Tuesday, December 27th, 2011
I’ve felt for years that teenagers and young adults with Asperger’s Syndrome or with High Functioning Autism really need help understanding and negotiating romantic and sexual relationships. Moving from Social Skills or even Social Thinking curriculums (there’s a difference) to dating, sex, love and adult relationships is no easy task when your primary difficulties are recognizing and understanding non verbal communication, emotional fluency and regulating sensory experiences.
This is a wonderfully written piece in the NYTimes.com called Navigating Love and Autism. Compelling in it’s depth, this article captures many of the challenges particular to couples struggling with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
The first night they slept entwined on his futon, Jack Robison, 19, who had since childhood thought of himself as â€œnot like the other humans,â€ regarded Kirsten Lindsmith with undisguised tenderness.
This is an honest account of their struggles and one that provides glimpses into what it must be like for a young man with ASD, who, despite feeling love and romance for his sweetheart, has to tell her (and I assume because of some sensory overload issues), afterÂ she smiled at him one morning, as she leans in for a kiss, seeking his lips, he turned away, â€œI donâ€™t really like kissing,â€ he said.
It’s a touching piece and although having ASD adds a particular burden to relationship, I want to tell the young man in the article, that many of their struggles are generic to the confusion we all feel at times in relationships. Â You want to put your arm around his shoulder and smilingly tell him you know just how he feels when he’s not sure what his girlfriend wants from him. Â Here’s an example:
One might start over Kirstenâ€™s request that Jack hug her when she came home from school, or his perception that she was already angry at him when she came through the door.
â€œThe more we argue, the worse it gets,â€ Jack said once, close to despair.
One night as Kirsten cooked dinner, he peered into the pan where she was sautÃ©ing vegetables to comment on the way she had cut the cauliflower.
â€œItâ€™s too big,â€ he explained. â€œIt wonâ€™t cook through.â€
â€œItâ€™s better when itâ€™s not all mushy,â€ she insisted.
â€œNo,â€ he said. â€œYouâ€™re just doing it wrong.â€
Eventually, Kirsten, unable to contain her tears, fled to the living room.
â€œWhat I want,â€ she told him when they analyzed their clashes in less-fraught moments, â€œis to be held and rocked and comforted.â€