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Dating a person with autism? Here are some things to keep in mind

We live in a world where there are mobile apps to help you find a date or even a life partner. But it is not always that easy for people with disabilities to find their soul mates. Teenagers and adults who come under the autism spectrum disorder lack social skills. So they take their own time and space to get to know another person. They have challenges in understanding and in communicating. Hence, a partner for a person with autism must be understanding and patient.

Anupama Bakhshi, whose 18-year-son Pranav has autism, is planning to develop a mobile dating app, exclusively for people with disabilities. She says that while there are many such apps in the West, there are none in India. Something she plans to change.

Just like any other teenager's mother, I would love to see my son spending time with a good companion and friend. It does not have to end up in a commitment or marriage! I have come across many people who say that they would like to date my son. But I want them to understand that it is not going to be a cakewalk. Primarily, there has to be compatibility between two people. There must be a lot of understanding, patience and love. They must know what to expect from a person with autism. - Anupama Bakhshi, Autism parent

So, how do you arrive at that compatible equation that Anupama talks about? Here are some things to keep in mind.

  • People with autism tend to be brutally honest, but they don't mean to hurt. So, if they tell you they dislike the dress you are on, or the dish you have cooked, they are being upfront. Remember when they say they love you, they do mean it.
  • People with autism have poor social skills. Hence, they might not always behave the way you expect them to. For instance, when you go out for a dinner, you might have to face a few mood swings. But if you really love the person, you can let that go and stand with them.
  • Change is not always welcome so don't expect a happy reaction to a surprise plan or a change in plan. They may also love to wear the same clothes over and over again. They might not even be interested in updating their wardrobe. They might expect you to talk and hear about things that they love.
  • People with autism crave for love and affection, perhaps more than others. But since their social skills are minimal, they may not always express it. They expect you to take control of expressing emotions. They might not think of giving a hug, a kiss or even saying an 'I love you'. So try and reach out to them. After all, in a relationship, it is always best when you express love for the other person.</;o>
  • Expect mood swings and don't take them to heart. While most of us have a control of our emotions, people with autism do not have that. The best thing is to let them be and let go off their mood swings. If you take their mood swings to heart you might end up being upset.

Grace Santosh, a psychologist from Chennai, has a teenage son with autism. She says unconditional love is key to making a relationship successful.

"If my son is dating someone, I would want to know the reasons why she fell in love with him. I would also tell the person about his advantages and drawbacks as a person. Each person is different. Their needs are also different. The person must be extremely understanding and patient. Since my son is non-verbal, his date must know how to spend time with him in a way that both of them enjoys."

Remember, people with autism give back unconditional love and make great partners.

ALSO READ: Strengthening the parent-child bond is key to empowering kids with autism at Aarambh

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