Dating on The Spectrum

candles-1645551_1920It can be difficult for many people on the Autism spectrum to find and stay within relationships. Socialization is possibly the most intimidating prospect about the entire ordeal, and making even one mistake feels as if it can rob you of all your chances. Once you find someone who accepts you for who you are though, your entire world can seem to shift for the better. There will still be bumps along the way, but none as large as having found that special someone.

For me, meeting people on the spectrum made it much easier to find a partner. Throughout my life I think I dated just two neurotypicals, and both times I found the relationship falling apart faster than a cookie dunked in milk. Even though we had some things in common, hanging out was often quiet and uneventful. This is not to say that any autistic-neurotypical relationship won’t succeed. Many have been known to work out well with good communication and understanding. As for myself, having someone on the same mental level as me was a definite boon, especially if we shared interests. It was easy to find neurotypical candidates who enjoyed video games, but none could ever talk about them with the same amount of passion that I enjoyed with my aspergers. In fact, they would often just grow annoyed hearing me speak so much about Halo and how adorable I found the little alien Grunts to be.

Having a relationship even once you’ve found the right one can still be confusing for someone on the spectrum. I remember the way Sam in Atypical describes how he cannot understand love or how to ‘just know’ when he’s found the one. I’ll be honest in that this too happened to me as of recently. What I realized is that love isn’t always magical fireworks like Disney and many romance novels may have you think. Love is being happy around your partner and knowing that you wouldn’t mind having them around more. Do you feel safe with them? Do you want to be near them more? Do you think about them a lot? Well, that’s love. The idea of knowing at first sight is often just a fantasy, a lie uttered to the audience of fairy tales.

Affection can also be tough for someone dealing with the sensory overloads that sometimes come with autism. I know that I twitch or jump sometimes when someone touches me in certain areas like my side. The key to this is to tell your partner about your boundaries and where you do and do not wish to be touched. If they have sensory issues as well, listen to their requests too. This is important for keeping you both happy and comfortable. The last thing you need is constant fear that your partner might touch you in that discomfort zone again.

Overall, it is very much possible to find your true love, even when you’re on the spectrum. It will take time and patience, but eventually you’ll find someone who you match with well. When that happens, the gloom of believing you are forever alone will disappear, and you’ll find that your differences will only make you more attractive to the person you have chosen to be with.

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Atypical and Relatable

penguins-429128_1920As someone whose seen multiple pieces of media regarding autistic and ASD characters, I wasn’t expecting much accuracy from Atypical. However as I began to view the Netflix show with my boyfriend, I found that it was very easy for me to relate to the main character, a teen on the spectrum named Sam. I grew up with Aspergers myself, and though I don’t exhibit as many of the behavioral quirks I did as a child I still recognized a few shown in Atypical as mannerisms that I still possess. It was a shock to observe this in the mainstream media, who are usually content to depict autistic characters as ingenious mathematicians with little to no personality other than their talents.

I think two of the biggest traits that I feel I can relate to in Sam are his special interests and stimulation overloads. Scenes in which Sam grows enthusiastic about Antarctica remind me so much about my own passion for rats, and the way he reacts to the discomfort of the seat cushions on the bus are similar to the way I avoid jeans with buttons on their back pockets. The way in which he has trouble understanding social concepts is also a trait that I can recognize from my days in grade school.

Of course, there are some things that I do not connect with in Sam as well, like the difficulties he must deal with in the beginning of the series, such as picking out his own clothing or having to rely on his sister for guardianship. While these may not fit my experience with autism, I am sure that they can be found relatable by others on the spectrum. The show does a good job of presenting more than one person’s experience, and I feel like the creators must have really done their research.

To others out there on the autism spectrum, how do you feel about this new Netflix Original? Do you find yourself connecting with it like I have, or would you say that it’s missing something for you?