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My friend seems autistic, what do I do?

September 23rd, 2021


For Allies, autistic adults

A community member asks whether there might be some support for their friend, who they think is autistic and undiagnosed. The more they learn, the better understanding they have. Amanda answers.

An unusual question, but I know someone who I think is autistic and undiagnosed, they are 62. They struggle with managing emotions, low self-esteem, holding a job, and understanding other people. They think there is something wrong with them and I want to help him see that differently and connect with peers. I’m wondering how I talk to them about it.

This is not an unusual request at all. Often when people learn more about autism, they can sometimes see people in their lives that may in fact be Autistic. It is very common, especially in older generations, to have gone undiagnosed. 

This can be a sensitive situation and without knowing the nature of your relationship I will offer some general thoughts to consider. 

  • What is your understanding of autism, and can you communicate about it in a positive, informative way?  
  • What are the person’s understanding/feelings surrounding autism?  
  • Would awareness about being autistic be beneficial for the person? (Financial supports etc.)
  • Is it possible to start introducing the idea in a general way, watching videos, webinars, talk radio etc. that can create organic opportunities for learning and conversation?
  • If you have identified things that may be helpful, like stress management strategies, can you model those or suggest them without having to connect them to a diagnosis?
  • Are there support groups or other autistic peers that you can suggest or introduce in an organic way?  

Self-awareness and discovery are challenging for everyone, and a lack of diagnosis or misdiagnosis can sometimes come with underlying trauma. However, you move forward to keep this person’s best interest leading the way. 

A great place to begin would be by connecting yourself with the autistic self-advocate community. They will have some valuable insights and experiences that may help guide your decisions. 

Our team receives many questions from the autism community each week and we strive to support each and every one of them by empowering them with knowledge and our lived experiences. You can reach out to our team here if you have questions or concerns, or if you simply need some guidance and support. 

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