Bumble, Tinder, Match.com; the list goes on! It is safe to say that navigating the dating scene is intimidating, daunting, and confusing for all. Social norms seem to be changing and it can be difficult to build relationships. Some difficulties can be particularly magnified for teens and young adults on the autism spectrum as social situations can often be challenging. Whether your teen is ready to date or shows interest in the future, offering support and guidance through the ups-and-downs will be most beneficial for their social-emotional growth.
Some teenagers with ASD are eager to understand and experience relationships, including romantic relationships, just like their neurotypical peers. However, they often do not know who to turn to for factual information regarding relationship-related topics and often take cues from popular media outlets, such as television or movies, without realizing that often these actions and themes are not accurate portrayals on how to achieve or maintain a relationship in “real life.” Another difficulty for some teenagers with ASD is the correct interpretation of another person’s intentions. A simple smile or kind gesture may be incorrectly interpreted as a deeper level of interest than was intended.
As you are preparing your teen to ride the emotional rollercoaster of dating be mindful of the unique challenges faced when embarking on this new social engagement. Identifying social cues, determining other’s perspectives and initiating small talk are some challenges your teen may face. You may help your teen prepare for dates by going over social cues. Perhaps going over common conversation starters and appropriate vs. inappropriate questions to ask will help alleviate first date anxiety.
Teenagers and young adults need support and opportunities to make acquaintances and friends. Besides school, young adults may choose to join a group for one of their hobbies, community groups, or adult education classes to meet new people. Some young adults have used the aforementioned dating apps to meet people, but it is crucial that your teen or young adult be aware of the risks that may be present when meeting a person “online.” Parents should talk to their teen/young adult about dating safety and arrange a first date in a public area.
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