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!