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To Sam

Feeling different

Dear Sam,

I have a condition called autism. Recently it has been making me feel more different than usual. I want to fit in with friends, but often feel that I can't because of my autism. I feel like I have to change myself to fit. Everyone talks about this wonderful 'normality,' but I don't really know what that is. Is anyone normal?

I just want to be an average teenager that is able to fit in without having to change herself for others. I want to do things that other people my age are able to do but I find difficult such as going shopping with friends and attending parties and sleepovers. Lots of girls I know do these things and sometimes I feel left out. I'm in there classes so why don't they invite me too? I feel a bit like a bystander looking in on other peoples fun and feeling slightly detached from others my age.

Do you have any tips on how to make friends, have fun and staying positive? Or anything on autism or social skills tips, or websites that I can go to also?

Many thanks,
E* (a nickname)

Ask Sam


Hi E*,

Autism can affect how somebody has relationships and communicates with others. And with the right help, people with autism can have active social lives and enjoy spending time with friends. Some people with autism find that it can help to read about social skills. 

What’s “normal” is different for everyone. In fact, there isn't really any such thing as "normal" - because everyone is different. Sometimes having autism can make people feel different, like everybody else knows “the rules” in social situations. This doesn’t mean that people with autism can’t be included and enjoy getting to know other people. 

Whether somebody has autism or not, most of us have experienced a situation when we’ve felt left out. You said that you’d like to be able to be part of things, without having to change who you are. You deserve respect and you are important as you are. True friends don’t expect you to change yourself to fit in with what other people are doing. 

Have a think about the sorts of things you enjoy doing and the sorts of people you’d like to get to know or spend time with. Making friends can be helped along by having things in common that you enjoy doing together or talking about. Having the same interest, like learning singing for example, means that there’s a way of starting off a conversation with somebody. You could say, “Are you enjoying learning the new song?” You could do this with other things you might have in common - like sport, TV shows or books.

Our message boards are a safe space for young people to talk with each other. You can share ideas and experiences with each other. There’s a section on Learning Difficulties, where many young people with autism have talked about how autism affects them. Perhaps you could have a look on there to find out more about what they’re saying and what they’ve found helpful.

You could also take a look on the National Autistic Society’s website for more information about social skills and meeting people, or on the Young Minds website. Other people with autism need a bit more help with this and there are courses available to help you to learn about how to socialise and communicate with other people. You can call the National Autistic Society’s helpline on 0808 800 4104 for information about courses like this.

Please remember that if you’d like to talk this through some more, you can speak with a ChildLine counsellor.  Thank you very much for taking the time to write to me. I know that there are lots of young people with autism who use ChildLine and reading your message will have helped them too. You did really well to get in touch.

Take care,

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