Dating with Autism: Tips to Have a Great First Date
Currently, there are millions of adults living with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) around the world.
In fact, a majority of healthcare costs for adults are related to autism, according to Autism and Health: A Special Report. While most cases of autism can be reliably diagnosed as early as two years old, other incidences like those with high-functioning autism may face a diagnosis later on in life.
When it comes to gender, it turns out that males are four times more likely to be diagnosed with the condition. This means there is a significant percentage of adult males who must navigate the social challenges that autism can present, including when it comes to their dating life.
As a man on the autistic spectrum, dating can present some unique challenges — ranging from missing certain social cues to experiencing social anxiety on first dates.
Go For Someone With Similar Interests
Many people living on the autistic spectrum have particular interests that they like to focus on.
Restrictive or repetitive patterns of behavior or interests are key criteria for an autistic diagnosis, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Repetition and routine are important for a person with autism, since it allows them to know what lies ahead of them and cope with any changes in advance.
For a man on the autism spectrum who's going on a date, a good idea would be to find someone that shares similar interests, which will ease the overall process. Attempting a new activity can be a hurdle itself for a person with autism, so having a common interest can help you feel comfortable or provide a great activity base for your date — especially if it is a first date.
Come Up With Questions and Practice Conversing
If you find social interactions difficult, you can utilize well-known tools such as social stories to practice for your date. This helps to ease any social anxiety you may have and also helps you come up with questions to ask your date.
One idea is to use social problem-solving task cards. You can also role play with someone you are already comfortable with. In fact, many people with autism use scripting to help their conversational abilities.
Having people who help with your ASD challenges will prove to a crucial lifelong part of leading a successful life. Having someone you can talk to or a strong support network, you can then feel free to voice any concerns or seek advice ahead of your date.
Practice Your Active Listening
Communication can be another sore point for many people on the autism spectrum.
You may find it difficult to decipher tones in conversations, speak at a different pace than others, or zone in on self-interests during a conversation. While not uncommon, it can hinder a great two-way conversation and make it difficult for you to get to know someone.
Before your date, take the time to practice active listening tips, such as remembering to focus on your date, paying special attention to your responses, and encouraging them to continue speaking with a smile or nod. This shows you are open to hearing what they have to say and will go a long way in making them feel special.
Above all, try to relax.
For many men, dating can be a minefield — even without an autism diagnosis.
While such intimate social situations may be challenging, many men with autism go on to have very successful dating lives.