Here’s What It’s Like To Fall In Love When You Have Autism

Image: Courtesy Of Autism In Love.
Some 1 in 68 children, more than ever before (it's unclear why this figure is on the rise), have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) — a developmental disability that causes social, communication, and behavioral challenges from mild to debilitating. As we discuss how ASD affects the lives of children, we often lose sight of the particular difficulties it poses to adults, especially in dating and relationships. Some assume that those with autism are incapable of or disinterested in romance. But, the new feature-length documentary Autism In Love, screening now at the Tribeca Film Festival, begs to differ. The film follows the lives of four adults "on the spectrum" as they navigate reluctant singlehood, a long-term relationship, and a marriage tested by cancer. Lenny, a young, unemployed man living in L.A. with his single mother, yearns for a girlfriend. Lindsey and Dave are "high-functioning," employed, and in love, but often struggle to connect emotionally; meanwhile, Dave privately works up the courage to propose to Lindsey. Stephen and Geeta, married for 20 years, are facing Geeta's battle with terminal cancer; Stephen is autistic and Geeta is not, and Stephen searches for the words to convey his emotions around Geeta's decline — words that do not come easily. "I’m always looking for stories about characters who are pursuing something that [it] seems like they can’t have," Autism In Love's director and co-producer, Matt Fuller, explained to us. "Autism encumbers communication and it often mitigates speech... So, how does someone with those deficits pursue and engage in a relationship that requires so much fundamental communication?"  Certainly Lenny, Lindsey, Dave, and Stephen confront more obstacles to that fundamental communication than most, but the issues they deal with are familiar to anyone striving for intimacy. "People with autism want exactly the same things that everybody else wants. They want that fundamental part of humanity, which is romantic connection," Fuller points out. "All of our relationships look a little bit different, and that’s the case with people on the spectrum, too." As Fuller puts it, the film is not just about autism, but about the quest for connection — one we all share. Watch a clip of Autism In Love below and click through to the film's website for more.

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