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Establishing Social Inclusion the Autism Way: Denying the “They Don’t Want Friends” Myth


Autistic individuals experience difficulties in social communication as well as differences in social-cognitive processing. These skills are required for successful interpretation of social cues and utilisation of non-verbal communication during social interactions. In addition, restricted interests often mean that autistic children and adults are not as flexible in their leisure interests and conversation topics as their neurotypical peers. These challenges may cause autistic children and adults to experience frustration and negative consequences when they attempt to engage in interactions and form social relationships with others, particularly with those who are not autistic. This has led some autistic individuals to feel that engaging in social relationships with others is “too hard” and has perpetuated the common misperception that autistic people do not want friends. This chapter will examine the foundations of this myth as well as the research that has described the social relationships and friendships experienced by autistic individuals across different age groups. The characteristics of successful friendships and relationships will be explored, and the features of conducive environments to facilitate friendships will be identified. Finally, recommendations will be made to help create the right environments to support individuals with autism to form good relationships with both autistic and neurotypical peers in school and community settings.


  • Peer-mediated supports
  • Social communication
  • Social relationships
  • Special interests

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Correspondence to Matthew Bennett .

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© 2018 Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd.

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Bennett, M., Webster, A.A., Goodall, E., Rowland, S. (2018). Establishing Social Inclusion the Autism Way: Denying the “They Don’t Want Friends” Myth. In: Life on the Autism Spectrum. Springer, Singapore.

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