Proof Positive wants to thank Nick Bruno – a peer mentor and friend to two autistic teenagers – for contributing this post to our blog. In reflecting on his friendship, this is a must read on National Best Friend Day!

Throughout high school, fitting in was a constant source of anxiety for me. Often, I changed the way I acted to appeal to those who I deemed important. I wouldn’t express my feelings if I believed they would be unpopular, and I certainly didn’t strive to stand out among my peers. The way I appeared to others dictated many aspects of my life, and others’ approval became my main source of confidence. 

When I first became a peer mentor of Dylan and Sebastian – two autistic teens in my hometown who were family friends – I carried many of these old feelings from high school. My first time meeting Sebastian, I was worried about similar things, like if he thought I was cool or interesting. While for some time these thoughts worried me, as soon as I met Sebastian, they were entirely thrown out the window—he was so accepting and welcoming. As soon as I walked in the door, he greeted me and asked me if I wanted to hang out with him. He was quick to show off his extensive collection of Wii videogames with an enthusiastic smile. It immediately became clear to me that he didn’t care about how I looked or how many friends I had, but simply wanted to be around someone he could call a friend. 

When Sebastian fully accepted me for who I was, I was finally able to be my true self without worrying about how I may be perceived. Sebastian made it easy to have a good time, and his kindness enabled me to be relaxed and fully enjoy the time I spent with him. I stopped worrying about whether he thought I was cool or interesting, and instead focused on being kind and a good friend. I would later get to experience these same feelings when I was introduced to Dylan. Like Sebastian, Dylan emanated a sense of warmth and openness. I was able to fully enjoy the time I spent with him because of his outgoing nature. Whether the three of us are rock climbing, getting ice cream, or jumping on a trampoline, we always make the most of our time together. Combined, the two of them have given me some of the most enjoyable moments of my high school years. 

The time I have spent with Dylan and Sebastian has completely changed my outlook on friendships, and taught me many valuable life lessons, like how to be a more open person who takes pride in themselves and what they believe in. They have given me self-confidence, and I now know that one of the most important parts of making friends is being yourself. Overall, in the short time I’ve known Dylan and Sebastian, they have enabled me to improve my relationships with both my friends and myself.

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