On some level, we’re all searching for love and a connection. For those on the Autism spectrum, the path to love is not always linear; their journey towards love may look a little different.
According to the CDC, Autism Spectrum Disorder is estimated to affect 1 in 59 children. Autism spectrum disorder refers to a range of conditions characterized by some degree of impaired social interactions and communication habits, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour and interests. This can greatly affect the way in which they approach dating. On that note, there are a number of misconceptions surrounding those on the spectrum. On the Dating and Relationship Show, I brought in therapist Dori Zener and filmmaker and Autism advocate Evan Mead to talk about these misconceptions and understand what it’s truly like to date as an individual on the spectrum. I believe this conversation is an important one; everyone deserves to be loved, respected and understood…for all their unique quirks, not in spite of them.
Some of the characteristics those on the spectrum might inhabit:
– They can really get in the zone – their focus and attention to detail can often be next level. They can thus develop skills at a high level.
– They can have out of the box thinking – their perspective of the world may greatly differ from the masses.
– They can be deeply empathetic – one of the most harmful stereotypes about those on the spectrum is that they lack empathy, which is hugely false.
One thing to note, as stated by Dori: “If you’ve met person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” While many share similar characteristics, they are all unique individuals.
These characteristics may result in social challenges – they may have a hard time reading signals, maintaining eye contact, understanding the right time to initiate conversation, understanding what the other person might be feeling, knowing how to carry a reciprocal conversation. You can have both introverts and extroverts on the spectrum – often many assume that those on the spectrum are always the quiet one, which is not true. Many will often struggle to understand sarcasm, humour. The biggest takeaway – so many individuals on the spectrum mask or camouflage their social differences so expertly that it can often be difficult to even recognize the fact that they have autism. It truly varies from person to person. No one person is exactly alike.
So while dating can often bring about challenges for an individual on the spectrum, it’s important for them to know that they should never feel the need to wear a mask and hide their unique characteristics from the person they are involved with. You need to feel comfortable with that person, which means being authentic to who you are.
A huge reason as to why dating is often a struggle is due to missed opportunities. Someone of the spectrum may miss a lot of initial cues that allude to the beginnings of romance or flirtation. They can’t recognize the signals, and if they do, they may struggle with knowing how to respond in like.
For more information about dating with autism, be sure to check out our episode on the The Dating and Relationship Show. There is so much stigma surrounding those on the spectrum, and our goal is to clarify those harmful mindsets and show appreciation for those on the spectrum. And if you’re an individual with autism struggling to meet someone, have hope. There is someone out there for everyone, and there are resources out there to help you.