Autism Spectrum

Launchpad

leaving school and leading your own life

Dating and relationships

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Like many parents, the writers of this website tend to curl up and die when it comes to thinking about our sons starting to have relationships with the opposite sex.

We know it’s an area fraught with tension for ALL young people, and often more so for young men and women who are on the autism spectrum.

As parents we worry about all sorts of issues: will our child ever find a partner, and even more simply, will they ever kiss?

Might they misunderstand the rules around dating and especially around sex and inadvertently get themselves into trouble, even with the law?

Could they upset or hurt a partner, even though their intentions are genuine and honest?

No wonder we worry.

There’s no doubt that the teenager or young person with autism spectrum that we love and care for will face some difficulties.

Often young people:

  • Don’t have many social connections, especially after leaving school, so it’s hard to find someone to date
  • Difficulties reading social cues from others, especially how to tell if someone is interested in them or not; don’t understand the “dating game”
  • Lack confidence and/or experience anxiety in social situations
  • Sensory difficulties, especially around touch and tolerating physical affection

 

What can parents and carers do to help?

On the Young People page of our Romance and dating section we have a list of ideas and tips. Parents can support their sons and daughters by brainstorming with them on places to meet potential boyfriends and girlfriends and then on practising the many skills needed to form and maintain romantic relationships.

We have also listed some videos in the young people section which give simple advice on flirting, dating and even kissing. If your son or daughter is receptive, it might be a good idea to watch these together and discuss them.

For those living in Sydney, Aspect is running a workshop on dating in Burwood on the 9th and 16th May. Click here for more information.

In addition to these ideas, there are some excellent books on these subjects and some resources online too – check out our list below.

 

Books

Preparing For Life by Dr Jed Baker

This excellent workbook has a section on dating with topics such as how to read signals and when to pursue a romantic relationship.

Jed baker book

Here is an extract from Google Books.

Making Sense Of Sex by Sarah Attwood

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This book has chapters on sexual health, sex and how to approach it.  Extracts from the book can be found here.

Asperger’s Syndrome and Sexuality: From Adolescence through Adulthood by Isabelle Henault

Isabelle henault book

This is a book and a sex educational programme on all aspects of sexuality, dating and forming sexual relationships for people on the spectrum. You can find further information here.

She offered these tips to help parents talk effectively with their teens:

  • Don’t use excessive and wordy explanations. Keep it simple.
  • Talk to your child about sexuality in a positive way, free of prejudice.
  • Use accurate terms and proper vocabulary, not childish substitutions.
  • Be concrete in your explanations.
  • Be sure your child develops a clear understanding of the concepts of consent, stalking, abuse and privacy.

 

Other resources

Have a look at this great information sheet on romantic relationships from AMAZE .

relationships amaze

You might also be interested in this newspaper article about dating on the spectrum from the United States.

Professor Tony Attwood, Psychologist, has also put together an article on relationships.

Believe it or not, WikiHow also has some interesting pages on flirting, kissing and getting a date.  These step by step pages can be just what our sons or daughters need.

 

If you are feeling like things are never going to come together for your son or daughter, remember dating is tricky for everyone but there is hope! Have a look at this video about a young couple with autism and how they manage their life together:

Living and Loving with Autism: news story of two people with ASD who are a couple. – David and Lindsey Embed code:

 If your son or daughter learns best with simple explanations and visual supports you might find the handout on friendships and dating from Shine SA helpful. You can download it here.

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