When searching for a romantic partnership, it can be challenging to find the right person to date. Dating can be confusing because of the variety of skills that are needed. If you are a person diagnosed with autism or a caregiver supporting a loved one with autism, here are a few thoughts and tips to consider as one moves into the world of dating:
- Take some time to think about why you are interested in dating. Do you feel ready to date? What do you know about dating?
- Identify the people and resources that can help guide you as you step into the world of dating.
- It’s important to know the difference between different types of relationships. Talk with people you respect or trust to learn more about healthy relationships.
- Know your boundaries and expectations about dating before you begin. What ways will you keep yourself and others safe while dating? How will you practice for situations when you or the other person is not interested in dating?
- Make a plan for activities you can do while you are dating. What activities do you enjoy that you can share with another person? What activities does the other person enjoy?
- After the date, take some time to think about your dating experience. What went well? What could be done differently next time? Who can you talk to about any questions you have about the date?
This is not an exhaustive list of tips for dating or safety precautions that need to be put in place. If necessary, make a dating plan with a trusted adult to help navigate the world of dating. Resources and supports exist to help with this topic. Below are a few links to get you started:
Autism Society of North Carolina, 6 Dating Basics for Self-Advocates
The Arc, Individuals with Autism and Relationships
Easter Seals, Navigating the World of Dating and Relationships with Autism
Organization For Autism Research, Promoting Healthy Dating
Boston Medical Center, Safer Dating for Youth on the Autism Spectrum
Sex Education for Self-Advocates
Many individuals and parents are faced with searching for options as they or their children age out of the school system. If you are an individual with ASD or a parent/guardian of an individual with ASD, you might consider a post -secondary education option. College programs are now becoming more available to individuals with autism and/or with an intellectual disability. Some offer a full 4 -year college degree program with additional support to enhance success, while others offer a certificate program where students focus on independent living and social skills. If you or your child received special education services through an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), those services will end at graduation and will not follow you or your child to a post-secondary education program. Contacting the post-secondary’s disability advocate program, will assist in learning what supports you or your child can request while completing these next steps in your or your child’s education process.
You can learn more about college programs on our provider directory at https://okautism.org/Information-Resources/Find-a-Provider-Resource/Results/category/education-and-tutoring-1
Autism Speaks also has a toolkit to help in preparing for a post- secondary education program. https://www.autismspeaks.org/tool-kit/postsecondary-educational-opportunities-guide
Finding and maintaining employment is one sign of success in adult life. However, for many individuals with ASD employment can be a challenge. Success in employment looks different for each person, ranging from part to full-time working for a company, individual, or for oneself. Regardless of the level of employment or the skill level of the person with ASD, many people require some level of support to experience success in this area.
High School Students
Youth preparing for the transition out of high school should have an intentional transition plan. For students on an Individualized Education Program (IEP), this plan may include employment. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that transition services for students on an IEP be in effect no later than the student’s ninth-grade year or by the age of 16, whichever occurs first. The Oklahoma State Department of Education has additional information about this process available on their website at http://sde.ok.gov/secondary-transition
Individuals with ASD may begin the search for employment at some point during or after high school. Some individuals find employment but also find they need some level of support along the way, particularly if expectations at their job change and require skills that are challenging for the person. Individuals may find the support they need through a friend or family member, through a counselor or therapist, or through the Human Resources Department at their place of employment. Additional resources that may be of help are provided below.
Factors that Contribute to Successful Employment
Regardless of the level of support an individual with ASD may need, it is important to start as early as possible in developing skills that will be needed for successful employment. Some of the key factors that contribute to success in the workplace include:
- Intentional work towards developing skills needed for a job, including independence in daily living skills (eg: personal hygiene), social skills, emotional regulation, and the ability to complete work-related tasks as independently as possible;
- Participation in a job skills program in high school, if possible;
- Connecting to disability-specific resources as early as possible, preferably in high school;
- Networking with family, friends, and other local community resources to identify opportunities for employment and/or volunteering in your area.
Oklahoma Agency Resources
- The Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) assists high school students and adults with disabilities by expanding opportunities for employment, independent life, and economic self-sufficiency. High-school students or adults can access DRS services through an application process. For details about DRS, services view their website or call 1.800.845.8476.
- The Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Developmental Disabilities Services provides Community Integrated Employment (CIE) to individuals with intellectual disabilities. You can learn more about this program at their website.
There are also several businesses that have programs for employing those with disabilities.
There are also a couple of websites that might give some places to contact to see what they offer locally.
Resources for Employers:
The Employee with Autism Spectrum Disorder
There are some changes to be considered when a person with a disability, including autism, reaches the age of majority. In Oklahoma, and most other states, the age of majority is 18 years old. At that time, a person is legally considered to be an adult and parents no longer have the legal rights, such as accessing confidential health records and school records, that they were entitled to throughout their child’s younger years. Parents are no longer their child’s legal guardian.
Not all people who have Autism Spectrum Disorder need the protection of Guardianship. Obtaining Guardianship for a person should be carefully investigated. A person’s ability to care for themself, make decisions that are in their own best interest, and managing their financial assets are some of the things that should be considered. Additionally, the person’s personal interests, needs, strengths, and weaknesses are important in making plans for their future.
Becoming the guardian of a person is a legal procedure that requires the appearance before a Judge. Guardianship does not require hiring an attorney. There are different types of Guardianship and they can differ from state to state. While the services of an attorney are not absolutely necessary, it can be beneficial to consult with an attorney before filing legal papers and heading to court.
- LegalAidOK provides resources to families seeking guardianship in Oklahoma
- Autism Speaks provides resources to families making decisions regarding long-term planning, including guardianship
A diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder does not automatically give a parent/guardian legal rights after the individual turns 18.
Once an individual reaches the age of 18 years, they are considered a legal adult. Parents/Guardians who have been providing financial and emotional support for their loved one with ASD must begin to explore options in order to protect their loved one in medical, financial, and legal matters. In the case of a person with ASD, their capacity to receive, evaluate and communicate information about a decision, along with the importance of the decision, should influence whether they require guardianship or conservatorship.
You can learn about the difference between guardianship and conservatorship
An IEP ( Individualized Education Plan) does not follow an individual to college.
Postsecondary institutions have significantly different responsibilities from those of school districts. They also assume that the student and not the parent will be advocating for their unique needs. Colleges should have a disability support office that you can contact to advocate for yourself or as a parent, that you can support your child in contacting. The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights has information and guidance for students with disabilities and their parents/guardians in preparing for postsecondary education and knowing what their rights are.
Individuals with autism and/or behavioral challenges can be arrested and incarcerated.
Individuals with ASDs are seven more times likely to encounter the criminal justice system than those without the disorders (Debbaudt, 2004). Although each offender diagnosed with an ASDs is different and should be processed and assessed individually by the court, the majority of individuals with hfASDs (high functioning ASD) who exhibit criminal behavior are thought to do so as a presentation of or in association with the symptoms of their disorders, specifically related to poor impulse and motor control, narrow fixation on specific interests, theory of mind deficits, and a lack of understanding of social cues, personal space, and the effects of one’s behavior on others (Murrie et al., 2002; Barry-Walsh and Mullen, 2004; Howlin, 2004; Haskins and Silva, 2006; Attwood, 2006; Kristiansson and Sorman, 2008; Browning and Caulfield, 2011).
A diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder is not a defense for committing a crime but is a relevant factor in that defense.
If a person involved in a crime is on the autism spectrum, the way in which the people involved in the judicial system communicate with them must be altered accordingly. Ensuring that the person understands the judicial system, the situation at hand, and the court process is essential. Enlisting an autism expert to help guide the process is also helpful to both those in the judicial system and the person involved.
If an attorney, judge, or victims' rights advocate is assigned a case involving someone on the autism spectrum, it is critical that these professionals have basic knowledge about autism spectrum disorder. Understanding their unique strengths, challenges, and the most effective ways to communicate with them will help ensure those on the spectrum get fair and appropriate treatment while involved in the court system. (Autism Speaks- Doyle, B.T. (2009) And Justice for All: Unless You Have Autism - What the Legal System Needs to Know About People With Autism Spectrum Disorders.)