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“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.“Yet those feelings may be invisible to outsiders because we don't show them.
They make eye contact and look away, and they look again and they look away,” said Laugeson.
“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.
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.
“For guys on the spectrum it's a one-way thing,” said Robison.