Autism and Relationships – Part 4 – Misconceptions about dating someone with autism

Note: there is an assumption when writing these articles that the individuals dating, or in a relationship are of equal capacity, and no one is being taken advantage of or being exploited.

There are many misconceptions about autism and autistic people. Very few of these are at all positive. Even though people who have a reasonable knowledge of autism know that these are misconceptions, not everybody is that well informed. And there are several misconceptions that may put neuro-typical people off pursuing a relationship with people they know to be autistic. Below are a few of the misconceptions around dating autistic people.
Lack emotion – autistic people don’t lack emotion they simply struggle to recognise, and to show the emotions they are feeling. But autistic people can, and do feel love just as strongly as anybody else.
Don`t show empathy – it is true that some autistic people find it hard to show that they are empathetic. But this isn’t always the case, and autistic people do feel empathy, and can, and often do, show empathy. The important thing is that just because somebody might struggle to show empathy doesn’t mean they are not feeling it.
Not sexual beings – as with any group of people this comes down to individual preference. To generalise and say that autistic people have no interest in sex would be deeply misguided. It might be true that an individual is not a sexual being, but this doesn`t mean that autistic people in general are not sexual beings, any more so than any other group in society.
Rigid interests – some believe that autistic people have very rigid interests, and are incapable of talking about or enjoying anything outside of those interests. It is true that many autistic people will tend to focus on particular subjects, and interests that mean a lot to them, but it is not always the case that these exclusively dominate their lives. Many autistic people are perfectly capable of talking about, and doing other things that don’t fit in with their special interest.
Lack imagination – The idea that autistic people lack imagination is a strange one. It stems from the fact that autistic children can find it hard to play, or interact with toys in the same way that neuro-typical child might. But just because they might not use their imagination in the same way doesn’t mean that autistic people are any less imaginative.
Can`t socialise – autistic people may find it more difficult to socialise, or they may need to socialise in short bursts, with breaks in between, but they are not completely incapable of socialising. And there will still be a lot of things that they, and a neuro-typical partner can do together.
Can`t communicate – there are different levels of communication when it comes to autism. Some people can talk exceptionally well, but might still find it hard to communicate their emotions and feelings. Others may communicate through non-verbal means. But however somebody communicates it is still communication. It is true that autistic people might not communicate in the same way that neuro-typical people might, but this doesn’t mean that every autistic person is incapable of any level of communication, as some people seem to think.

Not all non-autistic people hold these views, and many autistic individuals are in relationships with neuro-typical people. There are many more myths and misconceptions about people with autism, and many of them may affect the mind-set of somebody considering dating an autistic person. Hopefully this articles dispels a few of these, but the main point is that autistic people are the same as every other group in society in that they cannot be defined by any one characteristic that would make them a good or a bad partner. Sometimes there will be a good fit for people, and sometimes there won’t – depending on the two people involved rather than any individual characteristic of autism.