Sep 07, 2012 1 Share

Try and Try Again

Illustration of couples in silhouette on blue background with heart.

While I was writing a short story recently on the topic of autism, I came up with a list of some of the most difficult areas that individuals on the spectrum struggle with. After doing some reflection and going through some of my emails I’ve received from parents, it seems the main one that surfaces has to do with relationships. “Will my son ever get married?” “Will I ever have grandkids?” and “How can I encourage my daughter to put herself out there?” For me it’s a question that evokes a lot of different emotions.

When thinking about my experiences, relationships are probably still the area I struggle with the most. It’s not because I haven’t put myself out there, but it’s because any relationship you ever walk into is so complex. It’s not something that can be taught by following a routine or a pattern. It’s something that once embarked upon challenges you in every part of yourself. Many individuals I encounter for this reason have great difficulties with this. Add to that the communication and social interaction difficulties that many with autism have and it can feel like an impossible task.

The best advice I’ve been able to give I must admit probably sounds somewhat generic, but it’s very much about finding someone with similar interests you can relate to and also just having the ability to put yourself out there while being confident. While at the International Meeting For Autism Research this year in Toronto I was able to have a conversation with author and self-advocate John Elder Robison about this topic. His wife, Mary Robison, recently “came out” about being on the autism spectrum. The Robisons have been married for years now and seem so happy. One thing that John stresses is that any relationship can be tough but you also have to consider that some people with autism just don’t want to be in relationships at all. Temple Grandin, another self-advocate, is a perfect example of this. She has said that she has always been perfectly fine with being by herself and admits to not needing anyone for her to consider her life a success.  

This goes back to the saying that seems to have been growing in the autism community that when you’ve met one individual with autism you’ve met just one person with autism. For this reason many parents should just consider their child remaining single as an option. Many individuals who don’t have autism aren’t married either and live for happy and successful lives.

In the end though, for those who are approaching relationships it’s just best to take it in stride. Don’t worry about when/if it will happen because people are settling into relationships now at so many different ages and times. I’ve personally had several fantastic and amazing relationships but regrettably to get to those moments you also have to be willing to go through some possible heartache too. It’s important when those moments happen that you don’t consider them rejections but learning experiences instead. Every opportunity you get in your life is a potential learning opportunity so it’s important to focus on those times when they come. For those on the spectrum, it’s also crucial you don’t let your disability become a factor in why someone may or may not like you. This has eaten me up sometimes because, especially when I started dating when I was 15, my confidence was low because I thought girls wouldn’t like me because of my disability. The bottom line is, there are going to be countless people who like you for you, you just have to be willing to keep your eyes open.

If you keep this in mind, no matter what happens in your life you will be doing the best you can and that's something to be proud of. So try and try again. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

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Try again

Kerry, thank you for your perspective! You help me understand all of the great possibilites that are ahead for my son. Your pal,Laura Shumaker