Autism and Social Development

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Stephen McHugh (00:21):
Hi there and welcome to episode 10 of the Stephen's Evolution podcast. I'm Stephen McHugh. I have Asperger's, a form of autism, and I make fortnightly episodes based on my lived experiences with the condition. Through these episodes, I aim to provide help and hope to others with the condition along with those who may support them.

Stephen McHugh (00:49):
I've already done episodes based on recognizing the signs of Asperger's in the family and at school. In addition, I've done episodes based on my learning at school, and what helped me along with my experiences in the workplace. So be sure to check out those episodes if you wish, and are interested in learning about my experiences and taking tips and how they may help you. If this is the first time you've joined me, a very warm welcome to you. In this episode, I'm going to talk about social and communication skills.

Stephen McHugh (01:32):
I'll be talking about the development of communication and social skills through my personal experiences with Asperger's. To begin with, I'm going to explain about the importance of good communication and social skills and what they are. Communication skills relate to the way we communicate with one another. We can do this by speaking to one another or by nonverbal means. Nonverbal can refer to different forms of body language and voice tones.

Stephen McHugh (02:09):
Through recognising various forms of body language, we can guess what another person might be thinking or the way in which they may be feeling about something. Through voice tones, we may be able to make judgements about whether someone's joking about something or being serious about it. Just through communicating with one another that we can develop our communication skills further. That is by building our vocabulary, establishing new links with other people and making new connections.

Stephen McHugh (02:48):
Networking can help provide us with things like job leads. If during a conversation with anybody we hear about the progress somebody else has made in a particular project that they're carrying out and being successful with it, we can then feel inspired and motivated to do our own thing and give us hope that we can be successful in our own right. Having sound communication and social skills can help with teamworking skills.

Stephen McHugh (03:22): 
I talk about this during my episode of Asperger's in the workplace and how I was able to communicate effectively about what needed to be done for any particular task. So yes, sound communication and social skills can help us to progress positively in our lives leading to happiness and successful futures. Potentially with our friends, we can celebrate birthdays together along with other important milestones and achievements in our lives.

Stephen McHugh (04:03):
They can also help to make things easy for us whenever we need help with anything in particular. These are some of the things I got better at understanding as my social and communication skills improved over time. For those of us on the autistic spectrum, we can struggle with social situations and communicating with others. We can struggle with recognising various forms of body language and voice tones. We may struggle to work out whether somebody is being serious or just joking or using a person's body language to make a judgment about what they're thinking or how they may be feeling about something.

Stephen McHugh (04:56):
For lots of you out there, social and communication skills can be developed by you instinctively. For me, over time I've had to do a lot of learning about social and communication skills and how to overcome any obstacles.

Stephen McHugh (05:16):
At junior school, I would find it relatively easy to form friendships with others in my class and in years around me. This was helped by the fact that the school created a culture which I now feel was beneficial in other children being more accepting of me. I would go out on bike rides with other children and get invited to my fair share of birthday parties.

Stephen McHugh (05:47):
At secondary school, as the years went by for me there, it got increasingly difficult for me to form friendships and I would not have anyone in particular to hang around with during lunch and break times. You can find out something about this on my episode, Asperger's at School. Through my personal experiences, those of us on the autistic spectrum can have difficulties initiating and maintaining conversations. Another challenge can be knowing when to join in a conversation, especially when there are several going on with several groups of people at the same time.

Stephen McHugh (06:33):
Another matter I'd like to mention here is that those of us with autism can have difficulty interpreting various forms of body language. Consequently, we may therefore inadvertently offend people with inappropriate body language.

Stephen McHugh (06:54):
When it came to introducing ourselves to other people, I would always be reliant on another person making the first move. As I did not have the confidence to have a go initially myself, I was fearful of how I may be judged, especially if the other person noticed I was different In some way. You can find two blog posts. One is titled Autism and Bullying. Another is to do with how you can relate to a person with autism.

Stephen McHugh (07:29):
In addition, I would sometimes ask questions that I could probably work out solutions to for myself. I had the tendency to ask questions instead of just saying something. This may have been due to the fact that I lacked confidence in my own thoughts and potential solutions to questions for myself. I also liked to look at things from different angles, and I would wonder would things be the same.

Stephen McHugh (08:03): 
Another time I admit to eavesdropping in the past, which is to do with listening into other people's conversations. There would also be times when I would try too hard to fit in possibly linked to the fact that I wanted to feel part of a group.

Stephen McHugh (08:25):
Another thing I'd like to touch upon here is that those of us with autism can have difficulties recognising the signs in someone when they have lost interest in what we're talking about. It is here where I would find it easier if somebody said to me something like, enough of whatever it is you're talking about, let's talk about something else. This reminds me of another thing I wish to bring up. It is to do with how I overcame obstacles related to social situations and communication.

Stephen McHugh (09:06):
One thing I was told was to say something if I had an opinion of something, rather than just asking questions. It has been in my nature to be more inquisitive than just saying things. In the case of eavesdropping, I was told to say, excuse me, but I couldn't help overhearing what you are saying and I'd like to say something on the matter. Another thing I have struggled with is knowing when to, knowing when to contribute to a discussion without interrupting. One piece of advice I was given was to put my hand up as a way of letting the group know that I wanted to contribute to a particular discussion in the past.

Stephen McHugh (09:58):
One thing I had difficulty with was understanding the points of views of other people. One thing I learned was to listen to what other people were saying and understand from their point of view, and if I had anything to say based on what they were talking about, that's when I would give my opinion on whatever subject was being talked about. If you had knowledge from other sources of information, if you don't have anything to say on a matter that's being talked about, then it's best to remain quiet rather than just saying any old thing unrelated.

Stephen McHugh (10:41):
On my website, there is a blog post where you can find more information based on my personal experiences regarding forming and maintaining friendships in the social section. When I undertook an IT course after sixth form, one thing that concerned me was how I would mix with the other students on the course. During break times, I was given the advice to just go and sit with them and listen to what they say. I did this, and, after a while, the other students were happy for me to join in card games and conversations with them in the canteen. Evidence of my improvement in my social and communication skills was clearer during social outings with friends.

Stephen McHugh (11:34):
In combination with my increased knowledge of what was going on in the wider world, I found myself better able to engage in conversations by only saying things that were related to what my friends were talking about. If I had information from other sources, I found myself better able to understand and my confidence increasing in giving my opinions on matters being talked about. I learned that approaches like this would give the impression that you're a good listener.

Stephen McHugh (12:16):
By increasing your awareness of important events going on in the world, you'll likely increase your chances of being able to better converse in social situations. However, there can be times when social situations can be overwhelming, especially if there are lots of people about, as this can mean more in terms of noise. If I find that is the case with me, I go to somewhere like a quiet room, maybe do something I enjoy, like read a book on a subject that might interest me, or sit and listen to the sounds of nature outside. Or if the weather is nice, I could go out for a walk and do that.

Stephen McHugh (13:08):
You could sit in a quiet area, and wait until it has calmed down. With less people with smaller groups, I find it can be easier to join in activities and conversations. Despite this, I feel as though I am able to cope in most gatherings, especially with the underlying improvement in me over the years. Being exposed to social gatherings has for me, enabled me to see how to interact in social situations these places include in school and being out with friends.

Stephen McHugh (13:58):
And that's all there is for this episode. Thank you if you've made it this far. If you wish to give it a review or a rating, you can do this on a platform of your choice, including on Apple, Spotify, Podchaser, or Podcast Addict. You can also find links to me to my email on the footer of my website,, along with links to me on Twitter and Instagram.

Stephen McHugh (14:31):
And towards the footer of the homepage of my website. You can find a link to a page where you can sign up to receive news of newly released episodes. I'd be interested in hearing about any experiences of being in social situations and development in social skills. Goodbye for now and I'll talk to you all again soon. On the next episode, when I shall be talking about Asperger's and learning how to drive.

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