Can we Talk?

by Maxine and Daniel

Parents raising children on the spectrum fret and worry about many thing: will my kid EVER shower or brush his teeth without a fight? Finish high school? Go to post-secondary? Date? Get married?

Wait. If our kids get married, that means our kids will be having...S.E.X..

We want our children to grow into responsible adults who can love and be loved by someone who is incredible. Of course we want that! The thing is, social communication challenges can make dating difficult, and the emotional immaturity our kids often bring to the table can make them vulnerable.

We worry about our girls: often unable to establish or maintain friendships, they easily fall for the ‘if you love me, you would,’ lines from predators or hormonal teenage boys. They are often without guile and accept heartfelt expressions of undying love at face value. It wouldn’t occur to them that someone was giving them a line to get them in the sack.

Our boys can be at risk for girls to take advantage of them: to buy them things or do their homework for them...all the while leading our sons to believe this is a romantic interest. It is so hard for our sons to decode the non-verbal signs of platonic friendship versus romantic intentions. When our sons do take the brave step of asking a girl out, the responses stay with them for a long time. They may obsess over rejection and be unable to stop replaying the exchange over and over in their mind. Anxiety can set in.

...and the fears we have are sometimes realized: girls can become promiscuous or victims of sexual assault because someone is finally paying attention to them. Conversely, boys yearn for love and attention but they just can’t get a relationship started. Of course, these are not gender-specific scenarios, but they are common. Boys can also be sexually assaulted; girls can also be without a date.

So what to do? How can parents of kids with Asperger’s Syndrome help to prepare them for the sometimes bumpy to true love? To handle rejection and broken hearts, something many of us have experienced at least once in our lives?

Like every area of AS, it all starts with knowledge. The more we can learn about this topic and how it impacts our children, the better equipped we will be to teach them to take care of themselves.

There are few great resources, but this one by Autism Now, a national initiative of The ARC, and ASAN (Autistic Self-Advocacy Network), is a gem. The writing is relevant and authentic—some of the best I have ever read on the topic. And why wouldn’t it be? It is written by and for people on the autism spectrum. The information is useful and straightforward, and readers can easily navigate through the 166-page book by selecting chapters of interest. Among these are:

* Obtaining and Recognizing Consent

* Ten Things I Wish I had Know

* Our Voices: What are the Greatest Myths of Autism and Sexuality

* A Ten Step Plan for Autistic Couples

You can read the report here: Relationships and Sexuality