"My Aspie son is 17 years old, and dating is now becoming a problem. He likes girls but struggles with starting a conversation, showing that he likes them, and so on... Any suggestions?"
Aspergers dating can be a bit more complicated than typical teen dating. The onset of dating is a big step for teens with Aspergers (high functioning autism), just as it is for all teens. Like any other teen, your son wants to develop those special friendships and be a part of the crowd. The socialization struggles brought about by Aspergers calls for some advanced planning. Here are some tips to get you started.
Social skills are necessary to form friendships. Unfortunately, this skill area causes problems for people with Aspergers. Dating calls for the ability to notice social cues, body language, and gestures. You can help your son by identifying and practicing necessary skills. Many schools or community Autism support organizations have social skills group therapy classes. By attending these group activities, your son can learn socialization skills in a controlled and supported environment.
Sometimes personal hygiene is all but forgotten by people with Aspergers. Dating definitely requires good personal hygiene. It is difficult to attract the attention of the opposite sex if you forget to bathe and brush your teeth. Help your son create a schedule for his personal hygiene. A visual checklist can keep him on a regular schedule.
One way to meet people is through a shared interest. For example, if your son's special interest is computers, he could join a computer club or take a class. Now is the chance to put to good use those obsessive interests that are so commonly held by people with Aspergers. Dating someone who loves the same things you do makes for a more natural relationship.
It is not easy to make your way through the teen years with Aspergers. Dating is expected and desired. If your son is struggling, he may benefit from individual therapy. A private counselor can help him work through his issues, concerns, and fears. A counselor can give him strategies that will make life easier and more pleasant.
With a little planning, your son can tackle his socialization struggles. With a bit of organization, some social skills practice, and possibly some therapy, your son can begin to overcome some of the weaknesses of Aspergers. Dating will then become his reality. With a little practice, he will become comfortable with himself in social situations.
The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook