Isn’t it true that everybody just wants to love and be loved? Autistic people want love like any other.
In general, love and relationships are complicated issues and for autistic people, they are equally complex. We now have more and more people in the world who feel isolated and lonely, this is also the case for autistic people. Take Damian Littlefair: the 28 year old man from Darlington, United Kingdom, has never dated, he told the BBC.
He applied at several UK reality TV programmes but was never accepted as a participant. Nevertheless, he tried “unconventional ways” like posting dating adverts on Facebook buy-and-sell groups. But, to no avail. People “don’t want to know” when they find out Damian is autistic.
In fact, the main issues for many autistic people are social communication. That is why dating or simply making friends with someone can generate all sorts of obstacles.
Luckily, Christine O’Neil and Vicky Baddeley from Cambridgeshire have created a meeting and dating service called ‘Safe Soulmate’ for people on the autism spectrum. ‘Safe Soulmate’ is not an online service, as Christine and Vicky visit people in their homes to find out what individuals are looking for – new friends, a relationship or both. Vicky, who works in the learning disability sector, points out that people not only want relationships, but many just want a friend to talk to.
“We are also a friendship agency, because we are aware that people are simply desperate for friendship.” she told the Ely Standard.
Christine, who has a background in the learning disability sector, said: “I realized that there was nothing in this area to help people who have some kind of additional need.” Vicky added: “Most social events will be held in pubs and other venues alongside the mainstream community to encourage social inclusivity. We are also planning to organize club nights for members.” They are working closely with a local sexual health information association, which runs workshops around the issues of friendships, relationships, boundaries, sex, and online safety.
These kind of services are even set up by people affected: Evan Mead from Canada, who is on the autism spectrum, came up with an ‘Asperger’s Date camp’ as he told the Canadian Broadcasting Company in an interview. Part of this day camp, people on the autism spectrum were speed-dating, talking to each other about their interests for two minutes. For Evan, dating is awkward for most people, but dating on the autism spectrum adds an extra level of difficulty.
In fact, the ‘Date camp’ started out pretty tense. Participants were wondering, “Am I going to learn how to fall in love? Am I supposed to fall in love with the person sitting across from me?” The Date Camp had three coaches who worked with the participants. One talked about envisioning and manifesting your ideal partner. Another dealt with conversational skills and how to dress. There was a sex expert and he talked about intimacy. Evan Mead pointed out in hindsight that he actually had aimed way to high.
The workshops were intended for dating starting off with that focus. But as the conversation naturally progressed, Evan discovered, a lot of the participants saw a wall when it comes to making friends — not even to think about asking someone out! So Evan decided to give the participants a space to just be friendly.
That relationships can also work out for autistics people is shown by Jamie. LGBTI website Gaystar News points to the 18 year old from Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom, because for him being autistic and dating is relatively uncomplicated. He says he is one hundred percent open about it when he is talking to potential dates. In fact, most of them say they would not have guessed he is on the autism spectrum. His dates are interested in him, not in his autism, which for Jamie is just another side to him.
It is just human that we all want to love and be loved. So, it naturally makes a lot of sense that autistic people want their own self-determined relationships like anyone else. It’s really empowering, when people on the autism spectrum are making their own effort to help themselves address any feelings of loneliness and to become part of society. Here, we are reminded of the true spirit of Asperger’s Day (February 18), a day which should have a lasting impact in the future.