Autism dating can be quite a daunting and challenging part of growing up for both the people with autism and their parents. People that are on the autism spectrum often misread body language, lack scripting and appropriate skills to initiate relationships, and cannot always communicate what is on their minds.
Activities like speed dating can cause an individual’s sensory system to overreact. This could be due to potential loud noises and music, flashing lights, and abrupt changes.
Intense interests that are commonly found in autistic individuals can also deter a potential partner because they are based on the person’s own needs and interests. A particular interest or topic could take over the overall conversation before they realize something is the matter because the other person will no longer talk or be interested.
The need to connect with others in this world is important to everyone, including those within the autistic community. While many people are able to spend time and really connect with a person while maintaining the social norms necessary to date, this can be difficult for an autistic person. However, this can be remedied quickly once they are made aware and can practice the skills necessary.
Relationship challenges for those on the autism spectrum
A common misconception by many is that an autistic person is unable to have a romantic relationship. It is thought that they are not self aware enough and lack the social skills to connect and make the big time decisions necessary for a potential date.
That is the furthest thing from the truth. There are people on the autism spectrum that could make their main interest dating and the one person they have a committed relationship with.
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Individuals with high functioning autism may be interested in online dating or even a double date with a trusted friend. It is important to talk to autistic people about online safety and have a protocol in place to keep them safe.
This is true for autistic teens as well as adults. With all the electronic communication available, there are dangers that need to be taught.
Is it hard to date someone with autism?
There is a show on Netflix called Love On The Spectrum, which follows young autistic adults as they navigate relationships, dating, and falling in love. There are individuals that have a meaningful connection and form a committed relationship after their dating relationship takes the next step.
Difficult moments when making eye contact, understanding certain situations and feelings, and maintaining conversation were difficult. There was one date where a cast member, Michael, goes on his first date and is asking his date questions. She becomes overwhelmed and the date is ended, leaving Michael wondering if he did something wrong.
Having a level of self awareness and an awareness of the surroundings and the other person on the date is difficult even for neurotypical people, so when it comes to people with autism, having romantic relationships can be a challenge. This can lead people to think that dating someone with autism is challenging.
An interview by Hurlbutt and Chalmers with an adult male on the autism spectrum indicated that the man felt he “drove away” women because of how often he called them and didn’t recognize their feeling like they were being harassed. It can only take a moment of misunderstanding feelings and body language that can lead to feelings of harassment, affecting the dating life of autistic people.
Things can change pretty quickly when boundaries have been crossed or interest has been lost. Keeping a partner interested is as simple as keeping the flow back and forth and listening to what the other person is saying.
Dating tips for people with autism
Please try to remember each autistic person is as different as a fingerprint and should not be generalized. Autism and dating can go hand in hand as long as both individuals understand the needs of each other and good intentions are maintained.
Advice could be helpful from a trusted family member or friend. Even having a double date with a friend could help keep the focus on the date and the communication flowing.
Having a general education for a successful relationship, starting the education and training with elementary aged children, and moving up to understanding other people and what is considered appropriate and inappropriate are skills for life. This can start at home with families talking about how to treat a family member and how those relationships affect each other.
Moving forward, teaching autistic teens about the importance of good personal hygiene and how it affects their lives is a starting point. Also, how they interact with others and discussing their feelings helps prevent misunderstandings.
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Explaining the changes they are experiencing and that they are normal helps alleviate the stress of the unknown. Also having the knowledge that everyone in the world goes through changes makes going through them a little easier, for some.
Some skills that could be taught and discussed with autistic adults, in reference to romantic relationships and dating, are to find a partner that is interested in the same topics they are. In addition to learning different cues and social norms, autistic people could learn and understand more about limits in love and, at the same time, interests of another person and a potential partner.
Autism flirting tips to keep people’s interest
Here are some top tips for people on the spectrum looking to ace flirting!
- Always be yourself
- Make eye contact, but don’t stare
- Smile often
- Talk to the other person and figure out their interests
- Be aware of your surroundings, stay in well lit, public places
- Don’t expect too much from the first date, you’re still getting to know each other
- Don’t stress, relax and enjoy the experience
- Have fun
Dating websites and resources for people with autism
Relationships can be difficult enough without all the social pressures that are always present. Dating websites and apps are a way to help alleviate some of the stress a person with autism can feel when seeking a potential romantic relationship.
It is important to note the importance of safe interactions through the internet, apps and in person. The individual should be aware of their limits, always pay attention to what is going on, go on a group date with someone they are just meeting, and meet in a public and well lit area while they are getting to know one another.
Dating websites and apps
Some dating apps and resources potential daters on the spectrum might want to research and consider utilizing include (among others):
The thought of romantic relationships and finding that one person can be a point of interest to a person on the spectrum. Before they start making use of dating websites and apps though, it is essential to make sure they have the skills necessary for interactions with other people, including a partner- knowing boundaries and limits, and safety protocols while dating can keep the date light and fun.
Safe dating practices
There are many tips and tricks to stay safe during a date. They are simple and ensure that the autistic individual going on a date knows what precautions to take that can help maintain their safety and have a plan in place for the just in case scenarios.
- Tell friends and family where the date will be and who will be there – Letting people know where the establishment is and who all will be there is a great way to stay safe because then the family members and/or friends will know when to expect the individual back home and can check on them
- Ensure each person has their own transportation – Not needing to rely on someone else that a person hardly knows for transportation to and from a date can keep them safer and having their own transportation allows for more freedom in the date
- Meet in a public, well lit and safe spot – It is never a good idea to go to someone else’s home that they don’t really know or somewhere where there are not a lot of people, being safe means staying where a person can be seen
- Always watch food and drinks – When around people, in general, it is always a good idea to keep check of food and drinks and to never leave them unattended
- Don’t drink too much – Staying sober, paying attention, and always knowing what is going on helps an individual stay safe
- Go with a trusted friend or group – Going with a group of people can keep intentions light and not add unnecessary expectations to the date
- Have mace or other personal protection – It is always a good idea to have a small can of mace (if you live in a country where it is legal), and know how to properly use it, a whistle, cellphone, or other loud alarm in the event they are needed
- Always tell the truth about oneself – It is never a good idea or acceptable to lie about age or other attributes that a person may be expecting when they meet for a date
- Don’t overshare personal information – Not sharing an address, workplace, time when one is alone etc, is important when getting to know someone
- Check the person out on Google or social media – There is a lot of free information available about a person through Google and social media outlets, it allows someone to get a feel for a person before meeting them
It can be a lot of fun to go out on a date, but making sure to maintain personal safety while getting to know each other is key. Following the simple tips and tricks above can help with safety and always having a cell phone or smart watch can add more safety allowing people to relax and have fun together.
Dating on the spectrum can be fun
Nerves and the unknown can really take away from the experience of dating for anyone. If an autistic individual has the right supports in place, like Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) or social skills groups, and is taught relationship building skills like conversation and learning boundaries, dating can be a fun and safe way to meet a future partner.
Knowing what their interests are and what they have for goals will help an autistic person find a partner that could lead to more down the road. As long as they have the support they need in place and are willing to learn as they go when meeting people, there will be plenty of fun to be had.
Working on the skills and knowing goals and what they have planned for their future could help the individual with autism know what kind of partner they are looking for. Being authentic with themselves and their date is the best way to start an experience and for it to be what they are expecting.
Always keep in mind the environment of the date and if the other person has sensory aversions or is neurodiverse in their own way. Knowing these things and being ready for them before the date can help make sure that things are comfortable for everyone.
Sitting down and talking to a parent, counselor, ABA technician, or individual they trust can not only help the individual figure out what they are looking for, it can also help them build further on the social aspect of their being. As long as the individual knows about internet and date safety, knows what they are expecting, and what is and is not acceptable behavior and talk during a date, they can have the time of their lives and have experience with romantic relationships.
Hsu, K. & Mogavero, M. (2019). Dating and Courtship Behaviors Among Those with Autism Spectrum Disorder.https://www.researchgate.net/publication/332365560_Dating_and_Courtship_Behaviors_Among_Those_with_Autism_Spectrum_Disorder
Long, S. (2017). 10 Dating Safety Rules that could Save Your Life. https://www.sheknows.com/health-and-wellness/articles/814219/10-rules-for-dating-safety-1/ Organization for autism research. https://researchautism.org/sex-ed-guide-dating-101/