Geneva Centre International Symposium
The logo and the text below are copied and pasted from the
Geneva Centre For Autism website at
Imagine living in a world where you are constantly bombarded with
messages that you don’t understand, where you can’t find the words to
express yourself and where you continually feel a sense of loneliness
and isolation. This is the reality that many children with an Autism
Spectrum Disorder (ASD) face every day.
At Geneva Centre for Autism, our services build skills in children so
they can realize their potential. Working in partnership with the
Ministry of Children and Youth Services and other community partners, we
develop and deliver a wide range of innovative services that meet the
unique needs of children on the Autism spectrum. These services are
provided by a multi-disciplinary team that includes psychologists,
speech language pathologists, occupational therapists and behavioural
HOW TO GET STARTED The point of entry to access Geneva Centre for
Autism's services is done by calling the Centre at 416 322 7877. Your
call will be directed to the appropriate department.
referred to the Geneva Centre For Autism by the Hospital for Sick
Children right after he was diagnosed with autism Asperger Syndrome and
from thereon started his journey into the world of autism. It was the
Sick Kids hospital's Children Development Centre (CDC) who referred Ron
to the Geneva Centre for Autism. With their wide array of experience,
their involvement has placed Ron's developmental needs in perspective
and context. (Notes from Ron's parents)
The Geneva Centre Asperger
Program is designed to meet the specific needs of individuals with
Asperger Syndrome between the ages of 12 and 18 years and their
families. The program comprises the following elements:
consultation with members of a multidisciplinary team including:
lSpeech and Language Pathologists lOccupational Therapists lBehaviour/Communication Consultants lDevelopmental Paediatrician lBehavioural Psychologist
Parent training on topics including behaviour, social communication and
independent daily living.
®Groups: Teen groups
focusing on learning social boundaries, building self-esteem and coping
with anger and anxiety.
The Geneva Centre
provided Ron with workshop for us and Ron's caregiver with behavioural
intervention therapy and skill building workshops using music and social
skills teaching strategies., Ron with his caregiver attended workshops
to learn group skills through music, role-playing, and performance. Ron
and his parents were introduced to, and explored the use of a variety of
musical instruments to learn, take turns, and to share experiences and
enjoyment with others. All these were facilitated by a Music Therapist,
a Social Skill-Building Group Facilitator, and supported by a volunteer.
To register your child for TPAS services, please call Surrey Place
Centre's intake at 416 925 5141 ext. 2289 or speak with the intake
worker at Geneva Centre for Autism at 416 322 7877.
Geneva Centre Website
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STORY FEATURED IN GLAMOUR
Autistic—and They're in Love
BY LYNN HARRIS
FEBRUARY 1, 2009 7:00 PM
lindsey nebeker & dave
There are two bedrooms in the cozy Jackson, Mississippi, apartment: Dave
Hamrick's is like a dad's den, with a striped beige armchair and a
hanging map; Lindsey Nebeker's is darkly girly, with spiky dried roses
hung over a bed topped by a graphic leaf-print quilt. After work on any
Dave and Lindsey are
likely to be orbiting the home separately, doing their own thing. Dave
may be flipping through magazines, pausing to stare fixedly at design
details or leaning in to inhale the scent of the pages. Lindsey
typically sits down to eat alone—from a particular plate with a
particular napkin placed just so—and may slip so deeply into her own
world that Dave has learned to whisper "Psst…" when he approaches so as
to not startle her and, on a bad night, make her scream.
An observer might
assume the two are amicable, if oddball, roommates. But Lindsey, 27, and
Dave, 29, are deeply in love. And they are autistic.
Every day of their
relationship, these two beat tremendous odds. That's because the very
definition of autism suggests that for adults with this disorder,
love—especially the lasting, live-in kind like Lindsey and Dave's—is not
in the cards at all.
About 1.5 million
people in the United States (an estimated one fifth of them are female)
have autism, with varying degrees of severity. The disorder can create
sensory issues, like hypersensitivity to touch and sound, and impair
social skills. While some autistics are gifted (often in music or math),
they may be utterly baffled by the nuances of small talk and eye
contact. Expressing empathy can be virtually impossible. Imagine a first
date—never a breeze for any of us—with those limitations.
"I hear a lot of
loneliness, sadness and fear among the autistic adults I meet," says
Stephen Shore, author of Beyond the Wall and an internationally
recognized expert on autism who has the disorder himself. "Without a
natural understanding of communication, it's much more difficult for
people with autism to find and sustain an intimate relationship." They
have hearts that feel; it's the funky wiring in their brains that makes
things so challenging.
stereotype—the Rain Manesque loner who'd rather count toothpicks than
make friends—adult autistics often know what they're missing out on and
hope to find love, like anyone else. Since hanging in a crowded bar or
going on a blind date can be terrifying, many connect through
social-networking websites. Still, successful relationships aren't very
common, especially relationships in which both partners have autism.
Lindsey and Dave have
experienced their fair share of heartache: at school, among so-called
friends, in their search for partners. Yet both have also summoned the
courage to take a risk, perhaps the biggest risk of their lives, for
each other. Theirs is a still-unfolding tale—an unconventional story
about unconditional love.
Autism has been making
headlines lately, especially now that more and more children are being
diagnosed with it. Celeb mom Jenny McCarthy, for one, speaks and writes
about her son's autism.
The head writer for
Days of Our Lives developed a story line about an autistic child based
on her parental experience. Last fall, autism-awareness advocates raised
hell over the "Autism Shmautism" chapter in comic Denis Leary's latest
Observations included "Yer
kid is not autistic. He's just stupid. Or lazy. Or both."
The attention, good and
bad, has made it somewhat easier for adult autistics to find acceptance
in the world. Former America's Next Top Model contestant Heather Kuzmich—who
has Asperger's syndrome (considered an autism spectrum disorder) and who
had trouble making eye contact in TV interviews—has become a role model.
Claire Danes is starring in a forthcoming HBO biopic about best-selling
autistic author Temple Grandin. Also helpful are sites like
wrongplanet.net, geared toward autistic adults, where users can find
answers to questions such as "How do I learn to flirt?"
auburn-haired beauty with an artistic, bejeweled style you might call
peasant-goth, has been more fortunate than others (including her
severely autistic younger brother).
When she was 19 months
old and not talking, her parents tested her for autism, and she got the
benefit of early treatment. Today, her occasional wandering gaze and the
forced cheer in her voice make her seem just a bit off. It takes effort,
she says, not to sound "robotic."
Even as Lindsey's
speech caught up and her talent for playing piano emerged, she developed
habits typical of autistics: staring for hours at the fibers of a
carpet, for example, or performing soothing rituals like stepping on
cracks in the sidewalk.
Classmates teased her
mercilessly, and she'd come home with kick me signs on her back. Real
friendship seemed painfully out of reach for the eccentric, awkward girl
who came across as blunt. In high school, when another student asked
Lindsey what she thought of her new makeup, Lindsey recalls, "I told her
it looked fake. She became silent, and I knew I had blown it."
Depressed, Lindsey burned herself with a curling iron and cut her arms
with safety pins, hiding her injuries with sweatshirts. "Lindsey's
struggles were heartbreaking," says her mother, Anne Nebeker, 63, a
retired teacher in Logan, Utah. "I was very anxious about how she would
manage as an adult and whether she would have a social life at all or
Yet Lindsey's torment
fueled a determination to learn the very skills that eluded her. Her
best resource: Dale Carnegie's self-help classic How to Win Friends and
Advice as simple as "Be
a good listener" began to help, especially by college. The subtleties of
romance, however, remained a mystery. She'd fool around with a guy and
get dumped a few days or weeks later without explanation. "I had no idea
what I was doing that was scaring guys away," says Lindsey. "I felt like
I had failed somehow." In her early twenties, she gave up. "I decided to
focus on the friendships I'd managed to make," she continues, "and quit
worrying about love altogether."
LINDSEY MET DAVE
That's when she met
Dave. It was 2005, and they were at an autism conference in Nashville.
Diagnosed at three, Dave grew up with pronounced fixations. He'd tote
around empty Clorox bottles, and carry a thermometer to assess the air
temperature. Like Lindsey, he had trouble making friends.
Dave also has
Tourette's syndrome, which can overlap with autism; it's the cause of
his near-constant head jerks and occasional stuttering and grunting
noises. His parents were told he would always be in special education,
never able to work or live on his own. By fourth grade, he was in a
mainstream class; he went on to college, where he majored in
When he and Lindsey met, Dave says, "I was hopeful, but realistic." They
e-mailed and talked on the phone, then hung out again a few months later
at a conference in Virginia. On their last night there, at a café, Dave
took the plunge. Seeing Lindsey's hands resting on the table, Dave
reached for them. "When she didn't pull away, I knew I had a positive
result," he says in his endearingly geeky, textbookish way.
The next day, he gave
her a bouquet. "I'd never gotten flowers from anyone, other than my dad
after a piano recital," says Lindsey. Looking Dave in the eye was hard
for her. So, she says, "it was a relief to close my eyes and lean in to
kiss him. I had my guard up, but some part of me was willing to give it
Two years later,
Lindsey and Dave moved in together. It's a big step for any couple, but
for autistics, it can mean merging two rigid ways of life. Dave likes it
cool; Lindsey likes it warm.
Dave needs his mattress
firm; Lindsey needs hers soft. These may sound like trifles, but what's
merely irritating to others may be, for an autistic, 20 fingernails on
20 blackboards. They've discussed every last detail, down to lightbulb
When Dave awakes for
work, Lindsey—a night owl—may still be up from the evening before. By
noon, she's improvised a few riffs on her beloved Steinway and is
performing the 20-minute ritual of preparing her three thermoses of
coffee (touch of flavored syrup, drop of almond milk, heat, adjust,
repeat), which she will take with her to her job…at Starbucks.
Being a barista isn't
her Plan A. She dreams of studying photography or special ed in grad
school. Dave has turned his fixation on temperature into a meteorology
career (his e-mail name is "weatheringautism").
forecaster at the National Weather Service, he finds his job exciting.
It requires only limited face-to-face contact with strangers; on a
typical day, he gives callers weather reports or heads out, alone, to
release a weather balloon.
Both often come home
exhausted, like actors who've been on stage all day. That's one reason
Lindsey and Dave need so much time alone after work, and why they rarely
call each other to check in and chat. "Every day, we put out so much
effort to speak properly in the workplace and other social settings,"
says Lindsey. "When we talk on the telephone, our conversations normally
don't last long because we get uneasy when the small-talk script runs
On weekends, they're
more likely to prowl a bookstore than go to a party or a restaurant.
Their friends—mostly from college and conferences, some of whom are
autistic—don't live nearby. They also prefer to eat by themselves. Dave,
as if he had superhero hearing, is sensitive to the sound of chewing. He
can eat only cooked vegetables—never raw, crunchy ones. Lindsey finds it
so torturous to deviate from her food rituals that Dave's occasional
invitation to dine out can send her into sobs. "I just keep telling him,
I'm so sorry, I can't,'" she says. "I feel awful about it."
Once in a while, with
enough notice, Lindsey says yes and they'll head to a bright and
bustling pan-Asian buffet; it's the opposite of romantic. Dave, lit up
like a kid on Christmas Day, will happily put away several crabs' worth
of crab legs. Lindsey, wary of food she didn't prepare herself, would
rather prod stiffly at her wasabi than moon over Dave. But what other
diners can't see is something even more tender than canoodling: Lindsey
and Dave's willingness to step outside their comfort zones to please
ADJUSTING TO SEX
Adjusting to sex took
time. Lindsey was somewhat nervous about the fact that she was a virgin
and Dave was not. "Spontaneity was not an option," she says. "People
with autism really have to mentally prepare for everything." She felt
bogged down by the procedures she'd established in her head from seeing
romantic movies like Pretty Woman—"OK, now I'm supposed to take off his
shirt." Three years into their relationship, though, they readily visit
each other's beds.
Marriage, they say, is
a possibility; children, they're less sure about. Both worry about a
genetic predisposition to autism, a valid concern, especially given that
both Lindsey and her brother have the disorder. Even if they adopt,
parenting seems perilous. "Dealing with our rituals and sensory issues
demands so much from us," says Lindsey, "that I don't know how we'd take
care of someone else."
Lindsey still gets
depressed when people misunderstand her. "Sometimes, after a bad
experience, I shut myself off from the rest of the world," she says. "I
don't have to face judgment in my room." Recently, as a man at work was
talking, she tuned out but kept nodding and smiling (a frequent habit).
Suddenly he blurted, "Did you hear what I said? I got mugged last
night." Lindsey was crushed. "It's exhausting," she says, "to be 27 and
still have to work at getting interactions with people right."
These are the times
when she needs Dave most. "He reminds me that tomorrow is another day,"
she says. "He makes me feel like I'm worth something." Dave loves to
stand behind her, wrap his arms around her waist, press his nose into
her hair and take long, deep breaths. Last Valentine's Day, he festooned
their bathroom mirror with plastic gel hearts (he's been obsessed with
the shape since he was a kid). They're still there today.
Though connecting with
others will be a lifelong struggle, Lindsey and Dave have formed a bond
that defies their autism. They may sometimes come across as blunt to
strangers, but speaking their own minds clearly and directly—just as
they did when they moved in together—has helped their relationship.
There's none of the "if you have to even ask what's wrong, then forget
it" passive-aggressiveness many couples experience, no expectation of
mind reading. "People like Lindsey and Dave put so much thought and
dedication into making their relationship work," says Diane Twachtman-Cullen,
Ph.D., a speech-language expert who specializes in autism and knows the
couple well. "Frankly, we could all take a page from their playbook."
Lindsey's mom is
similarly awed. Anne Nebeker recalls that when Lindsey and Dave came to
visit her for the first time, "we went to a local lake. The two of them
were running around and splashing water at each other, and I was so
pleasantly surprised to see them doing a normal-couple thing like that.
Even when Lindsey calls
him Hon' and it sounds natural, not forced and rehearsed, I am amazed. I
am so happy to see her in love."
These days, when
Dave whispers as he approaches Lindsey, she'll whisper back; it's become
a term of endearment. "Psst…," he'll say after he walks in the door and
sees Lindsey in the living room. Her face lights up when their eyes
meet. "Psst!" she'll respond, smiling. She knows that with Dave, she's
in a safe place. "I'm so lucky to have found him," she says. "When I'm
with him, I forget about my challenges."
Writer Lynn Harris is a
contributing editor at Glamour.
PHOTOS: PHOTO: COURTESY OF GORDEN NEBEKER
CLICK IMAGE TO LEARN MORE...
Geneva Centre 2010 International Symposium
Michael Adea - 2010 Symposium Ambassador
At each International Symposium on Autism, Geneva Centre for Autism
provides a poster featuring an individual with autism who has
demonstrated an outstanding creative talent of his or her own as our
Symposium Ambassador. Previous Geneva Centre for Autism “Ambassadors”
have included remarkable painters, sculptures, cartoonists and even
POSTER ARTIST: David Beresford
Adults with Autism
What happens when
someone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) leaves school and makes the
transition to adult services, college, work, job training, or a new
Coming of Age:
Autism and the Transition to Adulthood
Interactive Autism Network at Kennedy Krieger Institute
April 8, 2014
What do we mean by the
When you get to be 18 or 21, it's like falling off a cliff. We don't do
a great job of educating parents about what's going to happen after
Technically, the transition is a formal process that begins by age 16
for a student who receives U.S. special education services. That is when
school systems must begin helping those students plan for life after
high school, such as college, work, vocational training, independent
living and adult disability services.
Autistic and seeking a place in an adult world
Teachers will ask students about their interests and develop goals to be
inserted in the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP). Adult
service agencies may be invited to participate, since they may be
handling the student's needs after he leaves high school or reaches age
But don't assume a young adult is merely transferring between two equal
disability systems, one for children and one for adults. The adult
system is different at its core.
A student with a
disability who is eligible for U.S. special education services is
guaranteed to receive them until he graduates high school or turns 21.
Not so with adult services. That same student may be eligible for adult
services, such as housing assistance, day programs, supported employment
and job training. But whether and when he receives those services
depends on funding. States often administer such programs through
developmental disability and vocational rehabilitation agencies. The
states set their own guidelines for eligibility and funding.
Many states have waiting
lists for adult services, particularly housing. For example, Connecticut
had 15,000 people with intellectual disability who were eligible for
services in 2013, but only limited funding.
To receive funding,
someone on a waiting list had to be in a crisis, such as facing
homelessness, abuse or a progressive illness. Many states parcel out
funds for adult services to those who are in crisis or have the most
"When you get to be 18 or 21, it's like falling off a cliff," said Zosia
Zaks, a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor who works with adults with
ASD. "We don't do a great job of educating parents about what's going to
happen after school ends."
The responsibility for
obtaining services also shifts. Public schools are tasked with finding
children with disabilities and providing them services. But in the adult
system, you must apply for services and ask for what you need. "It
requires self-advocacy," explained Mr. Zaks, program supervisor at the
Hussman Center for Adults with Autism in Towson, Md.
Youth with Autism
at Risk After High School
The National Autism Strategy aims to help all adults with autism
into work. Kellie Nauls, project coordinator for the Moving On
Employment Project in the Shetland Islands, talks about how a pilot in
the region is helping young people with autism to find and keep a job.
CLICK IMAGE TO LEARN MORE...
Once in college, students with disabilities will have to request the
accommodations they need to be successful, and their schools need only
provide the "reasonable" ones. Parents who consider themselves experts
on their child's special needs may find themselves largely shut out of
the process after high school because of privacy laws.
Students who have
experience making their needs known will fare better in this
Not surprisingly, the road to adulthood can be rocky. More than half of
the youth with ASD had no job and no involvement with postsecondary
education in the two years after leaving high school, according to a
study in the journal Pediatrics.
"It appears that youth with an ASD are uniquely at high risk for a
period of struggling to find ways to participate in work and school
after leaving high school," according to the research team, led by Paul
T. Shattuck Ph.D. They also warned of "potential gaps in transition
planning" for youth with ASD,3 a caution mentioned by other researchers
studying the post-high school employment of people with autism.4
But don't panic. There are
things parents, teachers and schools can do to help with the transition.
Start Transition Planning Early
Parents ask me, 'When should I start with transition planning?' I say,
'Age six,' and people look at me like I'm out of my mind. Ernst
For one, you can begin planning sooner. Experts say that transition
planning ideally begins when children are very young, as parents and
schools lay the foundation for skills needed to negotiate adult life.
"Parents ask me, 'When should I start with transition planning?,'" said
Ernst O. VanBergeijk, Ph.D., M.S.W., associate dean and executive
director of the Vocational Independence Program at New York Institute of
Technology. "I say, 'Age six,' and people look at me like I'm out of my
mind. 'That's way too early,' they say. But I say, you need to visualize
your child at age 21. What are the building blocks for independent
What is it like to be an independent adult?
Daily living skills – which include personal hygiene, housekeeping and
handling money – can be taught beginning in early childhood, he said.
Complex skills can be broken into small steps and gradually increased in
complexity as a child gets older and learns to do each step, he said.
Take work and money management skills, for example. A parent can begin
by teaching her child to perform simple chores and giving him an
allowance for the work, he said. The child can learn about money by
placing his coins into separate tins for spending and saving.
The payoff for learning these skills is high. A 2014 study of adults
with ASD found that those with better daily living skills were more
independent in their job and educational activities.5
Focusing on Daily Living Skills in the Transition Years
Schools may not always consider daily living skills when drafting
transition goals for a diploma-bound student. Parents can request that
those skills be included in the IEP, said Dr. Amie W. Duncan, a
psychologist who has studied this issue. Her research team found that
half of the students with ASD and average or above average intelligence
had deficits in daily living skills.6
Another item to consider: adding "travel training" as a transition goal.
Travel training is hands-on teaching about how to travel safely to jobs
and other destinations using public transportation.
Some programs, such as Project SEARCH, help move students with
disabilities into workplaces during the transition years.
Daily Living Skills: A Key to Independence for People with
Interactive Autism Network at Kennedy Krieger Institute
April 10, 2014
Cafe Serves Up Jobs For Young Adults With Autism
With a broken alarm clock, Zosia Zaks feared oversleeping for an 8:30
a.m. college class. Who wouldn't? But his solution was anything but
typical; he decided to sleep in his classroom to make sure he wasn't
As someone with
Asperger's Syndrome, he lacked a so-called adaptive skill – in this
case, performing the steps needed to replace a clock battery – that
makes adult life easier.
Mr. Zaks, now a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, and other experts
say adaptive skills, or skills of daily living, need to be taught
explicitly to people on the autism spectrum. Taking a shower, brushing
your teeth, riding a bus, crossing the street, shopping or preparing a
meal: all of these are adaptive skills.
Such skills are considered essential to adulthood. "For example,
difficulties with everyday activities such as bathing, cooking,
cleaning, and handling money could drastically reduce an individual's
chance of achieving independence in adulthood," according to
Sometimes, parents and teachers of children with autism may focus more
attention on teaching academic and behavior management skills than on
daily living skills. Some may assume that daily living skills are less
important. Or they may believe that a person with average intelligence
will learn those skills on his own.
In fact, intelligence may have nothing to do with it. Problems with
daily living skills "may be especially prominent in those with higher
cognitive abilities" and autism, according to one study.1
The Center for Excellence in Autism (CFEA)i s a leading provider
in the community offering services for individuals with an Autism
Spectrum Disorder (ASD). CLICK IMAGE TO GO TO SITE.
Autism and the College Experience
Interactive Autism Network at Kennedy Krieger Institute
May 12, 2014
Elizabeth Cuff is a computer whiz and talented artist, but she decided
to leave college after just one semester. It wasn't the work that
stumped her, but rather decoding what professors wanted. Liz has
Asperger's Syndrome, and though she got some "accommodations" from the
college, "it was not what I was expecting," she said. "There wasn't
enough support, like I was used to in high school."
She had trouble asking teachers for help when they looked busy, and she
had to wait to get answers to questions. She found the instructions for
some assignments to be baffling.
Many U.S. students struggle to adjust to the challenges of college:
dormitory living, sudden independence, rigorous classes, and a new
social world. But for people with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the
transition can be more abrupt and dramatic.
The Individualized Education Programs (IEPs, for short) that helped them
from elementary through high school disappear in college.
Their parents are no
longer able, or welcome, to advocate for them. And their struggles with
communication, organization or interpreting social nuances can multiply
exponentially in college, away from the watchful eye and structured
world of parents, principals and special education teachers.
Researchers have found that young adults with ASD have low rates of
employment and education after they leave high school.
They were less likely
to be employed than youth with intellectual disability, a learning
disability, or a speech/language impairment. More than half of the youth
with ASD had no job and no school participation in the first two years
after high school, a higher percentage than the youth with those other
The picture improves with time. Almost 35 percent attended college and
55 percent held a paying job in the first six years after receiving high
school diplomas or certificates.1 Still, most students with ASD either
don't apply to college, don't get admitted, or don't stay in college.2,3
Many people with autism are capable of a college degree but require a
range of supports to help them succeed.4 As Ms. Cuff found, however, the
supports available in most colleges differ radically from what's
available in high schools. And those college supports may not address
some of the unique needs of students on the spectrum.
To help prepare students for college, parents should gradually give them
more responsibility. For example, they shouldn't always rescue them when
they miss due dates or forget materials they need for school at home,
said an article in a publication for school psychologists. "Students
need self-knowledge in order to understand what kind of weaknesses they
will have to account for in the unstructured world of college," it
Needed: An "Interpreter of the Social World" for Students with ASD
The biggest issue is not academics. It's navigating the social
environment and having the independent living skills necessary to be
away at college.
Colleges and universities are used to providing accommodations to
students with learning or physical disabilities, but students with ASD
often have needs that extend beyond the classroom, Dr. VanBergeijk said.
"If you send a person to college with a hearing impairment, you provide
an interpreter of the hearing world, but our people on the spectrum need
an interpreter of the social world," he explained. "The biggest issue is
not academics. It's navigating the social environment and having the
independent living skills necessary to be away at college."
A student may be accused of stalking because he doesn't know how to show
his interest in a potential date appropriately, he may irritate
professors by interrupting and correcting them, or he may become upset
if someone sits in "his spot," he said. The student may become a target.
He knew one student with ASD who left an Ivy League university because
of bullying in the dormitory, he said.
Students may need special accommodations for dorm living, such as the
option for a single room and lighting that doesn't cause sensory
problems. Whether colleges can provide that is "hit or miss," he said.
Colleges may interpret the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act
differently and may be affected by their size, budget and mission, he
Mr. Magro, 26, said he had a "disability single" – a single room for
students with a disability – as a freshman. He served as a resident
advisor in his sophomore and junior years, which afforded him his own
His freshman year was the hardest, as he moved from a tiny high school
to a much larger university. "It was a rough transition to learn how to
get along with other people and how to meet other people," he said. "One
of the big things that helped me was asking questions, and really
working on adjusting to college life by keeping in touch with family and
close friends from home," he said.
He also went public with his diagnosis. He gave a presentation on autism
in class, and at the end, he told his classmates he was on the spectrum,
diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified
at age 4. "For the most part, people were warm and welcoming," said Mr.
Magro, now an Autism Speaks staffer, motivational speaker and author.
An article by Dr. VanBergeijk and researchers Ami Klin and Fred Volkmar
recommended that colleges offer social skills groups, counseling,
vocational training and life coaching to students with ASD. They also
encouraged students to take community college courses while still in
AUTISM IN DATING, RELATIONSHIPS,
MARRIAGE, DIVORCE, FAMILY
The desire to connect with another person and build a satisfying
relationship exists in everyone. It is common and natural for people
with autism and other developmental disabilities to seek companionship;
however, they often experience problems due to difficulties
communicating with others and recognizing non-verbal cues.
For parents and other family members, their loved ones’ safety is a
common concern. It is important to keep in mind that with support,
people with disabilities are able to overcome challenges associated with
dating and develop successful relationships.
Dating allows two people
to get to know each other better; however, it can be a confusing process
If you are interested
in someone, how do you act on those feelings? How do you ask someone out
on a date? What steps should you take to prepare for a date?
and Katherine McLaughlin.
Online dating has
become a popular and quick way to meet people. Unlike traditional
dating, meeting online gives each person the opportunity to protect
their identity until he/she feels comfortable enough to reveal more
personal details. This is especially helpful for individuals who prefer
to wait to disclose their disability. Although there are benefits to
online dating, taking the necessary safety precautions is important.
of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may make it difficult for individuals
to initiate and manage romantic relationships.
Discomfort with physical
affection, high levels of anxiety, and difficulty with eye contact may
lead to lack of affection and intimacy within the relationship.
Fortunately, these issues can be managed with open and honest
Individual with ASD should explain to their partners why they behave the
way that they do. Partners, in turn, should be supportive and willing to
compromise so that a comfortable median can be reached. Many people on
the autism spectrum are looking to be in a relationship; however, there
are others who are content with being single.
Dating and choosing to be
in a relationship are personal choices that depend on the needs and
preferences of the individual. Below are a few ways that parents and
caregivers can support their loved ones through this journey:
relationships and dating and let the individual decide whether it is for
them. If he/she wants to pursue dating, inform him/her about acceptable
behaviors, the importance of consent and personal space, and other
individual to get involved in group events and activities. Interacting
with peers may create more opportunities for finding a potential
research. Reading books, exploring websites, and talking to other
parents, counselors and educators are useful ways to learn more about
how to effectively support individuals with disabilities in dating and
The following suggestions are written by people who identify themselves
as having a developmental disability. These people present their own
recommendations based upon their own experiences.
Moving From Friend
When I was in school it
was not easy to make friends. I started to get out in my community and
meet people at groups, volunteering, clubs and playing sports. And it is
a big challenge to find a friend.
You have to put
yourself out there to find the right friend. Friends don’t care if you
have a disability or not. Friends like you for who you are, not what you
give them. Imagine you are at a dance and out of nowhere there is
someone standing close to you.
Like a genie they keep
popping up, checking you out. Will you feel too shy to ask them to
You need to walk,
cruise over and introduce yourself and shake the person’s hand and tell
them your name.
Step 1: Feeling
Interested When you have a crush on someone you need to decide if you
are going to act on those feelings. Ask yourself: Can a potential
girlfriend/boyfriend be…. Someone already in a relationship? Someone who
has said she/he is not interested? A paid support person/teacher?
Someone under 16?
Step 2: Getting
to Know Someone After you meet that person you need to spend time with
them and see how they act around you. Use your self-advocacy skills and
let the person know how you feel by: Tell the person how you feel (“I
like you and I like spending time with you.”) Talking on the telephone.
Ask him/her to join you at a group activity. Ask him/her out on a date.
Step 3: Becoming
a Couple Relationships usually start off being fun and exciting. Here
are a few topics you may need to talk about as a couple. When conflicts
come up it’s often not the issue, but how you work through it and learn
how to communicate better.
commitment—Will you only date each other?
Feelings about touch—What
kind? How much?
will you communicate with each other (phone calls, e-mails, text
How much time will you
How often will you see
How to handle a long
Interactive Autism Network:
Romantic Relationships for Young Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome and
Dating, Marriage & Autism: A Personal Perspective
THE BOOK: The
Asperger Love Guide
The Asperger Love Guide: A Practical Guide for Adults with
Asperger's Syndrome to Seeking, Establishing and Maintaining Successful
Relationships (Lucky Duck Books) , Kindle Edition by Genevieve Edmonds
(Author), Dean Worton (Author) 4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review See
all 4 formats and editions Kindle Edition CDN$ 24.44 Read with Our Free
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