Often with autism, socialising for the sake of socialising seems pointless, and there needs to be a purpose for interaction with other people. So carrying out a task in the company of other people is one way of not becoming isolated. This might include a hobby club, a sporting activity, an environmental task in the community, learning a new skill, teaching or mentoring other students or getting a part-time job.
Having the company of people, and carrying out productive activities with them may be sufficient to prevent loneliness. If this is in a predictable, nonthreatening, non-judgemental environment, then trust will be built up, and companionship may extend to friendship with time.
If your son is standing off to one side, he may be observing and learning social skills, and may be working out whether any of his class mates are ‘suitable’ as potential friends. Alternatively, he may be watching people socialising and this may be emphasising their ‘differences’ to him and could be a bit demoralising.
Not all those with autism need a lot of friends, and this may be a time in his life when the benefits of avoiding activities in the company of teenagers outweigh the stress involved with doing so. Teenagers can be pretty full-on, and he may find it easier to make friends when everyone calms down a bit with age.
– Naomi Bishop