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They make eye contact and look away, and they look again and they look away,” said Laugeson.“The look away makes it known you're safe, but the common error someone with autism can make is to stare, which can seem predatory and scare a person.” People with autism are also specifically instructed how to smile and for how long, since “another common mistake is to smile really big rather than giving a slight smile,” said Laugeson.
The way to Paulette's heart is through her Outlook calendar.“Social skills can be abstract behavior that's difficult to describe, but we try to break it into concrete steps.”For example, PEERS will take the seemingly mundane, but actually complex act of flirting and translate it into a step-by-step lesson.“First, a couple notices each other across the room.“Studies have shown that people with autism can have feelings that are stronger and deeper than those without autism,” said John Elder Robison, bestselling author of and autism advocate.“Yet those feelings may be invisible to outsiders because we don't show them.“I think a lot of times someone will go out on a date with someone on the spectrum and think they’re a robot,” said Alex Plank, founder of Wrong Planet.net, a popular online autism community.
“It's hard to read us if we don’t explicitly say what we're feeling, but all the feelings are there.”In fact, people with autism may have greater emotional capacities.
“A big smile can also be frightening.” Neuro-typical people often take flirting for granted as a fairly organic, coy, and even fun back-and-forth, but for someone with autism, it is really a complex, nonsensical interaction. It seems like a waste of time,” said Plank, who worked on with Laugeson to teach his Wrong Planet community members how to flirt.
“If you think about it logically, you say things you wouldn’t normally say, so it's harder.
“Honestly, if you want to be romantic with me, send an email through Outlook and give me all the possible dates, locations, and times, so that I can prepare,” she said.
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.
However, maintaining that confidence may be the hardest part of dating for someone on the spectrum, because of their difficulty processing social cues from others.