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The aspects of autism that can make everyday life challenging—reading social cues, understanding another's perspectives, making small talk and exchanging niceties—can be seriously magnified when it comes to dating.Though the American Psychiatric Association defines autism as a spectrum disorder—some people do not speak at all and have disabilities that make traditional relationships (let alone romantic ones) largely unfeasible, but there are also many who are on the "high-functioning" end and do have a clear desire for dating and romance.Imagine dealing with all the stresses of dating and it being 10 times harder: You can’t read between the lines or pick up on subtext.Loud noises and bright lights freak you out, but you don’t know how to explain this to the guy you’ve been crushing on for 10 months who finally asked you to the movies.“His view of autism was completely different to the reality of it.”The stereotype that everyone with autism is the same is a huge frustration.“Not everyone is non-verbal, rocks back-and-forth, or screams when they get overwhelmed,” says Linda Shuler-Kagelaris, who is 22.Because many people on the spectrum are super sensitive to light and sound, a trip to the food court and movies can lead to a sensory-overload disaster.“Somewhere like Mc Donalds, it’s loud and the smells can be overwhelming, and all the people going in and out is a lot,” says Linda. It’s really frustrating when I’m there trying to spend time with the person I want to be with and just focus on them.” Her advice: Pick somewhere with dim lighting that’s quiet. “With a group of people, I can’t easily establish a rapport with everyone because there is so much going on,” Tina says. ”Olivia, the Spectrum Singles founder, has been dating a non-autistic person for two years and says her discomfort for physical affection was an obstacle for them when they started dating.
“Before my diagnosis at 21, I had already been dating my boyfriend for a year and we’d already known each other for five,” says 23-year-old Hannah Sharples.The former Miss America system contestant and University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music-trained opera singer knew she had a different conception of romance than her previous boyfriends had and, for that matter, everyone else.“People tend to think of romance as spur of the moment and exciting,” she told me.