American author, Henry Van Dyke quoted, “A friend is what the heart needs all the time.” That is such an uplifting and true statement for many. Having a friend can heal a heart, help through rough times and even be the best kind of medicine. Though this sounds real simple to some, those who suffer from autism can find this very challenging.

Autism is a neurological disorder that makes communication difficult, this in turn makes social interaction very challenging. Going up to new people and making new friends is almost an impossible task on their own. It is very difficult in social environments because those with autism do not think like others. They can’t rely on abstract thinking as most do. Awkward silence or rolling your eyes probably will not get a reaction. They need a stricter, more solid way of thinking in situations. It is hard for them to pick up on such things like body language and facial expressions.

Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson created the program PEERS, which stands for Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills. This program teaches young adults how to interact in social situations. It has also been linked to help autistic students deal with bullying. This program is being used all over the world to help those who suffer from not only autism but other mental disorders.

Just because you suffer from autism or a mental disorder does not mean you should live life alone or feel like you can’t interact with others. It is very important for all individuals to have someone they can call a friend. It is also healthy for each to be able to thrive in social situations and feel a part of something. PEERS has been able to help many live out normal lives such as getting jobs and of course making friends.