Feature by Nikita Fernandes
Autism spectrum is a neurological developmental difference in the brain. People with autism are characterized as authentic, sensitive, and independent thinkers who might struggle with social convention. People with autism fall under a neurodivergent umbrella along with ADHD. The exact cause of autism is still unknown and theories credit a mixture of genetics and environmental factors. People that are born with autism are diagnosed by professionals using their behavioral & developmental history. Writer and autism activist Suzannah Weiss presented a lecture on "Sex On The Spectrum: Navigating Relationships, Dating, And Sexuality With Autism" through the Modern Sex Therapy Institute and shared that people are impacted by autism to varying degrees and every person with autism is different. Thus, the way that autistic people navigate interpersonal relationships is not a one size fits all model. People with autism might also try to navigate interpersonal relationships by attempting to mask. Austistic masking refers to hiding ones autistic traits in order to fit in. However, this can lead to autistic burnout in which they experience exhaustion of trying to fit in with neurotypical individuals.
In interpersonal relationships, people with autism allow themselves to feel deeply which is a strength. They can also be honest and direct with their partners which allows for communication and trust building. However, people with autism might also struggle with interpersonal relationship dynamics as they can have a hard time understanding and predicting other people's behavior. The might also have challenges with reading people's nonverbal body language. It can be helpful for people with autism to focus on reframing any feelings of insecurity or inadequacy that arise while navigating relationships. By practicing mindfulness, people with autism might be able to ground themselves when they get overwhelmed in social situations. Some questions to ask while grounding themselves might be - What am I seeing right now? or What am I feeling right now?. It is also important to have conversations about how being autistic affects their interpersonal relationships and what their needs are.
Autistic people can also surround themselves with nerodivergent community that can help normalize the challenges faced in interpersonal relationships. Support groups and meet up groups can be a great way to meet more people that might share their experiences of navigating dating and friendships. Dating and friendship apps like Hiki and Uneepi were created for people with neurodiversity to meet each other. It is a great space to celebrate neurodiversity and center neurodiverse voices. Thus, it is important for people with autism to have communities that validate and honor the autism experience.