Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Autism and Loneliness

While there are dozens of articles on how to help socialize your child with autism, there are only a handful speaking to parents looking to help socialize their autistic adults the same way. As a parent of an adult with autism, I grapple daily with letting go, letting him function without me, and as my husband says, “cut the umbilical” little by little. But while my son is able to coordinate his own transportation to and from work every day, do his own laundry and even check his bank account as he learns to manage his money, he’s not able to retain and maintain friendships that can blossom into love relationships.

It’s not for lack of trying. My son is that friend that texts you out of nowhere to “check in.” He’s the friend that knows your interests so well, he’s got them memorized and will show up with the perfect birthday present when he’s invited. There’s the crux of the problem. He’s not always invited. Some of his friends’ parents are as involved in their kids’ lives as we are so they remember to call him up (or me) and invite him to events where they can socialize but it’s usually a once-per-year event like a birthday, or a Christmas party (rare). The parents will say things like, “we gotta get them together more often” but a year passes by before anything really happens again.

There’s no real chance of dating. If there is, it’s not frequent and the chance to build a friendship that can blossom into more is rare among adults with autism. Especially those who live with their parents and have little social interaction opportunities outside of work, therapy, and doctor’s appointments. (Yes, you can meet and create friendships at doctor’s appointments, especially if you’re there all of the time.) So how do you socialize your autistic adult? It’s not just about the tips for socialization, most parents of autistic adults have that down pat. Many of us have even created a few tips of our own, thank you very much. How do we help them find peers if they’re not able to socialize at a bar (many can’t even drink with the medications they’re on) or connect at a library (some are non-verbal, cognitively or developmentally delayed) or meet at the playground (you may call it a park but let’s face it, it’s the playground that you really want to go to). I’m honestly asking this question because I really don’t have that answer.

A recent study by the National Autistic Society in the UK, suggests autistic people are among most lonely and isolated in UK and it's not any different for people with autism in the US. But where are the resources online to help find the information about dating opportunities for autistics? While there are many links to help people understand what it means to date someone on the spectrum or whether autistics can marry or even be in a relationship (yes, yes they can), there's no info on how to help your developmentally delayed son score a date. 

In one of my online support groups, where a member asked the very same question, every response was the same, “with you, monitoring thread for suggestions.” None of us who have parented these kids through a lifetime of challenges have no idea how or where to go to help our kids create romantic relationships.

Anyone have ideas?