Dating & Relationship Tips for Young Adults with Autism & Learning Differences: Do’s and Don’ts
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Dating & Relationship Tips for Young Adults with Autism & Learning Differences: Do’s and Don’ts

Dating and Relationships for Young Adults with Autism & LD

For most people, dating is both an exciting and stressful experience. Imagine how much more difficult it becomes for those who have challenges understanding social situations — social cues, body language, perspective taking, etc. This can make dating for the first time an especially worrisome and stressful occasion. Many of the students we work with have often expressed their lack of experience as the primary roadblock to them pursuing a relationship. They have the desire to have a girlfriend or boyfriend, but do not possess the appropriate skills to navigate through complicated social situations. It is in this area that young adults on the autism spectrum and with learning differences need guidance and advice from their families and professional support team to learn and recognize the various factors that go into dating and maintaining healthy relationships.

Here are some important questions to ask your student or child when discussing dating and relationships for the first time:

– What qualities are they looking for in a significant other?

– What is important to them for the relationship – beliefs, values, etc.?

– How does the other person make them feel?

– What are their dating fears?

There are quite a few fears that may come up such as the fear of being rejected, not knowing what to do, fear of showing a lack of experience, fear of it being too intimate, and the fear of being hurt. The reality is that all of these fears can occur, and, in fact, have happened to many of us. However, if you go on the date in a state of fear and worry, the other person will never get to know the “real” you; you won’t be able to enjoy the date and see if there is mutual interest and compatibility.

One of our CIP Amherst students shared his personal dating experience with us. He spoke about his fears leading up to his first date and what he considers to be important characteristics in a significant other (trust, kindness, and humor). His advice to others in a relationship is to be sure to talk every day and keep communication open. He then described what he does to prepare for a date:

  1. Plan the date (Where? When? What time?)
  2. Discuss plans with the other person
  3. Shower
  4. Put on nice clothes (khakis)
  5. Do your hair, brush your teeth and make sure you smell good

The following list of Dating Do’s and Don’ts is beneficial for people new to the dating world as well as good reminders for those with more experience:

Do…

  • Be honest
  • Plan your date out ahead of time
  • Meet in a public place on your first date
  • Have good hygiene
  • Be attentive to your date (eye contact, listen, ask questions)

Don’t…

  • Don’t invite someone over to watch you play video games; be on your phone, etc.
  • Don’t invite someone on a date and then don’t show up
  • Don’t make any uninvited physical advances
  • Don’t be pretentious
  • Women, don’t be afraid to ask the man out!

About the Author:

Jennifer Kupiec, MS is the Social Skills Coordinator at CIP Amherst. Jennifer has experience providing individual and group counseling to children, adolescents, and their families, as well as working with students with learning differences.

This has been a special needs program update from Asperger’s & LD College Programs. You may also click here to read the original article on the main program website.