Ten steps to help a teen with autism navigate dating
With these challenges in mind, we’ve compiled some tips for helping your teen approach dating and intimacy. They are just general guides. How you apply them should depend on the age and experience of your teen.
1. Encourage an open dialogue. You want your teen to feel comfortable sharing information about dating. It can help to “normalize” the issue. For example, remind your teen that most everyone finds dating challenging. It’s not an easy process!
2. Be proactive. If your teen hasn’t already brought up the topic, look for a time when he or she is in a good mood and mention your willingness to talk about dating and sexuality when your teen is ready. Highlight that each person becomes interested in these experiences at different ages, and that’s okay.
3. Don’t delay discussions if you think your teen might be sexually active or is dealing with opportunities for sexual activity. In this situation, it’s crucial to discuss safe sex even if your teen feels resistant to talking about it. For example, gently but clearly make sure your teen understands how pregnancy occurs, how sexually transmitted diseases spread and how to take preventive steps. If sexual activity has already occurred, we recommend consulting with your teen’s doctor about related health issues.
4. If your teen is open to role-playing, try running through some classic dating scenarios. While role-playing, observe how your teen shows interest, expresses compliments and responds nonverbally (e.g., smiling, nodding in agreement, making eye contact). Explain that these behaviors send positive messages to the other person. Mention how everyone likes to have someone show genuine interest. Model behaviors that show interest. Together, brainstorm possible topics of conversations.