Autism Relationships

Parallel Play

I read an article recently that talked about “parallel play” as it is used by adult autistics.

Parallel play is when one is in the company of others and each engages in an activity without much interaction between individuals. Each person may be in the presence of others but is solitary in the nature of what ever activity they are doing. Small children may use parallel play on the playground, for example, one on a swing, one on the climbing or bouncing structures, all seeing each other enjoy activities but not actually interacting. For most kids, that part of play is mostly replaced by interactive, organized games or pretend scenarios, tag, playing hospital or house for example, as they grow older.

In our household we 2 are content to each read a book in the same room, or even in different rooms, or to use the computer, do crafts, or other things individually, but knowing the other is there seems to add comfort or to be companionable without the need to interact.

We may go for most of the day without speaking more than a few sentences to each other. We rarely discuss emotions (almost never!) nor do we often play board games or card games or participate in similar activities together.

Usually even meal prep and eating is solitary. Once a week we may cooperate on a communal meal where we do at least part of the preparation together and we sit down and eat at the same table at the same time.

When we had our family, we always ate meals together but since the young ones have flown the nest, our health needs dictate specific and mostly different diets. It is too much work to figure out things we both can have and coordinate meals so that our metabolic schedules and caloric needs are addressed, etc.,ideas%2C%20opinions%2C%20or%20emotions.

There is growing recognition that autistic individuals are quite capable of having relationships but that the communication and interactive structure of such relationships may differ vastly from “the norm”.

Do you practice friendship and closer relationships using “parallel play” ?

I recognized that the successful interactions I reported in one of my recent blog and the friendships I found then were based on parallel play and information sharing.

More research needs to be done to learn the best modes of relating to autistic individuals. Instead of “teaching” us how to interact as neurotypical, and expecting our relationships to be based on neurotypical behaviors and “social norms” , there needs to be better understanding of what forms of relating and interacting are most comfortable and useful to those of us who are autistic.

Communication and relationships are best for relationships when not completely one sided.

3 thoughts on “Autism Relationships

  1. Our relationship seems quite similar to yours, with the exception of meals. These we always share as we’re fortunate in not having different dietary needs. As we come from very different backgrounds – she from rural Japan and myself from suburban New Zealand – we’ve come to delight in the fusion of the two styles of cuisine. It’s during the preparation and consumption of meals that most of our communication occurs. At other times we persue our own interests and hobbies separately but in each others company.


  2. This is so interesting and describes my relationship with my husband almost to a T. We choose to read, watch TV, go online and do crafts or hobbies each in separate rooms. We do eat dinner together every night, but we both read at the table. There is some conversation as well, at table, depending on the day and mood, but usually it is mainly companionable reading. In the evening, we each take breaks to come into the other’s space for hugs and to chat if we want or need to. We do this two or three times a day, and we also share a bedroom. We take an evening walk together as well, but there’s not a lot of chatting, usually.
    I’m glad to learn about this shared autistic way of living!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What relationships? I haven’t had one in 20 years. I have to learn to do without. I never meet or satisfy their “requirements”. I’ve stopped wasting time and energy on futile pursuits!


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