“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.
Seemingly basic, non-sexual touching may be an issue, as well.“It may give them discomfort for someone to kiss them lightly or hold their hand,” Massey said.
“They need pressure, and that's not typically what you think of with tender, romantic love.”Perhaps because so much of their behavior runs counter to mainstream conceptions of how to express affection and love, people with autism are rarely considered in romantic contexts.
“Early intervention can significantly improve the outcome, but kids grow up, and we don't have the proper services,” said Laugeson, who serves as director of UCLA PEERS, a program that teaches social, including romantic, interaction skills to teens and young adults on the spectrum.
Central to PEERS is the promotion of “ecologically valid” social skills, traits humans have been shown to exhibit in reality, rather than what we think we're “supposed” to do.
The way to Paulette's heart is through her Outlook calendar.
“Honestly, if you want to be romantic with me, send an email through Outlook and give me all the possible dates, locations, and times, so that I can prepare,” she said.
“We will constantly not be able to read whether someone is interested, so you can have an insecurity about whether the person you're dating likes you,” said Plank.
In heterosexual courtships where men are still often expected to pursue women, males with autism are at a distinct disadvantage to their female counterpart.
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.
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.