'I never realised everybody felt as happy as I do when I am around autistic people': A thematic analysis of autistic adults' relationships with autistic and neurotypical friends and family

Autism. 2020 Aug;24(6):1438-1448. doi: 10.1177/1362361320908976. Epub 2020 Mar 7.


Although autistic people may struggle to interact with others, many autistic people have said they find interacting with other autistic people more comfortable. To find out whether this was a common experience, we did hour-long interviews with 12 autistic adults. We asked them questions about how it feels when spending time with their friends and family, and whether it felt different depending on whether the friends and family were autistic or neurotypical. We analysed the interviews and found three common themes in what our participants said. First, they found spending with other autistic people easier and more comfortable than spending time with neurotypical people, and felt they were better understood by other autistic people. Second, autistic people often felt they were in a social minority, and in order to spend time with neurotypical friends and family, they had to conform with what the neurotypical people wanted and were used to. Third, autistic people felt like they belonged with other autistic people and that they could be themselves around them. These findings show that having time with autistic friends and family can be very beneficial for autistic people and played an important role in a happy social life.

Keywords: autism; mental health; neurodiversity; peer support; social interaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't