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Autism diagnosis rates have increased dramatically over the last two decades (the latest CDC reports show one in 50 children are diagnosed), and while much attention has been paid to early-intervention programs for toddlers and younger children, teens and adults with autism have largely been overlooked—especially when it comes to building romantic relationships.
There are a whole other set of things you have to deal with.”While he didn't have PEERS to guide him, in college, Plank studied guys who were always successful at picking up girls and started mimicking their behaviors.
“It's hard to read us if we don’t explicitly say what we're feeling, but all the feelings are there.”In fact, people with autism may have greater emotional capacities.
“Studies have shown that people with autism can have feelings that are stronger and deeper than those without autism,” said John Elder Robison, bestselling author of and autism advocate.
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.
“First, a couple notices each other across the room.
They make eye contact and look away, and they look again and they look away,” said Laugeson.The former Miss America system contestant and University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music-trained opera singer knew she had a different conception of romance than her previous boyfriends had and, for that matter, everyone else.“People tend to think of romance as spur of the moment and exciting,” she told me.“I think of romance as things that make sense and are logical.” However, she didn't know why until this year when, at the age of 31, when she was diagnosed with autism.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.“Yet those feelings may be invisible to outsiders because we don't show them.