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Navigating the Dating World for Adults with Autism | Blog

This guest post is from Sonal, a speech language pathologist from Los Angeles.

Acceptance in society and being able to function at a normal level is the key to building relationships, dating, marrying and starting a family for adults with autism and adults with Asperger's Syndrome. The biggest challenge these adults face is that they are perceived as not seeking emotions, love and are categorized as being insensitive. On the contrary, they are often rich with emotions, but just don’t know how to express them.

I happen to have become friends with Joel, a 29-year-old on the spectrum. Upon one of our discussions, he said he desires a romantic relationship and painstakingly prepares for dates but often encounters failure. He added, “No matter how much planning and preparation I do, it’s often difficult for me to sense and understand whether the other person is interested or not. Hence, the prospect of being in love and seeking love is beyond reach for me.”

I also noticed that he had a hard time differentiating between a stare and a fleeting glance, a smile and a continuous extended smile, a touch and a hug, which could be considered as a part of expression or an important aspect of being in a relationship. Due to the sensory difficulties with tolerating physical affection (hugs and kisses), it’s difficult for him to express his feelings readily.

Understanding jokes and also behaving in a particular way in a specific setting when on a date habe also been challenges. He was often misled or he misinterpreted friendliness as subtle cues of interest.

While sharing his experience, he said he was often intimidated by the girl and due to his lack of confidence, at times this aggravated the situation further. Anxiety often took over, especially when things didn’t go as per the plan. Over time, he has learned to be socially interactive. There are still times when he completely wants to be alone with his thoughts and enjoy his own company.

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