Perceptions of friendship among children with high-functioning autism and typically developing children



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Typically developing children’s friendships involve functions of intimacy, reciprocity, and affection. These functions may not be the same for children with high-functioning autism (HFASD). Therefore, children with HFASD may perceive and define friendship differently than that of typically developing children. The present study sought to examine the potential differences between definitions of friendship between these two populations. Two scales were used to examine these differences: traditional and nontraditional. The traditional scale includes characteristics previously identified by typically developing children (e.g., those that exemplify intimacy and reciprocity) and those considered nontraditional may be more representative of characteristics identified by children with HFASD (e.g., parallel play and similar interests). These scales were combined to form the Friendship Perception Scale. Thirty-four children participated in this study. Children were interviewed using the Friendship Perception Scale. The scale was used with a sociometric style assessment in which children answered by placing cards in cans designated yes, maybe, and no. The Friendship Perception Scale was found to be reliable (α = .80). Analyses found that typically developing children endorsed both the traditional and nontraditional characteristics of friendship. Children with HFASD also unanimously endorsed three traditional characteristics of friendship. The present study found that these traditional characteristics may be limiting the idea of what friendships are in typically developing children and excluding potential friendship in children with HFASD.



High-functioning autism, Friendship, Typically developing children