• Making Friends

Finding Friends When You Have A Sensory Processing Disorder

Published: May 26, 2016 | Last Updated: December 19, 2021 By | 8 Replies Continue Reading

A woman with a sensory processing disorder has a hard time making friends.



I have genuine problems. I have tried to make friends with people. I have special educational needs. When I was a child and teen, I was bullied remorselessly. I still have lots of pain from that time and am seeing a counselor.

I struggle with remembering things like dates, so birthdays are difficult for me to remember. But I am trying. I tend to find that people expect me to fit in with them. Actually, I’m the one in need and I need them to fit in with me.

I’ll give you an example: I went to three choirs. The first one gave me a really cold shoulder. The second I couldn’t keep up because of my processing difficulties. The third was fine. I made some friends there.

Any ideas? There is a sports club nearby and I want to try going along, but obviously, I don’t want to get hurt again. I have to take the risk. I would like to find another lover, too.

Signed, Bonnie


Dear Bonnie,

Having a sensory processing disorder (SPD) creates real social and emotional challenges. You are very fortunate to have received a diagnosis and to be getting the help of a counselor.

It’s a reality of life that other people have a hard time understanding “invisible” disorders like yours. It’s easier to relate to someone with missing a limb, for example, than a neurological disorder that can’t be seen.

Making friends really requires accommodations from both sides. You need to use everything you have learned about your disorder to identify adaptive strategies to overcome your limitations. For example, if you want to remember friends’ birthdays and know you have a hard time doing that, you have to keep a written or electronic calendar to help you.

It sounds like you are a resilient person who understands that making connections with new friends, whether romantic or platonic, always entails some risks. When you found people in the past who were intolerant or didn’t understand you, you made the effort to try alternatives.

Hopefully, this letter and your personal efforts can help others better understand disabilities like yours. You also might find practical strategies and support from one of the online forums where adults with SPD share their experiences.

Hope this is helpful.

Best, Irene

Additional information about SPD

  • Information about Sensory Processing Disorder from the AMA.
  • SPD Adult S.H.A.R.E (an online forum for people with sensory processing disorders)

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Comments (8)

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  1. Ronald says:

    Ronald says thank you for writing helpful things like this. I too suffer.

    [Last name removed by moderator; to protect yourself from spammers, please do not use last names on this blog. Thanks!]

  2. Maddie says:

    You are not going to instantly have others fit for you. You have to compromise no matter who you are or what your problems. Literally everyone has something, whether it is known or apparent.

  3. Ana Wieder-Blank says:

    I get it. I have mild CP, hearing impairments, and an executive function disorder. I also have a 130 IQ, am a successful professional artist, have a MFA and many shows under my belt. However when people interact with me socially. They often only see my disability. It can get really frustrating. My smartphone calendar has helped me keep up with appointments, and I have many more friends than I used to, but I can see people’s looks of frustration when I can’t keep up with a conversation, or can’t walk at their pace.

    • Jan says:

      Dear Ana,
      Thanks, this must be really trying for you. I’d love to see your work, do you have a web or blog? I’m arty, too and I want to get into the creative industries.

  4. Jan says:

    Dyslexia affects how information is processed, stored and retrieved, problems of memory,organisation and sequencing. http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/dyslexic/dyslexia-and-specific-learning-difficulties-in-adults

  5. Jan says:

    Thank-you Bonnie, Laura and Amy. My condition/s are Dyslexia and dyspraxia. So my dyslexia made me have problems with spelling and handwriting. Dyspraxia gave me problems like lack of co-ordination and being really untidy, as child the ability to do ball games is really important, socially, I’m sure you will agree. Reading is taken as a given that everyone can do, so when a child struggles with it, it knocks their self esteem. As one gets older most people like me will have learnt how to read and write, but the underlying processing problems still haven’t gone away. I still struggle with catching balls and time awareness.
    I really appreciate your time in replying.
    I try to remember that really famous people had problems. Einstein is said to have had Aspergers, I think he must have really struggled with friends. Thomas Edison was partially deaf.

  6. LauraSL says:

    Have you considered volunteering? You might feel really great volunteering and giving to others. This might be a way to make some new friends.

    I totally agree about keeping a calendar. My calendar keeps me on track. I would be lost without it.

  7. Amy F says:

    I recommend seeking more professional support for understanding social cues and improving social skill strategies. If you ask your doctor for therapists familiar in working with people with SPD, you can find specialized help and perhaps even a support group where you’ll meet others dealing with similar challenges. Good luck.

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