Of all the myths about autism -- and whoo boy are there a lot -- one of the most prevalent marks kids on the spectrum as unfeeling, lacking the ability to love and desire to feel a human connection. Guess what y'all? Teenagers with autism are the same mess of hormones and lust as their peers. They want to date too.
And thanks to two particular college kids with Asperger's who volunteered to work with The New York Times and their Love on the Spectrum project late last year, these loving, feeling kids finally have a voice in the national discussion of autism to break down another barrier to getting a date: society frowning on them. Jack Robison and Kirsten Lindsmith have sparked the kind of outpouring of emotion that the myth makers wouldn't expect from kids on the spectrum.
But emotional these kids have been. They want the world to know they don't love other people "despite" their autism. They just plain love other people. It's an important -- albeit difficult to grasp -- distinction. But kids with autism are trying to show the world that the syndrome may affect much of what they do, but that doesn't mean it's a "problem." As one high schooler said:
Love is a really hard thing to accomplish, maybe even the hardest thing in the world to achieve, and it is hard for everybody. It doesn’t matter if you are autistic or not. If anything, this article shows trials and tribulations that befall every relationship of society.
His point is well taken. Love and relationships are HARD. Being on the autism spectrum may make for complications in dating. But really, other folks have complications too. We just have different hurdles. Depression. A rough childhood. Divorced parents. Fear of commitment. Falling in love too easily. Falling out of love to easily. The sky is the limit.
It doesn't mean the rest of us don't date. So why not kids with autism? Why don't they deserve the same chance to go out and feel that heady rush of hormones and the sweet thrill of a first kiss?
I'm glad the world is getting to know more about autism for the sakes of all these kids. The more examples out there of these kids growing up and doing "normal" stuff, the better. But what we need as a society is to learn the truth about autism, not truck in myths and half-truths. First lesson? Love is not a foreign concept for kids with autism.
What's the most pervasive myth about autism you've encountered?
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