When something catches you off-guard, I think it is more shocking, harder to deal with and more lengthy to come back from. When something is common to us, we have the strategies to hand, the tone-of-voice autopilot mode ready to be pressed and the confidence that what you did last time will work again. My darling daughter has always found friendships a minefield and we have built up a fabulous box of tricks & strategies to help but, little did I know that as an adult, friendships could fail and fall so easily too.

I empathise hugely with my daughter over the slights, the injustices, the loneliness and the sheer bewilderment she feels when trying to make her way in to a group, join in a conversation or simply be part of something. I remember it all too well from my own school days and I think that is why every little heart-bruise she feels, I feel too. But, I thought those days were behind me, I have my fabulous core of pals, the people who just ‘know me’. Those who love my quirks and oddness and grumpiness and put up with me when I am mentally on another planet. I am very cautious, I take a while to warm up to new people, I am guarded but, once I let people in (and they have passed my mystical test of allegiance), they are in the inner circle forever – they are ‘keepers’.

However, there are the ‘fringe friends’ and they are the ones who have recently made me reevaluate who I need around me and who I do not.

‘Fringe friends’ are those people who you chat to on passing, pop out for a drink with, laugh at their jokes, share in their lives & generally have a ‘nice’ time with. Would I tell them my secrets? No. Would I really reveal how I am feeling instead of saying ‘I’m fine’? Nope, I am still guarded and I think I have good reason to be. We had an incident a few moths ago that started with my daughter and a friend. They were having a few problems so us grown-up parents met to discuss things. As part of the chat I commented on the difficulties my lovely girl can sometimes have with understanding friendships not to put blame on her but to try and get them to understand. They asked for a little more info about Autism, they said if I ever needed any help, just to let them know. ‘Wow’ I thought, that is refreshing.

Alas, alack, it wasn’t to be. One video suggestion (Amazing Things Happen ) and one book recommendation was seen as pushy, and it all ended with my daughter being told that this girl no longer wanted her to be her friend because…my daughter is autistic.

Once we had all managed to pick our jaws off the floor, hug, cry and strategise a way out of it, I told my daughter something that I think is a vitally important yet simple rule ‘A friend is someone who makes you feel great about yourself’.

But hey, this isn’t a negative post, there is a happy ending! Many members of our group talk about losing friends along the way for many, many different reasons but I can safely say that by meeting other autistic girls & their families, we have met more ‘keepers’ than ‘fringe friends’. So, embrace this incredible journey, educate yourself about autism & autistic people and build your group of ‘keepers’.

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