Updated: Jun 6
Some on the autism spectrum strongly prefer sticking "like glue" to a supportive person when in a group. Picture the little girl at preschool who follows the teacher around the classroom all day rather than joining her peers. Consider the eight-year-old boy who sticks so close to his grandpa Jo that he becomes widely known as "Jo's shadow."
"Facilitated social interaction" is the term used to describe the guided navigation of social situations. Many autistic adults seek facilitated interactions at social gatherings and will try to make sure a friend is always present in groups.
Mary was a successful attorney who excelled with the business side of her work responsibilities. However, her boss also expected her to attend occasional social events to build relationships with clients. She felt lost at these events because there was no particular topic or structure. Mary wasn't sure what her role was supposed to be.
Luckily for Mary, another attorney at the firm named Janet often attended the same gatherings. Mary began to watch Janet and mimic her behavior. Eventually, Mary was able to create a "social" character for work events and adopt that persona even when Janet was absent. Mary was grateful when she finally felt competent enough to wear this social mask and fit in better at work, but she continued to suffer from the drain of "acting" in front of others.