Dating someone different from you
A constant complaint among the individuals interviewed for this piece is the misconception that people with autism can't express love or care for others.“I think a lot of times someone will go out on a date with someone on the spectrum and think they’re a robot,” said Alex Plank, founder of Wrong Planet.net, a popular online autism community.“For guys on the spectrum it's a one-way thing,” said Robison.“We can be interested, but have no way to tell if they're interested in us.”Some women with autism may ultimately have an edge in the dating world.
“A big smile can also be frightening.”Neuro-typical people often take flirting for granted as a fairly organic, coy, and even fun back-and-forth, but for someone with autism, it is really a complex, nonsensical interaction. It seems like a waste of time,” said Plank, who worked on with Laugeson to teach his Wrong Planet community members how to flirt.For example, while a "neuro-typical" person might think a bar is great place for a first date, it could be one of the worst spots for someone on the spectrum.Dorsey Massey, a social worker who helps run dating and social programs for adults with various intellectual disabilities, explained, “If it's a loud, crowded place, an individual on the spectrum may be uncomfortable or distracted.” Sensory issues may also make certain lights and noises especially unpleasant.“We know people with autism think very concretely,” said Laugeson.“Social skills can be abstract behavior that's difficult to describe, but we try to break it into concrete steps.” For example, PEERS will take the seemingly mundane, but actually complex act of flirting and translate it into a step-by-step lesson.
The aspects of autism that can make everyday life challenging—reading social cues, understanding another's perspectives, making small talk and exchanging niceties—can be seriously magnified when it comes to dating.