Puppy love: Dating lesson for autistic teenagers

Fathoming the whims and wiles of the opposite sex is never easy for any adolescent boy, so spare a thought for autistic teenagers facing that same task, but, they can take heart with the help of a new technique.

Joel Shaul, a specialist in mental health services for children and young people, has come up with a strikingly simple way to help boys with high-functioning Autism and Asperger’s syndrome interact with girls.

Shaul, who works for Pennsylvania-based autism resource centre the Watson Institute, has created a series of downloadable resources which break down the problems autistic teenagers may face when trying to build a relationship.

The exercises begin with flash cards to help students of the technique identify when their behaviour is acting as a barrier between them and the girl they are speaking to – problems such as being unable to maintain eye contact or staring, making inappropriate compliments, touching and personal hygiene.

It also looks at the different relationships teenage boys and girls can have – teaching students that not every relationship needs to be romantic and girls can make great friends as well as girlfriends.

Importantly, the exercises deal with how to stay positive as students navigate the snags and setbacks that plague all teenagers as they make new friends, and Shaul is keen to get students to understand girls are individuals and will all respond differently –  teaching them visually the old lesson “there’s plenty more fish in the sea.”

Shaul points out how important these types of resources are, as statistically autism affects many more men than women and many men with high-functioning autism or Asperger’s date or marry women who are not on the autism scale.

This resource is designed for boys with autism, but there are valuable lessons in Shaul’s technique for just about any teenage boy.

For more information, visit Shaul’s blog at AutismTeachingStrategies.com.


Contributor: Tess De La Mare

Tess is a full-time journalist for the business titles from publishing house Campden Media, and she previously worked for trade magazine The Yacht Report. She has an undergraduate degree in English Literature and a post-graduate degree in Management. She has experience volunteering with autistic children and young people.