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Building Relationships

Also See: Online Safety Tips

21 Tips for Successful Socializing for Autistic People

By Lucas Estafanous, self-advocate, former Milestones Intern, graduate of Orange High School and former student at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio.

  • Almost all friendships start with superficial small talk, and almost never with any meaningful conversation.
  • Let others finish their thoughts before you begin speaking, do not interrupt people.
  • If your texts/other messages are not being acknowledged right away, give the person time to respond. Set a time interval for yourself in which you will not send them another message unless they respond. (Once a day is a good rule in most cases, shortened for urgent matters.)
  • A good way to tell if someone is a real friend to you is to see if they are ever the person who initiates contact. If you notice that you are always the person to invite them, never vice-versa, then there is a good chance that they may not be as close of a friend as you think.
  • Keep what you say short and to the point. It may be helpful to plan exactly what you are going to say before saying it to avoid losing people’s interest.
  • When it seems that your point is not being understood no matter how you try to explain it, sometimes it is best to just let it go.
  • If there is a problem influenced by your autism that you have struggled with regarding past relationships, it may be a good idea to give your friends a disclaimer of sorts, apologize in advance for any misunderstandings that may or will occur related to the issue. Note: this should only be done with people that you already know well.
  • Know your audience. Different topics or humor are appropriate in different settings. Social rules with different people will also vary.
  • People are interested in different things. Try to discuss your favorite topics with people who share those interests. Keep it very brief with those who don’t share your favorite interests. Ask questions and listen to find out what other people are interested in.
  • Be careful about making jokes about people to avoid hurt feelings or insulting them, and do not do it if the person is not present.
  • Avoid taking jokes too far. Sometimes you should just quit while you are ahead.
  • Periodically remind or request that your friends tell you if you offend them.
  • If someone offends you, intentionally or not, stand up for yourself in a respectful way.
  • Be ready to admit that you are wrong. If you insist on making sure that you are wrong before admitting so, other people will perceive that you “always have to be right.”
  • Don’t make excuses when you get constructive feedback. Take responsibility for a mistake.
  • If you have a question, see if it is possible to look it up online first before asking for help.
  • If you are having difficulty with something that cannot be solved with a simple Google search, don’t be afraid to request help.
  • As my grandfather always says, “You are not an invention.” Any emotional problems you have now have been experienced by many other people before you.

16 Rules to Stay Safe Online

  • Never give your personal information to anyone online. Do not share your address, social security number or any information that appears on your checks, credit or debit cards.
  • Do not give anyone passwords for your computer, websites or programs. Even if your best friend asks for your password to get into a social networking site type it in yourself.
  • Avoid typing in confidential information into a public computer, like at the local library. Don’t pay your bills online in a public space if possible and protect your information if you must use it in public by looking for who is around you when you type in passwords, billing information, etc.
  • Make sure your screen name or domain name doesn’t give personal information about you. gives people information about your name, age and where you may live. Likewise, is also inappropriate because of the flirtatious nature of the name.
  • Never post your whereabouts or schedule online. Think about whether to post when you are going on vacation, to work or school. It gives people the information on when you are not at home, therefore giving others opportunities to rob your home or victimize you.
  • Be careful about what pictures you post on social networking sites like Facebook or Instagram. Make sure that the picture doesn’t let someone know where you live.
  • Make sure everything you post online is appropriate. Never post anything mean about other individuals, your workplace or other places you frequent in the community. If you don’t know if something is OK to post, check with an adult you trust first.
  • Never send photos of yourself that are indecent (such as nude photos) to anyone, including people you are dating. You never know if the picture of you will end up all over the internet.
  • A friend of a friend is still a stranger. Don’t assume that just because someone knows a friend of yours that they will respect your privacy. Do not share information with any strangers, even your friend’s friend.
  • Never use the internet at work to check social networking or dating sites. If it doesn’t have to do with work, don’t do it! Your IM can be tracked at work, so don’t chat with people through IM either. This behavior can get you fired.
  • Be careful of what you write in an email, especially at work. Do not send an email when you are mad or frustrated. If you are unsure if something is appropriate to say in an email, ask a mentor you trust. Before sending an email through work, read it over to check for errors and how it sounds. Make sure you are sending it to the right people (i.e. if you have more than one Beth at work, are you sending it to the correct Beth?).
  • Remember that once you post information online there is no way to take it back—it’s there forever.
  • Do not forward chain emails. These are most likely scams and could be dangerous to your computer or others you send the email to.
  • Don’t be tricked by spam email. These are cheap marketing tools designed to sell you something, not to give you a “free trial,” “discount offer” or “amazing opportunity.”
  • Don’t be fooled by “phishing.” Be cautious of emails that look like they are from your bank or other companies that ask you to retype sensitive information in an email, website or phone number. Contact your bank or company directly and confirm that the email was not from them. Log into your accounts directly from their websites instead of from a link in an email.
  • Always have strong anti-spam, anti-virus and anti-phishing tools installed and set to update automatically. 

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