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Love and Autism

Love and Autism
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Navigating Love and Autism: The New York Times recently featured an article with this title by Nancy Harmon, about the blooming romance between 19-year-old Jack Robison and Kirsten Lindsmith, both students at the University of Massachusetts campus in Amherst. Robison has Asperger’s Syndrome; his father, John Elder Robison, has written about his own experience living with Asperger’s Syndrome in a memoir, Look Me In the Eye. In the course of her relationship with Jack Robison, Lindsmith, who had been diagnosed with ADHD as an 11-year-old, realized that she was also on the autism spectrum and, after testing, was also diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Harmon’s article describes the ups and downs of Robison’s and Lindsmith’s relationship, noting how both having Asperger’s Syndrome — characterized by difficulties with social interactions, reading social cues, communication and sensory sensitivities, while having normal intelligence — potentially adds an extra layer of challenges. As Harmon writes,

Only since the mid-1990s have a group of socially impaired young people with otherwise normal intelligence and language development been recognized as the neurological cousins of nonverbal autistic children. Because they have a hard time grasping what another is feeling — a trait sometimes described as “mindblindness” — many assumed that those with such autism spectrum disorders were incapable of, or indifferent to, intimate relationships. Parents and teachers have focused instead on helping them with school, friendship and, more recently, the workplace.

Yet as they reach adulthood, the overarching quest of many in this first generation to be identified with Asperger syndrome is the same as many of their nonautistic peers:  to find someone to love who will love them back.

Love and autism are two subjects I return to often in my own writing about autism. Our teenage son Charlie has a diagnosis of autism and I write frequently, here and on my blog, We Go With Him, about our daily life. Charlie is my husband Jim’s and my only child and our days completely rotate around him. Charlie has many struggles, in large part due to his very limited verbal communication ability; sometimes his not being able to explain that he has a pounding headache or a pain in his stomach, that he feels out of sorts because his usual routine of 5 days of school and 2 days off has been disrupted due to the holidays, is expressed via “behavior storms.” It may be in the midst of some of these moments of extreme difficulty that we feel our love for Charlie the strongest.

Harmon’s article is about “love of the Valentine’s Day” sort. Given Charlie’s neurological issues, an intimate relationship such as Robison’s and Lindsmith’s would be even more challenging.

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Photo by Alex Grant (alextakesphotos)

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4:19AM PST on Dec 10, 2012

Thank you Kristina, for Sharing this!

6:42AM PDT on May 20, 2012

Very individual decisions to make

6:43PM PST on Jan 17, 2012

Appreciate the articles you write on this topic, you've helped me understand an autistic adult in my life.

5:46PM PST on Jan 16, 2012

1:59AM PST on Jan 15, 2012

Thanks for working for the autistic people.

12:17AM PST on Jan 3, 2012

really is inspiring.. Love Autism..

7:45AM PST on Dec 30, 2011

Thank you for the article...

6:05PM PST on Dec 29, 2011

don't know if this has been written about, but i bought a bottle of 'one hope' wine at stater bros. as a gift. 50% of the profits from the cabernet sauvignon go toward an autism charity.

3:25PM PST on Dec 29, 2011

My oldest child, now 21, has Asperger's and has recently graduated from school, in Computer-Assisted Drawing. He is starting to look for a job, maybe an appartment (not too far from our place, at first!), and eventually, he wants to get married and have children. He already has the kids' names picked out! But, he's taking it very slowly to choose between the few girls that sometimes call. They go out to museums, comic book conventions, movies... but that's it for now. I think it's simply because he takes dating more seriously than "regular" young men, like he realizes that there is more of a challenge in it than in friendship...

To take some of the pressure off, we discuss "scenarios", like "the step-by-step way of asking a friend to the movie"; 1) you call or text at least 2 days in advance; 2) you have to have the movie listings handy when you call; 3) offer a choice of movies you would like to see, in case she doesn't want to see the particular movie you chose; 4) decide together at which theatre and at what time you're going to meet; 5) etc. He seems to appreciate that. Who knows? Maybe, one day, we'll go through "the step-by-step way of driving your wife to the birthing center when she's about to give birth"...?

5:46PM PST on Dec 27, 2011

Thank you, Dr. Chew, for your work for the autistic people.

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