• Few or No Friends

Leaving a program that doesn’t feel like a good fit for making friends

December 2, 2016 | By | 3 Replies Continue Reading
A woman diagnosed with autism feels like the learning disabilities day program she attends isn’t a good fit.

QUESTION

Hi,

I joined a local day centre for people with learning disabilities which I attend every week. Also to note: I am autistic. I joined there at a desperate time when my close friend committed suicide and I needed new friends due to the isolation I felt. In the town where I live, I have little or no local friends.

At first, the group was an improvement. But months later, I haven’t made a lot of friends there. It isn’t very stimulating (at least, for me). I have nothing against the staff, or the members there but it’s almost as if I’m an outcast and the staff don’t know how to deal with people like me.

I don’t want to blow my own trumpet, but compared to the members, I am independent, outspoken, and overall, more able and had more educational opportunities than most of the members, most of whom have to have a lot support with independence and living, such as cooking and crossing the road.

I feel as if I’m in chains whenever I go on the day trips with them. Previously when I went out somewhere with someone, I would go off on my own a bit and arrange to have a meeting point at a set time. Now I have to stick with the group, no matter the independence level.

I feel that I now want to leave the group, but don’t know exactly how to tell the staff without sounding like a jerk. I’m not trying to sound snobbish or elitist, I just want friends who are of similar intellect and independence level as me.

Signed, Janice

ANSWER

Hi Janice,

Even though some symptoms may overlap, autism and learning disabilities are two distinctly different conditions. Both can embrace a spectrum of different symptoms and disabilities. As a person with autism, you may have certain strengths that some people with learning disabilities lack and vice versa.

Even if the overall program you are attending is geared toward teaching skills of independent living, rather than social skills, there may be one or more higher-functioning members of your local group who could be potential friends.

Before leaving the group, perhaps you could speak to a counselor in the program and explain your dilemma. Mention that you are used to having a fairly high degree of independence. Try to articulate your social needs. While the program can’t change the composition of the group, they may be able to devise more individualized programmatic goals and interventions to support you. address your needs.

If they are unable to make modifications based on individual needs (e.g., limited staffing, governmental or licensing regulations, etc.), you may have to decide whether the routine of attending the program is better than nothing.

I understand your need for support after the death of your friend. It sounds like you are recovering from that loss but your letter begs the question of how you got involved with this particular group in the first place. Are there any other community alternatives for people on the autism spectrum?

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

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Category: HAVING NO FRIENDS, Social skills and friendship

Comments (3)

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  1. Ana says:

    I completely disagree with the above statement. Like you I am also a high functioning aspie with an MFA and a thriving art career. I live by myself. I also have other physical disabilities. I’ve most found disability groups very disappointing because I am more independent and intelligent than most of the participants. As someone with disabilities I can tell you that you have to advocate for yourself as strongly as you can. Nobody will do it for you. I would hate to be restricted for “the good of the group” Ask your counselor what changes can be made. Perhaps they can start a different group for high functioning people, or one specifically for Autism. If not maybe they are can recommend a different program. Maybe you can take more of a leadership role there. You know your capabilities better than anyone and you do not deserve to be steamrolled just because you’re different. The comment above was clearly written by someone who has never experienced life with disabilities. Please ignore that bull.

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  2. Amy F says:

    It sounds link you’d be better matched surf a grief support group or group for other autistic individuals rather than a group for those who have learning disabilities. You believe you deserve different rules than the others because you’re higher functioning because you need less or no supervision. The group facilitators are responsible for everyone and when one person wants special privilege, others might also. This can become chaotic. The purpose for groups is more for the functioning of the group as a whole than the individual needs of each individual. I’ve studied and facilitated groups and most everyone is special and unique, many feel as you do, as if they are in a better (or worse) place than others.
    I would definitely talk about this with the facilitators, but present it as how you can feel more like a member of the group rather than how you can have different rules if you intend to remain with the group.

    • Charlotte says:

      I agree with what you’re saying, Amy, but expecting the staff members to bend the rules for me wasn’t my intention, although I admit that it comes across that way. I understand that they have to do what’s best for everyone, it’s just pretty frustrating when you’re used to as much independence as I have. I also meant that some of the activities in which they do, such as the talks on cyberbullying are dumbed down in terms of explain what it is.

      I stayed on because I was in the panto that they did and after that, I have left the group as of present.

      I attend two groups for high functioning autistic/ Aspergers adults both in the local town (which is once a month) and in Southampton (which is every two weeks, but I attend there occasionally due to financing and time issues to do with travel. Also, I have attended an art workshop in Andover, and I found it more engaging than this day centre that I went to.

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