Autism And Socialization

Loneliness and Friendship in High-Functioning Children with Autism

Autism is considered a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) that results from a problem in the central nervous system, inhibiting proper development of social, speech and learning skills. The article by Bauminger and Kasari, called “Loneliness and Friendship in High-Functioning Children with Autism,” discusses how autism impacts socialization and the understanding of friendship. High-functioning autistic people constitute approximately 30% of the autistic population, with the low often times overlapping with mental retardation (Bauminger, pg. 454). I chose this article to read and contribute to the content because

First, the findings of the study indicate that high-functioning autistic children do experience feelings of loneliness, implicating that they have an understanding of needing others and also have a basic desire for wanting to be involved with others. This finding challenges the notion that autistic people, particular high-functioning ones, prefer being alone and do not like interacting with others.

Second, the study looked at how autistic children define friendship and whether or not having friends lessened their experience of loneliness. Interestingly, the study showed that while non-autistic children experienced a correlation between number of friends and degree of loneliness, autistic children did not. This finding suggests that autistic children do not necessarily understand the connection between friendship and companionship (or lack of friendship and loneliness). In other words, the quality of friendships that autistic children experience may lead to less emotional connection and satisfaction for them. The author concludes saying that “these findings support the view that children with autism lack understanding of the emotional aspects of both loneliness and friendship.” (Bauminger, pg. 454).

The results of the Bauminger article suggest that more research needs to be conducted to determine how we might be able to better address the emotional life of autistic children. While teachers cannot control how autistic students process the emotional quality of friendships they have, they can have an impact on increasing opportunities for socialization. Teachers can encourage socialization through peer tutoring or other small group activities that allow students time to get to know one another more intimately. Structuring play time in work stations around the classroom can be another effective way for autistic children to interact with one another in small groups, fostering the development of friendships.


Bauminger, N. & Kasari, C. (2000). Loneliness and Friendship in High-Functioning Children with Autism. Child Development, 71 (2), 447 – 56.

Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog at Nighttime. Vintage, 2004.

**Note: This page is contributed by Allison Aboud