Autism and Dating | DB Speaker Series


Autism and Dating is excited to present the virtual panel: Autism and Dating. This panel looks at topics related to dating from the perspective of autistic self-advocates, including consent, communication, boundaries, and more! Our line-up for this talk is really a who’s who of the autism community: self-advocate, consultant, author, and relationship therapist Toni Boucher; self-advocate, Neurodiversity & Inclusion Specialist, and author Marcelle Ciampi (also known as Samantha Craft); self-advocate, Neurodiversity & DEIJ Consultant, speaker, and educator Morénike Giwa Onaiwu; and self-advocate, Autism Sexuality Advocate, and relationship coach Amy Gravino! Moderating the panel (and also sharing their personal insights) are two more pre-eminent autism self-advocates you will remember from our previous Autism on the Job panel: Lyric Holmans and J.R. Reed. Lyric is a neurodiversity consultant many of you may know as the “Neurodivergent Rebel”. J.R. is a speaker, Autism Consultant, Certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, and writer. Recorded live October 21st, 2021.



TONI BOUCHER / Twitter: @toni_boucher

MARCELLE CIAMPI (aka SAMANTHA CRAFT) / Twitter: @AspergersGirls /

MORÉNIKE GIWA ONAIWU / Twitter: @MorenikeGO / / Instagram: @MorenikeGO

AMY GRAVINO / Twitter: @AmyGravino / Instagram: @amy.gravino /


LYRIC HOLMANS / / / Instagram: @NeuroDivergentRebel / Twitter: @NeuroRebel

J.R. REED / Twitter: @NWJAutistic /


Mike Nickas (MN):  Hello everybody. Welcome to our Different Brains Speaker Series installment for October called “Autism and Dating”. My name is Mike Nickas, and I am a team member at Different Brains and I want to thank everyone for attending. This webinar will have closed captioning generated by These can be controlled using the CC button on your zoom dashboard. We’ll start in just a minute but first, my fellow intern Michael is going to share some information about Different Brains. Michael, go ahead, take it away.

Michael Tollefsrud (MT):  Thanks. Hello, everybody. I’m Michael Tollefsrud and I’m an intern at Different Brains. And I want to tell you a little bit about our organization. Different Brains is a nonprofit that strives to encourage understanding and acceptance of neurodiversity. Our mission has three pillars, one to mentor neurodiverse adults and maximize their potential for employment and independence, to to increase awareness of neurodiversity by producing media, and three to foster the new generation of neurodivergent self advocates. Here at Different Brains, we promote awareness through the production of a variety of neurodiverse media content, including our multiple web series, blogs, podcasts, movies, and documentaries, all available for free at different brains that org. All of our content is worked on by those in the mentorship program, through which we aid individuals in taking the first steps towards achieving their goals and finding their voice. To find more information or to make a tax deductible donation, please visit our website at Back to you, Mike.

MN:  All right, thank you, Michael. Um, before we start, I want to invite everybody to send questions using the Q&A feature in zoom, or excuse me by putting questions in the chat box. And now I’m going to hand it over to our moderators for this evening, Lyric Holmans and JR Reed.

Lyric Holmans (LH):  Hi humans, this is Lyric. I am a pale, non binary human with short green hair and glasses. I’m wearing a red t shirt today. And I’m sitting here in an RV with brown wood paneling and a window with the line full shut behind me and I’ve got a giant headphones over so that we hopefully don’t get background noise feedback in here. I run the neurodivergentrebel blog, if I look familiar to any of you, and my, as I said, I’m Lyric and I use they/them pronouns… Oh, it’s late in the day. This is going to be exciting. You want to introduce yourself really quickly, pass it off? 

JR Reed (JR):  So my name is JR. And yeah, I love doing things with leg because lurk is coming from a RV in Texas and I am in a log cabin in the Missouri Ozarks. So we’re both we’re both just you know, in great places. I am a writer podcaster or speaker, “not weird, just autistic”. And I do some work with Different Brains, and I’m just very excited to be doing this once again. So let’s, let’s start at the upper left corner like if we’re doing a game show. Marcelle, do you want to say hi?

Marcelle Ciampi (MC):  Hi, my name is Marcelle or Marcie Ciampi, and my author’s name is Samantha Craft and I am in a red shirt sitting in a fairly dark room in the pacific northwest of Olympia, Washington. We’re sandwiched between Portland, Oregon, and Seattle. For those of you who don’t know the area, it’s the capital of Washington in western United States. And I’m not sure how much I should share. So I will say that I am a senior manager of di at Ultranauts Inc, which is an engineering firm in the United States with 75% autistics and I’m an author and an advocate and a friend and supporter of many.

JR:  All right, Amy.

Amy Gravino (AG):  Hi everyone, I’m Amy Gravino. I am an extremely pale redheaded female, wearing a lovely dazzling purple dress and a red sweater. I have behind me The Birth of Venus by Botticelli, which is very fitting for my appearance. I’m coming to you — Thank you, Miranda key I love you. I’m coming to you from Montclair, New Jersey just outside of New York City, 25 minutes or so. And I am an autism sexuality advocate and I’m a relationship coach in the record center for adult autism services and also a writer and very happy to be here tonight.

JR:  I’m going to try to pronounce this right make sure more Morénike.

Morénike Giwa Onaiwu (MGO):  That’s close actually that sounds really like romantic and nice. But but it’s Morénike. Right. And so I am a tall pale blonde — Just kidding, that is such a lie. I’m an average height dark skin. I guess female presenting non binary a woman with long black extension braid thingies. Who is very envious of Amy’s background, it looks phenomenal. But I like mine. my BFF gave you that. So my kids made that. But anyway, it’s a picture behind me of some like scenic landscapes. And then I have a quote that I say a lot. I’m in a black, either leather or full leather chair. I’m wearing a black and white shirt. And I’m coming to you from Hades, aka Texas where they love to steal people’s autonomy. But anyway, we won’t go there right now. That’s a whole podcast to itself a whole webinar itself. And I am a multiple even neurodivergent autistic adult. I was diagnosed in adulthood. I have two young children. Well, I guess they’re not that young anymore. My youngest children are autistic and my other children are have multiple disabilities and ordinances as does my spouse. So we’re just kind of like team nor diverse squad. I’ve been here, do writing, speaking, educating, still trying to kind of find myself and figure my life out and so grateful to be here with you all talking about the lovely topic of dating.

JR:  And everything’s fine are in Carolina, right, Toni?

Toni Boucher (TB):  Yes, it’s beautiful. Here. I’m in Charleston, South Carolina. And I’ve been working with folks on the spectrum for 30 years, actually over 30 years now. And interesting. I’m a late diagnosed autistic. I came to realizing that the reason I work with autistic people and had success with them was because this is my tribe. And I understood because I was living the same experiences as the people I was working with. So I’m a professional, I write and I’m a mother of three neurodivergent kids. And I’m a professional. So I come at this from three different ways parent, professional, and, and self advocate. And it’s wonderful to be here with all of you beautiful people.

JR:  Oh, look, I think the one thing I’m going to ask is that we all try to put our ADHD aside tonight and try to keep our answers to the topic short.

LH:  I feel like that’s mostly pointed at me as I’m long-winded but I could be the rest of us do. We have a lot to cover today. We’ve been really, really ambitious, like with all the things we’ve thrown in here that we’re going to like try to get to and we’ll see if we can get through all of it. I think what they’re trying to keep us like one minute per person per response and we want to make sure everyone does get a chance to get through these. But I guess if that if that is the case JR, help me. Help me hold us all accountable. We’ll jump right in and we’ll pass these around. You know, I’m honored to be in the presence of so much wisdom today. So I feel like we’ve got the perfect group of people here that to talk about this. So we want to talk about you know, relationships and defining different relationships and finding what relationship works best for you. Because you know, for all of us What relationship works well for me it’s not going to be what works well for you or anybody else. It’s very unique and individual you know, I my relationships are by no means traditional. I’m a polyamorous person. So that’s fine by nature, that’s like a different box with you know, someone who is very monogamous. We might not be very compatible with one or the other because we have different relationship needs. So you know, I’d love to throw this around. And I see Toni nodding a lot. So I kind of feel like I want to throw this one to Toni, to see if Toni has advice first. And then we’ll let anyone else who wants to also chime in with what they say about advice for finding the relationships, the type of relationship or relationship that works right for you.

TB:  Yeah, I think the first thing is to recognize that compatibility is absolutely 100% crucial. And I think a lot of times, those of us on the spectrum tend to get into relationships by something called propinquity, which means Oh, that person’s here. So I’m going to be in a relationship with them. And that is not the basis of a healthy and good relationship. I love lyric. But I’m very monogamous. That’s not a good fit. So we will be great friends, but I to get my needs met, I need to be with somebody who has that monogamous kind of a desire as well. And so when we are not compatible, that’s where we have rifts. And then we try to make it work in this dorsals to, you know, trying to be something we’re not expecting unrealistic things from other people.

LH:  So unless someone’s volunteering to go next, I’m going to call on somebody

JR:  Honestly, with you being very non traditional, I think I’m the poster child for traditional in being a white heterosexual male.

LH:  I know nobody likes you. 

JR:  That’s true. They don’t but I don’t think I don’t think it’s, I think there’s lots of other pieces about this the last couple of days, and I wrote a piece today for an online magazine about autism and dating. And I think what I’ve really found is it’s taken a long time, and I just crunched all the data from past relationships that what worked and what didn’t work and the good parts of the bad parts. And I put all that data together into what I’m looking for. And you know, using it by current relationships.

LH:  Yeah. And see, we all have these different approaches to me, I’m like, Oh, that’s too much data. But it probably is, like a very practical way to like look at this to this, like, instead of sometimes when I lead with, maybe not necessarily logical thinking and relationship where it gets me into trouble. So that might have saved me at one point. Any to do you have any?

JR:  I’m almost 56 years old. And this is the first time I’ve ever done that.

AG:  Um, yeah, I you know, I am 100% okay, with polyamory, if that’s what somebody is up for. And what they’re into. My issue is that I could just about deal with having my heart broken by one person, I don’t think I could survive having it broken by two. And I am almost certainly the one who would probably get hurt doing myself knowing my nature to just be in life have feelings for somebody, it’s kind of an all the way thing I can have just a little bit of feeling for someone. And so I always seem to be the one who ends up being more vulnerable, and getting hurt. And so I literally, I don’t I don’t think I could handle a polyamorous relationship myself. But again, it works for other people, gods and goddesses, bless them more power to you. I just, I have enough issues with one person, let alone multiple. So that’s my stance anyway.

LH:  Yeah. And just like so everyone makes sure I know, we all get thrown off that. So the questions that begin because we’ve got a couple more people, and we’ve all answered it, or several of them already, you know, talking about how you can find the best type of relationship that does work for you. And I’d love to throw it at Morénike. If you’re ready for that one, Morénike.

MGO:  Sure, why not? Okay, so I’m gonna be like the worst type of panelists because like, even the little questions that people are typing, and I’m thinking, Okay, well, it depends on this and depends on that. So that’s kind of like what I think too, is like, what would have been the best kind of relationship for me five years ago, or 10 years ago, or whatever, you know, if things aren’t necessarily the same, and it varies from person to person, I think one thing is, first, I think you need to know what it is that maybe you might not know exactly what you want, but you need to know what you don’t want. I think, you know what I mean? So that you you know, I think you need to have a kind of a sense of yourself. And I think you need to have some respect for yourself. And I’m not saying you can’t be working through your issues, we’re always going to be a work in progress are always going to be kind of jacked up. But I think you need to be on the way because I think that you can attract, you know, or be, you know, I guess vulnerable to manipulators, or, you know, narcissists or users or whomever, if, you know, sometimes, you know, with those that you know, in relationships, so I think that you’ve got to, you know, people talked about compatibility, you know, so I think about like it what’s important to you, is it, you know, conversation, is it, you know, physical attraction, is it stability, is it, you know, well, you know, is there anything in particular is it a family, is it sex is it you know what I mean? Like What’s the thing? Or the things that you need? And what do you bring to the table? And what does the other person bring? And what kind of relationship? Are you? is this? You know, are you settling? Is this like, forever? Or is this for now? Or is this, you know, like, what season of your life are you in? I think ultimately, you want to be authentic. I think when people are being fake, you’re gonna get fake back, you know, ultimately, um, and I just don’t think that it benefits anyone. I think that whether it’s a real relationship hookup, whatever, people just need to be real with one another, you know, and real with themselves. And I think that, that authenticity goes a long way.

LH:  Awesome, now. Marcelle, do you have anything to add? I’m going here on my list.

MC:  So I’m in my early 50s. And I wasn’t diagnosed till my early 40s. So I went through most of my dating history. clueless, say the least, I was raised by a free spirited hippie in California on the coast who took me to nude beaches. So I decided I was going to be a nun, pretty much in my dating history, which did that didn’t turn out. But I became very confused by my early 20s, where I was pretty much a puppy and not a human being, where please adopt me, I’ll do anything to make you happy, please take me home. And I didn’t have any boundaries, any boundaries of what I wanted, or what I needed. I didn’t even know what I liked, or what I didn’t like, I’m still learning what types of foods and colors and music I like it my age now. So I’m doing a lot of reprocessing. So it does depend a lot on the person’s maturity, whether or not they’re diagnosed or not what season they’re in. That was mentioned. For me now it’s I read something in a relationship book once that said, are they keeping their promises? are they following through with what they say they’re going to do. And time and time again, I would attract people that didn’t have my best interest or our relationships, best interests at heart. And they would say things, they talk a nice talk, or they would lie, or they would manipulate. And I didn’t realize with that with boundaries, what I understand now is, I can say, No, I don’t have to have a reason. I can say I don’t like this, I can remove myself, I can break up with someone. And I don’t have to have a logical reason and proof or, or validate the other person. And I’m still learning those things. So all those kind of came through my mind when we’re talking about this. And also, now more so I understand what I need in a relationship, I very much need to physical, I need touch, that’s very important to me, I need reassurance because I have PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder. So I know that I need someone with a lot of patience and a lot of understanding and a lot of wisdom and depth because I’m very deep thinker. So knowing what I need is important and and being matched with someone now I’m in a relationship with an autistic person who can also acknowledge my strengths and my gifts and, and say those out loud to me and reinforce that they think I’m a beautiful person and and we can reflect and be mirrors to one another.

LH:  You are a beautiful person. You’re so awesome. I just want to tell you that because I don’t think we believe that about ourselves enough. I all of you who are very awesome. I’m I’m honored to be with all of you here. I feel like that leads us really perfectly into kind of our next topic talking about boundaries. JR do you agree?

JR:  Yeah, I agree. And yeah, we’re talking about boundaries. We’re talking about physical or emotional boundaries, but also things like consent, red flags that we find in relationships, things like that. So Amy, you want to start us off with that?

AG:  Sure, sure. I saw somebody mentioned something about red flags. And I think one of the question everything is all blurring together right now. I’m just trying to find the comment that someone made I don’t even know where it was now. But the thing I always like to say is that when you have feelings for someone, when you have rose colored glasses on all the flags look red. So we as autistic people are vulnerable to to being influenced by our emotions as as anybody else. And and part of you know, part of the idea of setting boundaries is also it also goes hand in hand with the idea of having standards and for me growing up, I never believed as an autistic person that I could have standards that anybody who showed the slightest amount of affection or attention to me I had to reciprocate because maybe nobody would ever want to date me again.

Maybe nobody would ever want to have sex with me again, if I messed it up if I did something called wrong and so I didn’t I didn’t even know what what standards I have what that what that would look like what that would mean I had zero confidence. So you know, if you don’t just think that you’re a person who’s worth respecting and was treating in the right way then you made that will make a lot harder, I think to set a lot of those boundaries because you don’t recognize That they’re being maybe violated necessarily, it took me a long time to get to the place of recognizing that. Um, so it has to start, you know, from early on. I think I talked about this in the presentations that I give that setting boundaries starts when kids are young, when we’re, you know, all too often, we bring a kid to give grandma kiss, I don’t want to kiss grandma too bad, you got to kiss Grandma, what is that telling a child telling them that their body doesn’t belong to them that whether or not they want to do something with somebody doesn’t matter. And may seem like a little little thing, but it’s not, it’s not a little thing at all. So that’s, you know, it has to start from from there. Because then when the person gets into a dating, relationship situation, 10 years down the line, then they’re not gonna be able to set that boundary but they’re gonna think, well, it doesn’t matter if I don’t want to have sex with this person, that what I want doesn’t really matter.

So I’ll just go along with it, even though it’s not what I want and and yeah, and the manipulation is very easy to fall into. I’ve been there I saw I think it was below posted something about somebody mentioned that they had been manipulated. And that that was the red flag comment about not recognizing red flags and then ending up being manipulated? I Yes, I’ve absolutely been there. And it’s, the thing about manipulation is so hard to recognize when you’re going through it, especially when you have feelings for the person because you think this person was so nice to me, they’ve been so great, how could they be a bad person, I couldn’t see the potential and the reality of a person who had been nice to me also, being not such a great person. After all, I couldn’t understand that took me it’s even now, I still want to see the best in everybody. So it’s, it’s hard. It’s not the thing for all of you who are watching this to understand is all of us here are still learning. None of us who are experts, right? We’re here before you to try to give you advice and help but none of us are experts. And and that’s why I always reluctant when I hear anybody use that word because it confirms with a static authority that can’t be challenged. And we’re learning so much all the time, about dating and about autism. And so nobody knows everything. So I want you all to know that you’re stumbling and figuring out we’re stumbling, and trying to figure it out, too. So you’re not alone.

JR:  Yeah, and you know, I think Amy with me, my red flag problem was always just like you said, the rose colored glasses, and you know, not paying attention to them. But after my last relationship was over a couple years ago, and I finally kind of got over that, I made a physical list of red flags that I’ve seen, not just in that relationship, but in past ones, and made it a real point before I got into my next one, you know, that I was going to actively look for those red flags, and other red flags. And so far, it’s been very positive. We’ll see how it keeps going.

TB:  Yeah, JR, I love the list idea for all of these strategies. We’re talking about make lists for yourself about those things that you want and need in a relationship because red flags and revise them over time. But I think you know, another piece of that is, we A lot of us have such sensory issues, that again, we don’t know how things are supposed to flow. So we’ve got you know, people saying, like Amy said, you know, let Grandma, you know, kiss you and grab your cheek. But we’re also out there in the world really accosted day in and day out by sensory experiences, we don’t really have a baseline of feeling good. And that translates into difficulty into relationships. And I think that’s important. That’s very unique to those of us who have sensory issues. And, you know, neurotypical people are not dealing with that. 

JR:  Marcelle, what are what are your boundaries are things that you look for when it comes to boundaries?

MC:  So I have learned off of a lot of painful experiences. When I was in my early 20s, I was dating a gentleman who’s no longer with us, he’s past who I look for those red flags when I was younger, but I believed when people told me otherwise. So when I would confront someone, for instance, he used to, I’d go to his bedroom, and everything would be moved slightly all our photographs, the posters or cards, I’d made him and I said, Why is everything rearranged? And he wouldn’t tell me but I found out later, you know, he had another girlfriend. So when she came, he rearranged everything. And this was the same gentleman who asked my father for hand in marriage, and then I found out later he was already married and in counseling with his wife. So there, there’s a lot of deception. And even when I would see the red flags and confront people, I would still be lied to or manipulated. So for now, as an older and much older, much wiser woman, it’s having professional people that I can turn to whether that’s a job coach or a therapist, and if I don’t have a professional than a support group, or a very good friend or relative whom I trust, and asking them and and saying, this is what’s happening, what do you think, but I’ve also learned something about myself and self awareness is a huge part of stating boundaries. To make keeping yourself safe, is I justify, and I, and I make things better than they actually are. So even when I’m seeking out counsel and support, I’m not saying the complete truth. So I have to honor myself and tell the complete truth of what’s happening in my situations and not be afraid of what other people are going to tell me and their advice. I’m still, I’m still very much 12 years old inside or 10 years old, or five years old, whatever age, wanting to stay with someone, even if that means it’s a risk to my own mental health or physical health. So I’m learning still at my age that I need to speak my truth to myself and to other people. And not only look for the red flags, but ask people are these red flags and and what do you think and get the complete picture.

JR:  Yeah, we’re talking. I’m not sure if you’re stimming are asking us to come to you. It’s all good. We all do it. Okay. I got my fidget spinner right here. 

MGO:  So yeah, and so I was just stimming, but I think that a lot of things have been shared, that make a lot of sense that, because on one end, one can be conscious, then you can be so cautious and still over protective that you don’t allow yourself to have experiences. So the person who made that, you know, I think it was humor settlement, and someone in the comments, talking about both red and green flags, I think that we can miss red flags quite a bit, you know, like Amy said, about, you know, kind of looking at things, you know, in a particular way with rose colored glasses, you know, and, and believing people say what that mean, what they say and say what they mean, and are what they project themselves to be. But I think also, because of the differences in social cues, or because of things that we’ve been through or, you know, just because the vulnerability of, you know, of the of, you know, dating or being a relationship or, you know, meeting people can be challenging, I think we can sometimes miss someone who’s like, Hello, interested, you know, and so, so I think that we do kind of have to, really kind of each context is different, and try to just, you know, I think we’re going to have to try to understand that. It makes me think about when you’re, if you’re walking or driving or riding something, you know, like, the ground might look level, but is it really level? Is there like a deep, you know, crevice that you can’t see? Or is it just a little shallow bump? Or is it muddy, and it is, but it looks like it’s strong, you know, kind of, I think, like, you know, all of these things are like that you can, you can, to a point, try to prepare or be aware, but ultimately, some of it you don’t know until you’re, you know, in the wild.

LH:  And I’ll say I think one of you know, on boundaries for me, I think one of the biggest green flags is someone who respects by boundaries, right? Because I didn’t even learn to have boundaries until I asked her I felt I was autistic. And I was almost 30. When I found out I was autistic. And like, one of my aha moments was when I was having this panic attack that was so bad that I literally couldn’t speak for 30 minutes after it, like I knew exactly what I want to say. And my mouth wouldn’t move that it was because I was on the way to this holiday party, I didn’t want to go to this employer. And I was being so just doing what other people expected of me instead of doing, you know, things because I wanted to do it. And that was like, at that moment, I just kind of broke and like started asking myself am i doing this because I really want to do this or I’m doing this because somebody has this expectation I do this. Because up until that point, a lot of things I had been doing were because of so many external expectations put upon me to where I thought my own wants and needs weren’t valid. And I was just, you know, giving to everyone else. And just, it wasn’t a happy existence. I was an I would it destroyed me being someone that gave and gave and what I thought was I was somehow giving in a way that was going to make those relationships better. But really, it didn’t make those relationships better. It actually, you know, it wasn’t a service to anyone because I kind of resented those people for violating my boundaries. But I was really not putting up much fight to put those boundaries up. I was easily letting people violate my boundaries.

And so I resented people violating my boundaries for because I wasn’t being strong enough and saying this is my boundary. No, absolutely not. And so it didn’t do any good for the relationships at all. It made me miserable. You know me disconnected from the people around me in the workplace and you know even in my personal life and so it wasn’t it wasn’t very healthy to like feel like I can’t safely express my needs so now let’s talk about green flags you know someone in the comments asking about those someone who respects my boundaries, someone that’s willing to listen to me when I’m expressing my needs a lot of it’s going to be kind of polar opposites of the red flags really, it’s someone who does all of the the good things and isn’t manipulating me isn’t lying is is, is has has accountability, you know, when they make a mistake, and they say, Hey, you know that, that really hurts because this and we can have a conversation about it, and they’re not gonna make excuses and tell me I’m being too sensitive, or any of that. Because I don’t need my feelings and my experience to be dismissed. I’ve had enough of that my entire life. And now that I knew I was a virgin, I know that I’m like, my experiences actually are what they are. And so I’m not gonna let anybody else do that to me anymore. But still, the manipulations that that could be like holding on and not like trying to figure out when someone’s manipulating you sometimes because that, I think, I think I know how to spot those manipulators. And then I get manipulated again, like, oh, my confidence.

JR:  Yeah, Lyric, why don’t we move into communication before we get to some questions?

LH:  Yeah. All right. So thank you for keep keeping us moving on topic. So next thing we’re going to try and talk about what’s really extremely important with relationships is communication. So you know, I talked a little bit about being able to express those needs and having a partner who listens is incredibly important being heard, you know, different kinds of communication, like is your partner pulling away from you, or you know, things like that, but some of us may not necessarily pick up on because, you know, I actually didn’t really learn that facial expressions miss anything until I found out I was autistic, believe it or not, like, I feel like I like now I’m obsessed with it. Like, I’m like, Oh my god, there’s like a map. I didn’t even know there’s information there. You know, I could read dogs, and I couldn’t read people. I don’t know how that happened. But, you know, some of us, we don’t necessarily pick those things up naturally. So those nonverbal things, or, you know, the nuances of oversharing, or, you know, when do you share in a relationship? And what do you keep private and, you know, respecting if someone’s interested or figuring out if someone’s new and interested, like, I might not know if someone’s hitting on me or not? or someone’s actually not interested? Like, are we pursuing someone that doesn’t want to be pursued like, all of these things are kind of a landline for neuro divergence, especially I feel like dating neurotypicals it’s harder for me than dating other neurodivergent people. But I’d love to open it up to the wisdom of our panelists here. See if anyone has advice for handling communication in relationships, because there are so many aspects of it to consider, and especially we deal with that people who process differently.

TB:  Lyric, can I address that?

LH:  Yeah Toni, I feel like that’s right up your alley. 

TB:  I actually think that this goes back to compatibility again. We’re in a world that tells us we have to communicate with works, that’s the neurotypical way of communication. But those of us on the spectrum have many different ways, beautiful ways of communicating, we can just sit in parallel, play together, and just be in the energy of each other. We can stim together, we’re all stimming here together, and that’s a form of solidarity. So when you’re choosing somebody to date, to somebody that gets your form of communication, do you communicate through listening to music through going to walks, pacing back and forth, all of these are completely legitimate forms of communication, which has been kind of beaten out of us, you know, we were told it’s not okay to do echolalia you know, sounds normal be normal. And so I think we need to go back to how do we communicate best and then find those people who really honor and respect that in us and and get it who understand how we communicate, and it doesn’t have to be about forcing ourselves to use words. I mean, if you want to use words, and you enjoy that and it works for you great, but explore those other ways that you can communicate and look for those people who appreciate that and can communicate in ways that are most native to you. You know,

JR:  Toni, you and I have talked about this before but the painting over my shoulder in the blue frame was actually painted by a 12 year old nonverbal autistic child.

TB:  That painting says it all and we can all sit there and enjoy it, you know, without any words. 

LH:  Yeah, you know, our music, kind of part of my language. And you mentioned having a partner that understands echolalia. Like, my partner and I both are very echolalic, and we echo off each other a lot. So we have so much fun with that. But having someone who doesn’t get that is like, you know, it would just be a different ballgame. It wouldn’t it wouldn’t be as compatible. I want to keep us moving, can I? Marcelle? Alright, Can I throw it out? Yes,

MC:  Sure, you can throw things at me. Probably dark chocolate. I love what was said about communication isn’t just just words, and I was thinking along the same lines. For me, I’m very sensitive to energy. And I know a lot of autistic people or have a lot of empathy. Some of us are impasse, I’m an empath, I used to actually serve as a seer. And so for me, what’s important about communication is how I feel in the presence of that person. And that doesn’t have anything to do with their body language sometimes, or what’s coming out of their mouth, or what we like to do. It has to do with when they leave the room after we’ve been together for a half hour an hour, do I feel depleted, or I feel more energized, I feel supported, or do I feel like there’s something wrong with me. So I’ve really learned to start trusting that gut instinct I have when I’m around someone. And that’s no different for if it’s going to be a romantic partner. I visualize it and describe it as we all have a basket that we’re carrying on our heads. And some people’s baskets are just really heavy and filled with all these spiky objects. And they hurt me. And then some people’s baskets are almost empty. And it’s so easy for me to live with my middle son, he’s off in another city right now. But when he lives here, I describe him if his basket being empty. When he enters a room, I feel like I feel don’t feel burdened, I don’t feel like I have to be someone other than myself. That’s the first thing. And the second thing would be to be in a relationship where I’m not having to listen to three conversations at once coming out of one person’s mouth. What they mean there’s they’ve, what they’re saying, what they really mean, and what they want me to believe. And there’s all these different levels of of conversation going on, where I’ve been in a relationship before. And I said, well, Isn’t this what you really mean? And they say, yeah, and I’m like, Well, why didn’t you say that? Like, well, I didn’t want to hurt your feelings, or I didn’t want you to get you worried. So I know for me, I need to be the someone who speaks on one line, not three different railroad tracks going three different directions, I need one line, otherwise, it becomes exhausting for me to listen to them talk. Because I’m hearing what they’re not saying. And I need to be with someone where I’m hearing what they’re saying. And they’re in there saying the truth, I need to be someone who speaks the truth.

LH:  Oh, yeah, yeah. That thing when there’s an incongruence between what they’re saying and their action, say something else that that throws me, I guess that that should that should be one of those flags I should see. I’m learning more, if noticed, and what it is, but it’s an incident or wrong here. Can I throw it at Morénike? Awesome.

MGO:  Sure. So I really like a lot of the things that have been said, and truly for me, um, you know, just thinking about like my life and thinking about all the different relationships that I’ve been in, you know, and different, you know, situations that I’ve been in, ever of every type from things that are young, every, you know, from the abusive relationship to the puppy love to the friends with benefits, but you thought you were in relationship to all kinds of different things to the, you know, it was, it was worked out, but then it fizzled away. And then now, you know, I’m married, you know, to someone who understands me and gets me and everybody, you know, there’s phases, there’s periods of my life where I realized that I wasn’t being true to myself, because society tells you that you’re supposed to be a certain way you’re supposed to want to certain things, you know, or you’re supposed to want you know, so whatever it is, it’s that you’re supposed to want to be, you know, have you know, settle down and be with someone or you just want to be wild and free, or you’re supposed to, don’t call them because you don’t want to look too awkward or don’t text right away, or whatever, you know, all these little games. I’m not playing games at this stage in my life. And there’s nothing wrong with it. Like there were times in my life where I wish I had been real with myself in real life. I was not emotionally ready to be in relationship, I should have just either got a battery powered friend, or hooked up because I just wasn’t there. You know what I mean? But that wasn’t something I would tell him I would allow myself to realize, you know, and sometimes it’s alright to be alone.

And, you know, it’s just it’s better frankly, it’s, it’s pretty, really good to be alone. Frankly, then rather than be in a bad situation. But um, For me I’m communication is so key I need somebody who I can be real with I need to be able to be real authentic me all the time I need to be me that’s that’s in pain and needs you to hear me and feel me I need you to be there, me that’s excited about something that you’re trying to figure me out and get me I need to be all of me. I don’t need to only be the best me or just the neediest me for you. I need to be able to feel comfortable with you. And I know that you have my back and then I have yours and not be scared and and know that even the things that you don’t really there aren’t your thing. You know about me, because on me, they come with the package. You know, all of those things are important. And I think that whatever a person is doing, you know, the the analogy I loved about do you feel drained? And I think a person would definitely take into context. But sometimes, like I have children, I love them. But Oh, do they drain me? Sometimes the person is not bad for you, they just kind of can be a little bit much. So so but ultimately, how do you feel not just when you’re with them, but when you’re away from them is this person, you know, if you think about this book I read wants to talk about deposits, emotional deposits, you making people like a, you know, a bank account, or what have you arm for a credit card. And, you know, my mother has had credit cards cancel, and she was like, I don’t understand why they canceled my card, I never use it, I’m thinking exactly, you have a 10,000 or $5,000 balance and you don’t use it. Or you buy one thing for $3 and you pay it off, you’re not making them any money. They don’t want you.

I mean, so it’s like, you know, people want you know, transactional things in life, but we want it but the transactions need to be intrinsic, not just like, what do you do for me? But how do we how are we good people by being together? How am I my best you know, you know, myself my real self and your the real stuff? You don’t I mean, how am I growing as a person in your presence, and you aren’t too, you know, they’re we’re not tearing each other down or pulling each other apart in some kind of way. And, and those are all things and then even with all that, everything doesn’t work, like what I taught my children is from the time that they’re very little statistically, so you have a crush on whoever, right? statistically, y’all aren’t going to be together, I’m just going to tell you what I mean, most likely, your this is your age, this is the the blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, there, you might be the exception. And if that’s the case, great, but you probably won’t. So look at this with an understanding is that like, just like almost everything else probably has an expiration date. You don’t eat something past expiration date, it’s not because you don’t like it, it’s because it’s no longer healthy for you. And so but again, but be open, you know, to the possibility but just also be realistic about what you’re what the expectations are. If you’re flipping a coin, you know that has a heads and tails, then you shouldn’t be expecting to have a triangle. When you flip there is no option for a triangle, you need to know what what the possibilities are and act accordingly.

JR:  That look, we got word from on high that we need to move on to the questions. So Amy we will let you start the next topic, I promise. So Mike, what do we have?

MN:  Alright, so let’s open up with a question that quite a few people are curious about, um, from Sue in our chat, actually: do you have any advice for someone who wants to start dating but doesn’t know how to start? 

JR:  Amy why don’t you take that?

AG:  Oh, goodness, yes. Throw that one at me. Sure.

JR:  I was trying to be nice as you get to talk about the last one.

AG:  Yeah, and I had a good answer for that one, too. I was like, totally prepared. But actually, what what some of that I had in mind can apply here too. Um, I often say that I have not yet found somebody who knows the toast part of me. And the toast part of me is that I eat toast with butter only at home. And I eat toast with jelly only when I’m out like in a hotel or somewhere that’s not home. Because the brands of butter are very out there in the world. I don’t like butter. That’s not the butter. I like nobody’s been around long enough yet to know the toast part of me. And that’s kind of become my barometer for like, you know, earlier when Marcel was talking, I can’t remember what she was saying. But I was starting to cry because thinking about some of this gets to me, because I have often been the person who people have enjoyed having around for the short term, and then not for the long haul. And there are a few things that make me feel more broken than that because I I want to give somebody love I do and I think it’s good. And as we’re still seem to carry with it and it hurts. It hurts terribly. And so no matter what you do, you’re taking a risk. This is a risk, and that’s not always a bad thing. The place you start is by deciding that you’re somebody worth dating. You have to know that about yourself. You can’t expect somebody to validate you I know that’s what we all look for. And that’s what I looked for for the longest time I thought I just need someone in my case since I’m mostly hetero sex. ish, a guy to tell me that I’m attractive, and I’m lovable. And and what finally wound up happening was that I looked in the mirror. And I told myself, I’d like the person that I saw. Nobody could give that to me. And so if you’re seeking that validation through relationship, that’s, that might not be leading you down the best path. You don’t want somebody to make you into who you want to be, you want to be that person.

Because then, you know, if that relationship ends, and then you don’t want to define yourself by who you’re with, I know, it’s easy to do that. And I’ve, and I haven’t defined myself who I’ve been with, but I have, you know, I opened myself up fully when I care about someone and they tell someone that I love them and to not have them say it back, which has happened twice is, you know, it just makes me feel like a month when I find somebody. But I don’t I’m not going to give up either. Yes, the thing is, I saw people talking about rejection in the chats and all right, how do you make it heartless? I’m sorry to tell you rejection never hurts less. It absolutely never hurts less. But what makes it easier is knowing who you are. What makes rejection easier? It’s knowing that that rejection doesn’t define who you are, okay, this person rejected me. I’m not going to let that determine who I think I am. It took me a long time. Thank you, Marcel. Thank you so much. So So rejection is a fact of life rejection is part of dating, that’s always going to be the risk that you take so so I think the number one thing I would say when you are trying to get started with this is to know that it may not end up the way that you hope it will. That first time that the first person that you didn’t even the first boyfriend I had, I immediately said in my brain Ray, they’re going to get married or we’re going to break up I was already thinking like, all the way down to the extreme men. So it may not turn out to be whatever it is, you’re you can’t plan out a relationship with someone can’t steal. That’s that’s not how relationships work. And so you just have to know that even if it doesn’t, even if that relationship doesn’t turn out the way that you wanted it to. It doesn’t mean there won’t be another one. It doesn’t mean there won’t be another chance. I am a failed pessimist. I always believe that there’s another chance. So those are my thoughts.

JR:  Alright, Mike, what else we got?

MN:  Thank you, Amy for sharing that.

AG:  Sorry didn’t mean to get weepy

LH:  Oh, no. Seriously, no, don’t apologize for being real.

JR:  He is a heterosexual male. I think you’re attractive and lovable. Although I’m not gonna date you because I’m already dating someone.

AG:  But you know, that’s totally okey-dokey with me. 

MN:  So another question, from Nathan is: one impediment to relationships is ableism dating is hard when the other person expects you to be problem free and able to do everything. What do you do?

JR:  I’m sorry, what neurotypical is problem free? I don’t think that’s an autism thing.

MGO:  I am the wrong person ask and I’ll just say move on. And I’m not trying to sound slip it because it’s like believe me when I tell y’all if I can just go through. I found an old gentleman on the other day if I could, if I could sit y’all down my life has been a regular reality show. So I’ve been in all kinds of you know, horrifying really getting exhilarating every emotionally you can think of relationships I know it’s not easy, but ultimately you can only be who you are. And if if who you are doesn’t make wow them. They need to go Yeah, that’s just how I feel.

JR:  I think if you don’t have baggage or drama, you’re probably three years old. Alright, what else we got Mike?

MN:  All right. Um, so another one: I haven’t dated at all in eight years. How do I make up for that lack of experience in sex and dating? I feel that I will fumble in both the bedroom and during dates.

LH:  Can I just say I want to jump in on this and say you know, don’t don’t worry about like lack of experience and like trying to stack up against other people. Don’t compare yourself to other lovers and other partners. Just be really authentic, be really honest and be vulnerable and somebody is gonna appreciate the fact that you haven’t been out there everywhere. Some of us have been out there everywhere. There’s nothing wrong with that. Those of us who’ve been out there everywhere, but some of us haven’t. And that’s okay too. And there’s no shame in that because you know in a relationship regardless, you’re with a new partner. It’s going to be about communicating with one another, your needs and what each of you want, you know, in, in the different levels of your relationship, whether they are either romantic or intimate, and so forth, it’s going to be a lot of communication and learning together, what your partner like, because there’s not really an expert out there about all of these relationships or intimacy or any of that, because what they may have had, that they’re, you know, someone who’s been out there a lot and had their last five partners like, may not be what someone else likes, because everybody’s cup of tea is different. So, you know, don’t let that scare you. Just be be yourself, be honest, be really authentic, I think there shouldn’t be any shame and say, you know, I haven’t dated eight years, but I’m ready to get out there. Like, I think that’s great that you’re honest about that.

MC:  Like to respond a little bit, too, it’s kind of a combination, last two, if that’s okay. First off, I think I’ve had experience and to me, it doesn’t really make a difference, because each person is so unique and their, their needs, and their wants and what they’re comfortable with and not comfortable with that are so different. And I think in this age we’re living in right now that quirks and differences are a lot more acceptable than they were 10, 20 years ago, and that most of us are not just looking for sex and, and social norms. And if they are, that’s not someone you want to be with, probably anyways, unless that’s what you’re looking for. I mean, if that’s what you’re looking for, I’m focusing not on what you’re lacking, or what you might not need, but what a lot of people have, who have been through experiences similar to autistic people, or those with neurological profiles that are similar, which is a lot of us have deep self understanding, deep empathy. Most of us are deeply compassionate and resilient, focusing on those things that you can bring to a relationship and how you might bless for lack of better words, someone with your, with your being, instead of what you might mess up on. It would be so refreshing if I was still dating, which I’m not in a very wonderful relationship, but to be with someone who who just was quirky and in confidence in that quirkiness and even transparent – “I haven’t dated for eight years, I hope would not come across as a goof”. I mean, how refreshing that would be.

JR:  You know, Marcel, it’s funny, when I was driving to my first date with the person I’m beating now, I said to myself, you know, I really hope this is my last first date. Well, Mike, we’re gonna go on to the last topic right now and come back to you in a few minutes. Why don’t we talk about mindfulness, Lyric?

LH:  Right? So you know, not mindfulness, like meditation, like to mindfulness in the way of in your relationship, being mindful of, you know, what are your own needs? And you know, how do you then say, we talked about those difficult times when a relationship in you know, you have to deal with that part of taking care of yourself, or, you know, some of us, I know, I bring trauma into my relationship with me, and sometimes my partner triggers my trauma, and I triggered his trauma, and we trigger each other’s trauma. And so we have to be mindful of that with each other, those responses, and just all of those things that can be really hard and how like mental health impacts know how we are in relationships, and being mindful of all of those things. So, you know, I’d love to throw that whoever’s brave and bold and wants to say, you know, how they help deal with some of those harder parchment breakups and, you know, closure, all of these these pieces that they’re they’re not the easy basis. You know, some of the things are probably some of the questions here. People could really benefit from just judging by some stuff we didn’t get to.

JR:  Oh, yeah, we’ve heard Toni in a while.

TB:  Yeah, I’d actually like to address that. Because I think it’s really important for those of us who are neurodivergent to recognize that we do handle trauma differently than neurotypicals. We tend to because of our sensitivities, because we’re empathic we tend to hold on to those things much longer than electrical so you’re going to hear people say, why don’t you just get over it and move on that was eight years ago. And we just don’t we are really scattered traumas the way we’re our brains are wired we tend to be very, you know, we can be very perceptive, we can be very stuck and we’re dealing with traumas from early childhood, because of our life experiences. So this is something that we really need to be aware of that what other people tell us may not be good advice for just to get over it. If we could get over it and not be triggered in our relationships, then we would have already done that. So I just think it’s really, really crucial to recognize that and to in terms of mindfulness for that, our emotions are not bad, I hear a lot of people who, you know, are saying, Well, I’m just so angry, I’m mad at me for being angry, I’m trying to stop that I don’t want to feel sad, I don’t want to feel angry, I want to feel embarrassed. And the fact of the matter is, is that our emotions are our compass, they’re telling us if something is either going well, or if something needs to be addressed. So when you, you know, when you have those kinds of thoughts, something triggers you in a relationship, that’s your warning sign that, hey, there’s something that needs to be addressed, and worked through. So that we don’t get, you know, caught repeating the same thing over and over again, but it’s going to keep coming up and visiting us until we figure out how to face it, and deal with it. So think of your emotions and think of those triggers as your opportunity to grow and learn. And I mean, I don’t mean to, you know, rat out on the, you know, the traditional medical model in therapy. But a lot of times, people are going to therapists who are trying to make them stop feeling the sadness, or their anger or their pain. And that’s not what we want. We want to really look at that and feel it and understand and move through it. So I’ll get off my soapbox now and turn it over…

LH:  You have a great soapbox, so thank you for getting on your soapbox for us. I appreciate yourself very much. It was very helpful. Amy, I see you’re off mute. Were you ready to chime in?

AG:  Yes, I echo much of what has been said. And I will say that, um, you know, so I lost my virginity when I was 22 years old. And the guy that I did it with, I fall in love with him. And six months later, after we’d had intercourse eight times total Yes, I counted. I found out that he had a girlfriend he had forgotten to tell me about. And he was sleeping with half the women in the city of Seattle because I was living in Seattle at the time. And when I found all this out, when I found all this out, it was either on the computer on messenger or over the phone, we never had a face to face confrontation like it was you see these things in the movies and the TV. And so we never had that because he was just a coward. So I have not seen him in 15 years. That was 2006. And so a few years back, fast forward to a few years back, I found out that he was no longer living in Seattle, he moved to New Orleans, and I was in New Orleans for a conference. And I found out he was working at this bar, but three blocks away from the hotel I was staying in. And so I still had this idea of closure in my closure, I need closure. I mean, because all these years have passed, and I was still so hurt, you know by what had happened. And I was like if we have this face to face conversation, then I can fully move on. And so I go to the bar, and I walk in and from behind. I see someone kind of looks like him. It turns around. It’s not him who asked if he was working that day. And he wasn’t working that day.

And in that moment, I had this flood of emotions rush over me. And I realized with absolute certainty that there was no closure that he could ever give to me that I hadn’t already gotten from myself. There was nothing he could do for me with a good closure is a mythical dragon. And I know dragons are really cool. But closure doesn’t exist. Dragons like we don’t know. But closure is not something that can tangibly be relied upon. And I had to get that finale from myself. And the way that I knew I had finally moved on moving on also was a whole other thing. I don’t want to take up too much time. But I knew that I was finally having that closure as well was that I developed feelings for someone new, which I didn’t think I’d be able to do. And then it wound up not working out with that person. But I was still okay afterward. And I didn’t think that would be possible either. So that you know that whole that whole close that all of that has to come from me it was no there was nothing. Nothing that that guy could give me. Maybe there never was. And I had to learn that the hard way though, as I do everything. 

JR:  Amy he didn’t forget to tell you he’s just a tool. 

AG:  I know, that’s why he did it over the phone. 

LH:  He’s not good enough for you not good enough for you at all. What a jerk. I’m glad you know that now. I’m knowing now, also, I got a ding ding ding on my alarm that said it’s seven. So does that mean we need to come on and let them wrap up? Or do we continue with this question?

JR:  Why don’t we let a couple more people speak if they can go on the topic quickly then let’s get to some questions and finish it up?

LH:  Morénike and Marcelle I think are still the two that have an answer on this one. I’d love to hear from both of you if you have input to kind of conclude the system. Give us a minute. So, would either if you’d like to go next?

MC:  for I can go. So for me when I think of mindfulness: as a late diagnosed cisgender female, I’ve always masked and I’ve always taken on the interests of my best friend or my boyfriend. So even now at my age in my current healthy relationship, I found myself doing, what David’s hobbies were, what his toys are, his music, his movies, where he wants to eat. And I’ve recently started to visualize myself as a four year old little four year old little girl and as an 80 year old woman, and I want to be a role model for myself. And so I asked myself, How can I be a role model for those other me’s? If it’s hard for me to do that right now? How can I be a role model from my past innocent girl in my in my wise older woman, and advocate self advocate for myself, it’s for some reason, for a lot of us autistic people and with other similar profiles, it’s easier for us to advocate for being autistic or for our autistic friends. Or, if you’re neurotypical for your autistic friends are neurotypical friends than it is to advocate for our own selves. And especially if you’re part of a historically underserved community, as many of us here are. So being a self advocate and a role model for myself is how I practice that mindfulness in a relationship. And also knowing that to catch those shameful messages, so if something happens, and I’m having a lot of emotions, and I’m starting to beat myself up with the shameful self talk, to recognize that and to not shame myself, because I’m having emotions that I can’t understand or that are overwhelming, or that I’m holding on to, for a long, long time, maybe years, maybe decades, but that’s okay. That’s the way I was wired. So those, that’s the answer for the question there.

LH:  Thank you so much for that. Alright. Okay. Do you have any final parting words on this last question?

MGO:  Sure I think I do. So I just want to tell everyone that the social talk is BS, it’s fake. You know, and the, you know, the relationship that you’re in or not in or whatever, you know, like up comparing I used to listen to and I still like them. All these you know, love songs and stuff like that. And, you know, I internalize that that’s what you’re supposed to feel like, it’s supposed to be like, no, it’s not just a song sounds really beautiful. That’s not you know, you know what, you will need to do what’s best for you and do what’s best for the person that’s with you, and you won’t make your own happy and your own normal. I can’t stand crowds. My husband and I, we don’t go Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, we don’t go anywhere on those days. Other people might be like, Oh, I’m embarrassed. I don’t know if I don’t go anywhere. Now, if Mother’s Day or whatever, let’s say Valentine’s Days on a Thursday, and everybody in town is gonna go out that we’re going to then maybe we’ll go the week before I will go Monday or whatever, we’ll do whatever. I you know, we do what works for us. And if nobody somebody else doesn’t like it, you know, not for my last anniversary, he bought me an ice maker, the kind that makes like, the sonic ice, like the stuff that has, he knows I love that for sensory reasons. And he went in search for like, the perfect time with the perfect texture.

You know, so it’s like, I know, seasonal Thank you, lyric. See, like, I just do people feel that, you know, when I told that to like, to non autistic people, they were like, Oh, you know, they’re like, we’re jewelry versa, I’m thinking, no, give me what I want, give me my stimming toys, give me the big fluffy pillows, give me the foods that I eat, absolutely spend money on me too. You know, if you’ve got it, you know, but I want to be, I want to be my real self. So being a real, you know, like, whoever you all are, you know, it’s hard. It’s not easy, but you know, you’re not any less of a person you know it for right now, if you’re, you know, single if it’s taken a while to get to somebody. So if somebody hasn’t been, you know, wise and mature enough to to realize the catch that you are, that’s kind of their loss, you know, you just keep being fabulous and being you and we’ve been fulfilled, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be with someone. And there’s also nothing wrong with not wanting to be with someone I know, sometimes people are like, Oh, I’m so worried such and such as in data for a long time, or has only dated a couple people or hasn’t been in a relationship or such as such, you know, sometimes people are living out their brokenness in those ways, but sometimes there is just not the time. And what does it matter if it happens, like you know, like, if, if someone makes this, you know, has this wonderful song that they can pose and the rest of the music they’ve been making all their life was trash. If they if that was their MO, then Wow, what a legacy to have, you know, so it doesn’t, you know how when everybody else gets married or doesn’t or has kids or doesn’t or lives together or doesn’t or whatever, maybe Your your following just being with you, you know, be you know, but but you have to own that and you have to know that you have to feel that.

JR:  Yeah. Alright Mike, why don’t you go through a couple of questions here for us, and then we’ll say our goodbyes and get out of here.

AG:  Just a note, Mike there was one I wanted to answer about love on the spectrum, and anybody else wanted to take it?

MN:  Yes, I was gonna make a note of that actually. I saw you wanted to answer that live, so you can go ahead and take that one if you’d like. 

LH:  Yeah you want it, please.

AG:  Um, yeah, no, I just wanted to so I have seen the show. And I agree with what the person has to question said that they were giving kind of neurotypical dating tips to autistic couples, which I thought was a bit strange and ineffective. But I also thought it was interesting. There weren’t any mixed neurology couples on the show either it was either autistic, autistic, or autistic, other disability, and but they weren’t, you know, no autistic neurotypical couplings. But I wanted to share that I have spoken with the producers of the show, I’ve been in contact with them, and they’re looking to do a US version of it. And I’ve expressed my interest in being not a participant on it, but a coach on the on the show being someone who’s on the spectrum, and that I might be able to relate more to what the participants are coming from. So just so that, you know, the producers have been listening. And I’m hoping that the if the US version comes about that, they’ll take it in a different direction, a better direction. So just wanted to say that. 

MN:  Alright. And there’s one question here, I wanted to do: So when is the right time to talk to your potential data about your autism and the strengths and weaknesses that it comes with?

JR:  I’ll take that one. I think it really depends on the situation, or the person. I think, for all of us here, based on what we do, you know, as being speakers and writers about autism, it’s going to come up pretty early on, because I don’t like it my situation. You know, I’m meeting somebody and they asked what I do, and I say, I speak I write and I podcast. Oh, well, the next question is always about what you know. And when I say autism, the next questions are automatically going to be what’s your connection to autism? Well, I’m on the spectrum. So I think for us, it’s got to come really quick. But I think that people need to realize that we are not failing your typicals but we’re perfectly created autistic people, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of, and no reason to not tell them very early on.

LH:  Yeah, and you know, I had to you know, you want to make sure though, you’re in a part where you notice someone you can trust just in case you know, because you know, I being in different positions in your life like it’s, it’s we’re all out and open with this fact about ourselves because it’s, there’s no danger to us to do that. There’s no harm but like, we’ve decided to put ourselves out, we’re able to do that. But, you know, some people may not be able to be that open with that information for different reasons. You know, I want to say, I’ve known some parents like that have had this come up in custody battles, so they keep that information a bit more protected. And so your individual situation is not necessarily going to look like mine or Jr, or anyone here. You know, so you have to really take that into like, what your individual situation and how you know, how safe you feel and how ready You know, I wasn’t as ready to talk about this when I was new in my diagnosis, and I was still processing what that meant to me. So where you are with learning about what autism means to us and the impact on that too, because when I first tried to tell people about what it meant that I was autistic, it was so bad so not grateful I did a terrible job trying to explain that I was autistic to people I didn’t know how to explain it and it never went well. Because I wasn’t really ready I wanted to share but I wasn’t ready to start sharing so I didn’t know how to explain it yet. So I think that really can depend on your individual situation. But you know, I would say I share it with people who you know, I think are my friends like since I know I trust someone usually I’m willing to share that with them in a face to face but I mean, all I have to do is Google my name and it’s out there like I’ve been told it may be hard for me to find employment now because they cannot put that back in Pandora’s box. It’s like oh, it’s real real things to consider when you put that out there it can have consequences.

JR:  That’s why we’re self employed right there.

LH:  That — I am self-employed. Usually I get a lot of callbacks and I applied for like 60 to 70 jobs and openly autistic person and did not get any call back this time. So it does have an impact which is sad to say.

JR:  Mike What else we got? Let’s take two more.

MN:  All right, sounds good. Um, we have: so sometimes neurodiverse conditions can make a person frantic and feel out of control. I can imagine this makes up where to go there’s I can imagine this makes dating such as I can such a person difficult. How can a neurodiverse person maintain control to keep things together?

JR:  Morénike, you want to take that?

MGO:  I actually would. I think I would like to yield for someone else because I have an answer, but I can’t really phrase well.

JR:  Anybody else want to take that?

MC:  I’ll speak very briefly on that. So I’m neurovariant. And I blend in neurovariant, to have many different conditions, ways of being I’m dyslexic. dyspraxic have ADHD traits. I’m getting diagnosed for ADHD and OCD soon, as well as autistic and so forth. generalized anxiety disorder. So when I’m preparing to meet someone, or date it’s it’s pure agony. It’s terrible. I think about it. I have anticipatory anxiety for days on end, I obsess about what I’m going to wear, how am I going to talk? Where are we going to meet? What are we going to talk about? What are they going to be like, especially if you’re doing meeting someone on online dating or similar format. So whether it’s a relationship or just life in general, having the same tools in place that can help you in any situation when your anxiety is really heightened. So for me, that is writing, listening to music, exercise, swimming, walking, being in nature, being with birds, feeding the birds, having a good friend, to just process through it, and having a place where I can transfer that anxiety. And not the worst thing I could possibly do is be alone with myself and be alone with my thoughts and be alone in my head. So having ways that I can someone mentioned Richard mentioned about healthy, treating yourself healthy, so having healthy alternatives to distract me and get me out of that. looping and worrying is very important for me when I’m dating.

JR:  Alright, Mike, one more.

MN:  Yep. So this one: how do I know when I’m ready? I know I’m not yet. But how do I know when I am? I can’t wait to be perfect because that they will never come. So how do I know when I’m ready?

JR:  Thank you. It’s really kind of a feeling. I mean, you know, you you think you might be getting close to being ready, and you just got to go out and try and fail.

LH:  Yeah, I don’t, you know, I don’t know, the best relationships I’ve ever been in in my life are the ones that I wasn’t necessarily looking for. I wasn’t seeking like my current partner. Like we were we were friends, we were close friends, we worked together. And both of us ended up single around the same time, and neither of us was really looking to get into a relationship when it happened. But you know, we had a lot of great chemistry and you know, I was helping back then he didn’t know how to use a computer. So I was helping him do a job search on a computer and teach you how to set up a Gmail account. And you’re like, you know, just kind of helping my friend out. And then you know, we were hanging out and it was just like a natural thing that happened. I wasn’t looking for a relationship. And you know, and it’s like, kind of funny, because it’s like they say, not to get into relationship too soon. And we were both going through breakups together. So it’s like, I don’t know that there is a right time, or for, you know, it’s like, not looking was actually what brought me right my right time. And then you know, I’ll know, I’ll say that. Other times, when I was looking more maybe getting a little bit desperate, I was willing to get myself into relationships with people that were not good for me, because I was like, I need a relationship almost like trying to need an itch to scratch, which is not a healthy way to go about it. So I mean, that’s just some of my thoughts from my personal experience. Like I don’t know if there’s a right time. But maybe just making sure that you don’t get desperate to the point where you’re willing to sacrifice those those those flags those screenplays less like those checklists that they are making, you know, make sure you’re not willing to like get to a point where it’s like, Okay, I’m gonna forget my standards and my boundaries and throw that out the window. Because then it’s going to be a really bad relationship, if you get into it with that in the beginning.

TB:  I don’t know if any of us ever really ready I think part of it is just jumping out there and going for it. And you know, I think part of it is a lot of us on the spectrum do better starting like you did with that friendship first. Because so many of us do really get attached and put a lot into relationships. And so I recommend working on those friendship skills, and just going out finding special interests, you know, things that you’re passionate about going and doing clubs or activities, things that you love to do that like make you feel fulfilled, and then you’re going to be around other people who have have similar interests and then building friendships and then sometimes those friendships can grow into something else sometimes they don’t. But you’re still having that you know connection to other people, which is so important.

MGO:  First Amy, did you want to go?

AG:  Oh yeah, I just I just wanted to sit like being about being ready. So when I first started exploring my sexuality, I wrote erotic fiction. I didn’t have normal outlets. I didn’t want to go out on dates. Nobody wanted to go near me with a 10 foot pole. So I started to write as my outlet and when the time came for me to have sex for the first time, I thought I was super duper ready so I had done all this theorizing. I thought I knew you know all the things that because I’ve been writing the erotic fiction since I was 14 so here I was 22 and you know I had the music burn on the CD I had the outfit picked out I was going to where I had the bottle of wine all picked out I asked him to wear white button down shirt because that was one home button a guy shirt when we’re going to make love and I even I you know again going back to that thing about if I screw up nobody ever want to have sex with me again he’ll never want to have sex with me again. I decided I thought to myself you know when you date a hotel or a restaurant they have these cards that you can fill out to talk about what your experience is like so I made a sexual intercourse comment card and and it had you know, totally this series but tongue in cheek and they’re the questions on the back you know, could you please rate the following my outfit my facial expressions, my vocal volume, is there anything that happened you’d like to have happen in the future so on and so forth? And And so again, of course, there’s the inherent problem with that is that there’s nothing about my pleasure or enjoyment in those questions, it’s all about his something about whether I was enjoying myself. But when the moment finally arrived, and it happened, I when I wasn’t ready for was the emotional piece, the piece I didn’t know about the piece of all the feelings that that would unlock.

And so even when you think you are ready, there are things that can arise that you’re not going to be ready for, because you’ve never experienced them before. And that’s okay. You know, it’s it’s not impossible to prepare for every single eventuality and every single thing that might come up in a relationship and especially the feelings that are on box when they’re so new like that they can be overwhelming. And it was for me, you know, I didn’t know I was going to get so attached to this guy after I didn’t know that that was part of who I was. I didn’t learn that until then. So okay, I you know, I formed a muscle connection when I have sex with somebody and I also now know if I’m going to have sex with somebody, I need to have a connection. already. I can’t do one nightstands. It’s not it’s doesn’t work for me, I need to have that intellectual and emotional thing there. So I didn’t know all these things going on. I didn’t know and I wasn’t, you know, I may not have been ready for every single component of what I was going to end up experiencing. But I learned and that’s the thing is experience teaches us, we learn to the experiences that we have, and it’s okay to not know everything right off the bat.

LH:  Thank you Amy. I know, I think we’ll let Morénike go, can you keep it real quick? Like one minute. Super quick, because I know that you don’t want to cut us off. I think everyone else has spoke on this one. So I’d love to make sure we all get to speak.

MGO:  Sure I was just gonna say that kind of like what you were saying is, um, you know, like, I think about, you know, my marriage now it was, you know, so on paper, we should have never worked. We were both right out of long term relationships that were toxic. I had told myself, I was never going to date, you know, a person of a particular immigrant background, because I thought they were all sexist. You know, all these different things. You know, like, you know, that we both, you know, that shouldn’t have worked. But again, I wasn’t looking for it. Neither was he. And, you know, we really just kind of connected and we can talk, even now COVID-19 I think you know what I mean? Like, where people can’t stand being around one another. I love seeing him when he’s going to the kitchen. I’m like, wait, you know, so you know, I just think I just, you know, just, you know, you won’t, you won’t always know. And you have to be okay with that. 

JR:  I just want to say quickly before we go, though, if anybody does want to continue the conversation with any of us, you can go to the flyer on Different Brains, or Twitter or their Facebook page. Our contact information, such as websites is on our little bios, so you can always find us and continue this further. Just not tonight. Let us all have a break.

LH:  It’s gotten dark. I’m in a dark corner now.

JR:  All right, Michael, we gonna take us out?

MN:  Yep. All right. Well, thank you to our amazing moderators and panelists, and thank you everyone for attending. We will be sharing links and contact information for everyone in the chat box and on the screen. For everyone here Different Brains: wish you all a good night. Bye, everyone!