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Study Explores How Autistic Children View Friendship

By Stacy W. Kish on December 20, 2012


Background: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterized by impaired social and communication skills. Many programs now aim to improve socialization of autistic children. However, few studies examine an autistic child’s perspective.


What’s new: Researchers at the University of London investigated how autistic children experience friendships with cognitively able children in a mainstream setting. The team evaluated friendship from the child’s perspective, from the parent’s perspective, and from the teacher’s perspective.


The results from this study suggests that autistic children desire social relationships, but that autistic children define friendship in terms of companionship rather than emotional bonding. Importantly, the degree and nature of friendships did not correlate with cognitive abilities in the autistic children.


Parents and other family members played a significant role in the development of friendships by helping the autistic child engage effectively in social settings. Teachers reported that structured games with rules during lunch and playtime proved an effective mechanism to include autistic children in the class setting.


Why it’s important: Even though teachers felt that autistic children still resided on the periphery of friendship circles despite intervening efforts, the majority of autistic children reported satisfaction with their friendships. The study suggests that intervention methods to support friendship may be more successful when taking the individual child’s views and perspectives into account.

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