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Dating social stories

In this blog post, I offer some basic background on issues affecting teenage boys on the autism spectrum pertaining to their relationships with girls, and then I provide some social skills teaching materials for mental health professionals, teachers and speech-language pathologists to use in their work.Children on the autism spectrum have challenges with “theory of mind,” that is, understanding what other people might be thinking.This presents particular problems when a boy with high functioning autism is dealing with individuals of the opposite gender.

With regard to nonverbal communication, when interacting with girls, boys on the autism spectrum have a tendency to make mistakes with eye contact and personal space. First, many boys with high functioning autism find it very difficult to look into the eyes of other people when they are talking.

This can cause them a lot of anxiety and break their concentration.

Second, boys who are attracted to girls might not understand the negative social impact of staring at girls in a conspicuous manner.

Personal space errors can occur when a boy on the autism spectrum gets too close to a girl or touches her in an unwanted manner.

With respect to verbal communication, boys with high functioning autism face many challenges when communicating with girls.

They might wish to compliment a girl, but they may not understand the unwritten social rules about bluntly complimenting a girl’s attractive features.Boys on the spectrum might find it overwhelmingly difficult to find common ground in conversation with a girls, and boys might consequently fall back on their preferred interests in conversation. They may select clothing based on comfort or habit rather than fashion.Right around the time that boys on the autism spectrum may be first feeling attraction to girls, they are in the process of taking over numerous self-care tasks from their parents. All of these problems present enormous liabilities when relating to young females, who, compared to young males, are more inclined to be aware of hygiene, smell and appearance. This, unfortunately, puts young men on the autism spectrum at a statistical disadvantage.Consequently, many teenage boys with ASD have problems with hygiene, attire and grooming. Males with autism do, of course, often date and marry females who are not on the spectrum.However, young men with autism often have a special affinity for young women on the spectrum – but relatively few of these females with ASD are out there.In our work with young men with autism, we of course come into contact with males who are attracted to males.Please be aware that you can modify the materials below to address the needs of this population.And, by the way, there is a terrific, short autobiography by a man with Asperger’s who happens to be gay – by Daniel Tammett.The image below shows the teaching panels as they might appear if you placed them on the wall in a bulletin board fashion.You could also bind them together to create a simple, nine-page book. You can use these in individual, group or small class-size interventions. First, you could arrange the cards into three piles by card type.Then, you could, by roll of dice, have participants pick from one of of three card types (roll of 1 or 2, or 3 or 4, or 5 or 6 determines which card is selected).

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