It takes a village: Developing Friendships with Children who have Autism

by Trudi Francis
Special Education
Faculty advisor:

Although no one knows exactly how many children are affected by autism, its numbers are increasing.  One common characteristic found for this exceptionality is difficulty with socialization.  The lack of social skills has a direct impact on social acceptance and limits the ability of those with this disorder to develop and maintain friendships.  Children affected by autism have difficulty comprehending social rules and being in large crowds.  People affected also have a tendency to ask a lot of questions, which to some could be an annoyance, but in all truth that is the exact opposite of what autistic children want. 


Friendships are key for a positive self image, emotional stability, and the enhancement of communication skills.  The inability of children with autism to develop and maintain appropriate friendships puts them at a distinct disadvantage with their peers.  The lack of understanding of autism by the school and home community can create conditions which further handicap those who have autism.  This Poster session looks at the social skills needs of children with autism and the issue of friendship.  Specifically it explores the responsibility of the academic and home community in creating opportunities for developing friendships which will enhance the lives of all concerned.


"I conducted a survey on Monday October 20, 2008.  I surveyed a Medical Terminology class at a High School in northwest Iowa.  The class hasn't started learning about the neurological terms yet, so this survey was over their basic knowledge.  I asked 13 students one question, " tell me what you knew about Autism..." I was a little surprised on how much people knew about Autism.  One student that was surveyed has a brother with Autism.  She wrote on her paper that it sometimes got to be extremely hard with an autistic brother.  But a good portion of the students understood that kids with Autism have a poorly functioning social life.   The students also knew that children with Autism have a hard time focusing on things, and that they have limited activities and interest."