“Humans are social species and we rely on connections to survive. Even the most basic interactions keep us alive. “
– 13 Reasons Why

Social deficits among teens and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder involves poor social communication; this includes problems with topic initiation, use of repetitive themes, one-sided conversations, difficulty providing relevant information, making unexpected leaps in topics, difficulty interpreting verbal and non-verbal social cues, poor social awareness, poor social motivation and poor social cognition. There problems get worse if they are avoided.

Due to problems with poor social communication, teens and young adults face social neglect and isolation. This means that they are seen as shy by others, withdrawn, go unnoticed and appear anxious and/or depressed. Peer rejection may also occur so these individuals may experience teasing and bullying, unsuccessful attempts to socially engage others, bad reputation and impulse control disorders like ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). In addition, peer conflicts can occur so these individuals will engage in arguments that may result in ending of a friendship. Lastly, those impacted by social deficits will lack close reciprocal friendships and poor overall quality of friendships which all leads to greater loneliness.

Loneliness is a significant factor to consider when examining the “how and why” of human feelings and behaviors in terms of making and sustaining friendships. Loneliness is not a good feeling; it is unpleasant and stems from the desire of wanting relationships.

Why is it so important to have friendships? The research shows that having one or two close friends predicts later adjustment in life and can serve as buffer when big stressful life events happen. Friendships correlate positively with self-esteem and independence while not having friendships correlates negatively with depression and anxiety. Furthermore, peer rejection is one of the strongest predictors of mental health problems, delinquent behavior, poor academic performance, early withdrawal from school, substance abuse and suicidal ideation and attempts. Another downside of peer rejection among teens is that they are less socially competent, have fewer friendships and less peer support. However, for teens that are accepted by peers, friendships are known to protect against victimization.

Social skills training is very common for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and unfortunately there are few programs for teens and young adults. Teens and young adults should not be forgotten and there is hope now with the development of UCLA Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills PEERS® . The UCLA PEERS® was originally developed at UCLA by Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson, Founder and Director of the UCLA PEERS® Clinic, and Dr. Fred Frankel in 2005. PEERS® is a manualized, social skills training intervention for youth with social challenges. It has a strong evidence-base for use with adolescents and young adults with autism spectrum disorder, but is also appropriate for preschoolers, adolescents, and young adults with ADHD, anxiety, depression, and other socio-emotional problems.

Based in Southern California in beautiful Newport, CA, here at Social Growth Center, we can help teens and young adults struggling with making and keeping friends. Topic of instruction includes:

  • How to use appropriate conversational skills
  • How to choose appropriate friends
  • How to appropriately use electronic forms of communication
  • How to appropriately use humor and assess humor feedback
  • How to start, enter and exit conversations between peers
  • How to organize successful get-togethers with friends
  • How to be a good sport when playing games/sports with friends
  • How to handle arguments and disagreements with friends and in relationships
  • How to handle rejection, teasing, bullying, rumors/gossip, and cyber bullying
  • How to change a bad reputation

Learn more about enrolling with PEERS here.

Dr. Lucy Vo, Clinical Psychologist
PSY #29458