Establishing and maintaining friendships is frequently challenging for young people with autism spectrum conditions (ASC). However, few studies have explored influences on friendship development, meaning that knowledge of friendship formation processes remains limited at a critical point in social development. As friendship can impact on well-being and the success of educational inclusion, addressing this issue is important and timely. This study explores friendship among adolescents with ASC, and in particular the meaning and nature of friendship, including perceived influences on its development. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine participants: three adolescent students with ASC, a parent of each student and key teachers. Students were found to have an understanding of friendship, although parents often felt it was theoretical and did not correlate with their own experiences. All of the students expressed a desire for friendship and reported having experienced loneliness. Friendships tended to centre on structured activities such as computer games, which provided both support and obstacles for friendship development. Further individual and contextual influences included levels of maturity, understanding of social rules, school environment and peer acceptance. The implications of these findings are discussed in relation to research and practice in educational settings.
- resource provision
- secondary education