How To Be Friends with an Autistic

I finished this doodle while Pat visited.

Can a simple gesture summarize years of friendship? Lunch with my visiting best friend was highlighted by a kindness that leaves me warm and happy weeks later.

For those of you who have not encountered me in real life, I’m a fidgety-fidgeter.  I wiggle and twitch when not occupied with a specific task. My fingers boogie at the grocery store. Adrift in a long line, I sway to an internal surf.  This physical turbulence  labeled me as a “spazz” in school.

Decades later, I learned to doodle and write to divert my energetic mind. The instant and meaningful focus a blank sheet of paper gives me is deeply restorative.

Pat liked my “eyeballs.”

When my best friend Patricia visited me in May, we went to the local lobster pot. After we were seated, Patricia pulled out a mini-notebook and two pens.  She handed them over to share her jotted trip notes. I did not read the words, but her lacy and familiar handwriting formed a pleasing tessellation on the page. “We can write or doodle as we feel inspired,” she said, fanning her pretty nails in a rhythmic tap.

It took me a moment to grasp that she was giving me permission to take a mental holiday. She bestowed me with the space, time, and tools I needed to calibrate my cognitive gears.

“Trip Gloss”

A swell of appreciative thoughts engulfed me.  Patricia has always done delightful things for me, before and after my Asperger’s diagnosis.

My wonderful experience prompted me to assemble a guide for the neurotypical with friends on the autism spectrum. Here are three tips that will endear you to autistic buddies everywhere:

  1. Know your autistic friend’s sensory issues.  Help them by finding quiet spots—dim, spare areas with little or no people. Ten minutes in a peaceful place is like a good night’s sleep to a frazzled Aspie. Patricia found us the quietest booths at restaurants. She used distractions like her doodle kit to help me settle in and calm down.
  2.  Share some special interests. I love rocks. Patricia has walked miles with me as I sought curious, glittery rocks. During our recent beach trip, we hunted peculiar stones.  She took her time to examine and enjoy the loveliness of each polished pebble. Patricia welcomes other people’s joy.   Be an Aspie for a day and let the beauty  wash over you! 
  3. Embrace stims and other quirks. I think of stimming as autistic yawning. It re-boots the brain at a better energy level. When I am revved up, I ‘finger dance “or sway.  This expels my excess energy and settles me down.  When I crash, I spin to pull myself up to normal.On a long Saturday morning with Liev, I crashed.   To perk up, I spun with vigor. Watching with interest, Patricia chirped, “Yay! Wonder Woman!” I laughed so hard.   I felt deeply accepted and cherished.

I appreciate dear Patricia and her kindred, making friendship meaningful and fufilling for every generation of spectrumites!

35 thoughts on “How To Be Friends with an Autistic

  1. I love this. It is so awesome that you found such a great friend. I do the finger dance thing, too. Looks like I am playing piano in the air. Sometimes, it’s just a flash of wiggly fingers, other times it’s longer. This reminds me that I need to be more patient in accepting others for their quirks, too. I need practice in this. This is such a great post. I’ll be sharing for sure!

    1. Thank you so much. I really appreciate the encouragement. I have little finesse on social media, so I am grateful for the shares!

      I think many people do finger dance, but for Aspies, it’s about the threshold. and the extra mental energy!

      After reading your blog, fb and twitter, I see you as a very accepting person. Yet I appreciate igniting another spark in you bonfire!


  2. This is the most perfectest post!! I must share this on my blog! I am going to link to this because some of us need family to understand this too and maybe…just maybe it will move some more hearts! Brilliant piece my friend. AND I am madly in love with your doodles!! Have I mentioned I am also in love with the word doodle and have been since the first day I heard it. Also my family, school mates, significant others, friends etc… all gave me the lovely title of “spazz.” My hands never stop moving especially when I am talking, and I tend to dance as well. I was in trouble all the time for not sitting still.

    I learned to clasp my hands together and hold them tightly so I would not move them, or I would mess with my hair. I have been letting my “spazz” hands loose in recent months because I do not care anymore – I am not bothering anyone and it helps me. I doodle when I have to sit with people if paper and a writing instrument is available. I draw circles, eights, and infinities. (in the air sometimes too when I am not thinking about it)

    Patricia sounds grand I am so happy you have a friend that is accepting and caring like that is awesome to hear.

    P.S. Love rocks! 🙂

        1. Okay. i just googled “hair teepees” and checked the urban dictionary. Have you discovered some new and delightful way to relax? Do I need tiny wood stakes or deerskin?

        2. My dad combed his hair back, so it was long enough for me to play with. I would take a hunk of hair and twist it into a hair teepee (works best with oily hair). I now do teepees on my hubby’s hair. DIY punk!

    1. Angel,

      I am cheered by your positive energy! I would be proud if you linked to me in your blog!

      I have grown so much in the past few years. Understanding autism is not much different than learning about a new religion or culture. People have reasons for their behavior, attitudes, and actions. The framework does not matter, only the connectivity.

      I am delighted your spazz hands are flying free. Your logic for this agrees with mine perfectly. I visualize you as Princess Leia (saw your costume on fb) instructing Obi Wan with a traced out shopping list!

      Happy Day!

  3. I don’t know who this Patricia is, but I thought I was your best friend. 🙂
    Don’t believe her folks, I’m not all she says.
    This post should be: Why Aspies make the Best Friends! Aspies spend their lives wondering why no one is following the script, so they have to keep rewriting what they think “normal” is. The most caring, considerate, loving people are Spectrum-sapient! My best friend always thinks of others before herself. Always trying to include everyone, even if they don’t understand the awesomeness of her world. The whole time I was at her house, she would bend over backwards trying to make me happy. She doesn’t quite understand that SHE makes me honored to know HER, and she has welcomed me into her universe- her finger dancing, Wonder Woman, doodle world! I don’t know Aspies from aspirin, but I know LORI, and she is my friend!

    1. Ha! You modest girl! You are wonderful. I suspect most people have a secret friendship slot in their brain where they shine, brilliantly.

      I feel unequal to a fine well thought out response. So let me share one more bit:


      I made this right after you left with the rubber stamps you picked up for me. I will never be able to take Depp, Burton, or Criminal minds seriously again!

      Cheers to you!

      1. Oh, yeah, to be 22 again. Oh, wait, I’m still trying to get out of puberty. That you laughed when I made a crass comment about your friend’s suicide…that was the beginning. And to know the LORI, is the best!

      1. We can still write; I think the Weekly World News is online. Batboy, here we come!
        “Aspies from aspirin” is good, but I really like Spectrum Sapien. They’re the best!

  4. I love love and the beauty it brings to the world. I love the beauty of art, the beauty of words, the beauty of insights and the beauty of friendship. This post brings it all together in the beauty of Lori and Pat.

    1. Thank you Charlotte.

      Perfectly succinct. I will be an old, old, woman, rocking in a chair and appreciating the wonder of friendship. I am grateful to share and blessed to touch.


  5. Oh this is so wonderful! And I loved reading the exchange between you and Pat! It was like one of those DVD’s with deleted scenes!! You’re “doodles” are fantastic, absolutely beautiful. I LOVE them. Little works of art!!

  6. Okay….first off…YOU are a BRILLIANT artist….your doodles are so wonderful. I love them. And what a cool friend. This is a great, great post. Hope it can help others. Loved it. 🙂

    1. Thank you Sam!

      I have wanted to be an “artist” since I was a little girl. Making abstract doodles makes the ten year old in me sing. I appreciate the kind words!


    2. Okay, I’m so blog stupid, I can’t figure out how to leave comments for you. But you give GREAT face!

    3. Okay, I’m stupid, and can’t figure out how to leave comments on your blog, but you give GREAT face!

    1. Thank you Annie. I appreciate your sincere words. People on the autism spectrum are awesome friends. I hope your boy finds someone worthy of the loyaty and purity he has inside him. Thanks for dropping by.

      Lori D.

  7. This is a private message for you. I am assuming you vet your comments before you post. I stumbled across this thread and was very inspired by your blog. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story of friendship. I found it so uplifting. I also was bowled over by your amazing art work.May I suggest you try drawing the Flower of Life? If you google it, there is a youtube video on how to do it with a compass. If I may be completely off the normality scale here, I wish to share my knowledge which is those with Aspergers are carrying enormous gifts for humanity. It is why you don’t follow the ‘normal’ bias mentality. Thank God for that…we all need your grounding outlook, free of judgements and full of kindness for others. Aspects of the Flower of Life Symbol is in your work already…you are drawing aspects of sacred geometry. Many with Aspergers are drawn to music and sacred shapes because these hold the keys to remembrance. I feel that is why many have the twitchy fingers they speak of. The Flower of Life can be drawn and coloured in and then looked at with a soft eye and meditated on. You will see shapes appearing. It is mesmerising and also very calming tool to still the mind. I do hope this helps. If not, please forgive the intrusion. I send my love and angel blessings to you. Much Love Claire xxx

    1. Thank you Claire! Forgive the later response, I was on vacation and balancing the internet and my rowdy son was a bit overwhelming!

      I appreciate you stopping by and leaving me with so many interesting thoughts and nice words! You are absolutely correct about the Flower of Life Symbol. Circular, swirling patterns are soothing and trance-worthy. Life unfolds from mathematics and repetition, it is part of a deeper universal well, the meaning of which can be elusive, but always comforting.

      Thank you for dropping by, Claire. I will doodle with more mindfulness in the future! 🙂


  8. Your doodles are GORGEOUS! Thanks for the post, I’m going to retweet it and direct the folk I know (who are neither bloggers or Tweeters) to it. You put it all so well xx

    I’m a “flapper & tapper” and when very happy/excited I tip toe at speed 🙂


  9. This is such a wonderful post! I have a few close aspie friends and I feel grateful and blessed to be a part of their lives every single day 🙂 I wanted to share something with you after reading the comments about the Flower of Life. I’m not sure if this will interest you at all but I figured it might 🙂 If you have a microphone or webcam with a mic, you can grow your own “meditation flowers” simply by speaking or singing

    Much love!



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