“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.
Autism diagnosis rates have increased dramatically over the last two decades (the latest CDC reports show one in 50 children are diagnosed), and while much attention has been paid to early-intervention programs for toddlers and younger children, teens and adults with autism have largely been overlooked—especially when it comes to building romantic relationships.
Certain characteristics associated with the autism spectrum inherently go against typical dating norms.
“It's hard to read us if we don’t explicitly say what we're feeling, but all the feelings are there.”In fact, people with autism may have greater emotional capacities.
“Studies have shown that people with autism can have feelings that are stronger and deeper than those without autism,” said John Elder Robison, bestselling author of and autism advocate.
Seemingly basic, non-sexual touching may be an issue, as well.“It may give them discomfort for someone to kiss them lightly or hold their hand,” Massey said.
“We can be interested, but have no way to tell if they're interested in us.”Some women with autism may ultimately have an edge in the dating world.
“We know people with autism think very concretely,” said Laugeson.
“Social skills can be abstract behavior that's difficult to describe, but we try to break it into concrete steps.”For example, PEERS will take the seemingly mundane, but actually complex act of flirting and translate it into a step-by-step lesson.
While Paulette doesn't necessarily think women with autism have it easier than men, she has noticed that her neuro-typical dates have particularly valued many of her autistic traits.
“I’ve found that people who are neuro-typical really appreciate the qualities that people on the spectrum posses: complete honesty and almost an inability to lie,” she said.
He quickly realized acting confident was the key to dating success, especially if you're a man.