Best friends don’t have to be human I remember my best friend at school. Someone I used to look forward to seeing every day, someone I used to share my secrets with, sit with at lunchtime and even play with after school. I was always good at making friends. My daughter has autism, and the thing she struggles with most of all is socialising. Whenever other children are around her she becomes very anxious and often will cry or get upset. She does not really have a friend other than her brother and me. From the outside, it looks as if she prefers her own company. Deep down though, I often wonder if actually she does want to have friends, I know she gets anxious and upset, but could it be the fact that she does not know how to make friends and that other people can be unpredictable in a world where she needs everything predictable. Often with autism, people assume that autistic people do not like having friends and this, I feel, is not true. I believe people with autism want a friend as much as the next person, but they just find it hard to understand the social cues. They find it hard to see another person’s point of view, which can make it difficult sustaining a friendship. As a parent, I worry constantly that she is feeling lonely at school. I worry that she is unhappy or that she really wants a friend and that no one will play with her or she does not know how to play with others. What my daughter does have though is a special bond with our pet kittens. Six months ago, we bought the kittens, my daughter has always loved animals, from the second she saw them, I could see the love she had for them. Every morning, she runs to give the kittens a hug, she runs around with some string for them to chase, and gives them a cuddle before she leaves for school – this is big as my daughter rarely gives cuddles to people. Now the kittens are older and are able to go out, the kittens follow my daughter and me when we walk to school, they walk right beside my daughter, up to the school gates. Then they go back home. When I pick my daughter up, the kittens are waiting at the door, they rub their heads against her and she picks them both up for a cuddle. I see the joy in my daughter’s eyes at seeing them. I see the smile on her face. The happiness just flows from her. My daughter again will pull a string around for the kittens to chase, until they are so tired they fall asleep! When the kittens fall asleep on the sofa, my daughter has a lie down next to them, usually the kittens will get up and move as close to my daughter as possible and purr whilst she strokes them. My daughter adores the kittens, she has a true friendship and bond with them that she finds so difficult to have with humans, what makes it even better is that the kittens seem to understand my daughter. When my daughter is upset or stressed, the kittens sit by her. My daughter finds it difficult to sleep, and it can take a lot of hard work to get her to stay in bed. When I put her in bed, the kittens sit on the floor next to the bed, and they do this until she falls asleep. Having the kittens nearby seems to help her to settle – although we are still working on keeping her asleep at night! As much as it upsets me to see my daughter doesn’t have any human friends, I feel so blessed that she has a friend to call her own – whatever the species! This is one of Yasmin’s first blogs. You can follow her Facebook page Sugar, Spice and all things Autism to find out more.