances that show disinterest, anger, sarcasm, joking or disappointment.
This can make social situations uncomfortable and lead to some avoidance of these activities. Someone on the spectrum may find engaging in social situations that are activity-based, such as, school clubs, book club, church activity groups etc., a more comfortable experience, especially if it is centers on their special interest. Social situations that depend on small talk, such as parties, prom, happy hours may be a more difficult venue and increase anxiety.
Developing friendship/social skills needs to start in grade school. This can help with self-esteem and reduce instances of teasing/bullying which can have lifelong effects.
These skills can also lay the foundation for interacting with others, being able to work as a team, and increasing the potential for successful employment. For an individual with autism these skills do not come naturally and need to be learned and practiced.