Teens with Autism and Dating
Thinking about your teen dating can be scary for some parents, but we want to help make this process a little easier for you. Navigating the social aspects of dating can be difficult for teens with autism. Just like many other social skills many individuals may need to be taught specific skills to help them with dating. Dating can be a complex skill to learn.
Always listen to your teen and watch for their desire to want to date. Always go off of what your teen is telling you and showing you. Don't force your teen to do something if they are not interested or don't want to do it. Everyone has their own preferences and show interest in dating at different times in their lives.
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How can you tell if your teen is ready for dating?
All teens develop at different rates and have different interests in dating. Follow your teens lead, if you see that they are showing interest or asking you questions about dating help them through this complex situation. Pay attention to their nonverbal behaviors as well to help you decide if they are interested in dating.
A teen's social maturity may not be the same as their physical maturity. Some teens may feel the physical desire for dating and sexuality before the social competence for dating. If your teen is asking you questions about their physical appearance/changes and their desire for sexuality be open to talk with them about these topics. Talk to your teen in a way that makes sense to them. If they learn best through direct concrete answers or through pictures/videos, help provide these opportunities for them to learn about the changes in their bodies.
Be Proactive and have Open Dialogue with your Teen about Dating and Sexuality
Sex and dating are very complex social situations. If you think your teen may be sexually active or dealing with opportunities for sexual activity don't delay these conversations. It is important that we can protect your teen as best as you can from getting into unsafe situations. It is crucial to talk about safe sex and helping them to understand how pregnancy can occur. If you feel uncomfortable about talking about these situations with your teen is there someone you can reach out to for help? You could reach out to your teen's doctor especially if you have concerns about health related questions.
Provide role playing opportunities to practice dating situations
One way to practice some of the complex social situations involved with dating would be to role play common situations. You could also try social stories, social scripts, modeling appropriate behaviors, video modeling, or an acting class. Social situations that you could role play and talk about for dating could be:
- how to compliment
- how to show interest in someone
- how to talk with a peer you like
- how to read nonverbal behavior
- when to smile
- how to use good manners
- how to be respectful of another person
- how to show affection
- appropriate physical touch
- how to stay safe
- conflict resolution
- safety in public areas
Have open conversations about how to stay safe with dating
We want to do whatever we can to help our teen stay safe and not get taken advantage of in this complex social situation. Discuss who, when, where, and how to ask someone out.
- Who is appropriate for you to ask out?
- Someone around your age
- who shows interest in you
- is nice to you
- talks to you
- someone you like
- When is it appropriate to ask someone out?
- After you have gotten to know someone better
- When you have noticed that you both seem to be interested in each other
- Where is it appropriate to ask someone out?
- Usually in a more private setting when not a lot of people are around
- typically it is best to do it in person, but you can also call someone on the phone.
- Texting may not be as a personal way to ask someone out
- How do you ask someone out?
- in person you can ask if they are free at a certain time that you could go to a place of mutual interest
- make sure to get contact information to confirm the date, time, and location ahead of time
- How do you show appropriate touch during a date?
- Make sure to talk about safe and appropriate physical touch
- talk about how to hold hands, give a hug, or a kiss
- talk about inappropriate types of physical touch and how to read body cues and signs of how someone may like or not like the type of touch.
- Make sure to talk about safe and appropriate physical touch
- Discuss different levels of intimacy
- Help them understand the difference between hand holding, hugging, kissing, and more intimate types of touching to help them stay safe.
- Talk about the steps/routine of a typical date
- Make sure your teen knows when and where the date will take place
- how they will get to the location
- what they may do at the location (dinner, movie, bowling, party)
- Help them understand appropriate personal hygiene cares and dressing skills
Dating is a complex social situation
We need to remember that dating is complex and overwhelming social situation. This may cause our teen frustration, anxiety, fear, or anger. Please be aware of how your teen is feeling about dating and be ready to help them through this situation as it pertains to them. Help them understand that rejection may also be apart of dating and how to help them through this as well. Help them understand that someone may not be interested in them even though they are interested. Or that someone may be too busy to date. It can be impossible to understand why someone may not be interested in you and this could be a hard skill for some teens to cope with.
Dating can be a positive situation and we need to stay proactive and help our teens through these unique situations. The more we can support our teen's desires for dating and have open dialogue about the social situations it can be seen as a rewarding and positive experience.
Do you have further questions about dating? We would love to hear your advice and comments below.
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