Navigating the world of dating with autism
By guest blogger Stephanie Mitelman
I have autism. This means that my social skills aren't the best. I also am
yet to experience sex. I fear this is because of my lack of social skills. What advice would you give to someone like me who wants to put themselves out there and get into the world
of dating and sex?
Hi. Thank you for your question. I want to say that it is courageous of you to ask for help. Lots of people with and without autism have trouble navigating the world of dating and sex. I also want to say that many individuals with autism have dated and have found pleasure and happiness in relationships with the right person. So your autism may bring some challenges but does not have to limit you in this area.
To get you ready for dating, it would be important to work on those skills that may be a challenge for you. Dating largely relies on communication (verbal and non-verbal), and social skills. You should work on starting a conversation, maintaining eye contact, expressing interest, appropriate topics of conversation, how to understand and read body language, and how to be aware of your own body language.
If you have questions, ask a trained educator, a coach, or a trusted friend for help. Choose someone who you feel will give you honest and open feedback. Ask them to rehearse some of these skills with you so you can apply them when you meet the right person for you to date. Remember that there are many ways to learn a new set of skills; some people learn by intuition and others need more concrete instruction.
You can also work on body awareness, any sensory issues you may have (light or hard squeezes, being touched in a certain place or way) and what gives you pleasure and does not. We all need to be able to express these limits to a potential partner. It is also important to read up on safety and sex, such as preventing pregnancy (if this is possible and not intended), as well as reducing the risk for sexually transmitted infections. There are many reliable sites that can explain safer sex practices.
As far as meeting someone goes, this is a hard one for most people, so you are not alone! In today’s age, online seems to be a key method. There are several sites that help match you based on interests and other factors. One benefit here is that this method will give you time to get to know someone through emails and chats before meeting in person. The downside here is that there are some cases where people claim to be individuals they are not. So caution always needs to be taken. I would read some Tips for Online Dating before starting this.
If this is not for you, then lots of people meet each other via shared interested and activity groups, like cooking classes, the gym, or religious gatherings. So joining a new group may be a prime way to meet new people.
Once you do meet someone new, it will be up to you to disclose your autism or not. Most people wait a few meetings before sharing such personal information with a new person. But if you plan to date the person then letting them know about autism may be helpful for the relationship so they better understand you, and some possible difficulties with social situations, communication, and/or sensory issues if you experience them. Remember that relationships take time to build. But the strongest ones are rooted in honesty, respect, and friendship. Good sex is usually born from this.
Stephanie Mitelman, MA is a certified sexuality educator and Professor at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. She has a private practice where she sees individuals and couples with special needs for sexuality education, and also hosts the largest online marketplace for sex education teaching materials- Sex Ed Mart.com. Contact Stephanie at firstname.lastname@example.org
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