Spread Some Love to People on the Autism Spectrum This Valentine’s Day

Ah, Valentine’s Day. Who doesn’t enjoy arriving at work to mounds of bouquets, boxes of chocolates, and stuffed animals bearing giant hearts from a significant other? Doesn’t it warm your own heart to imagine children decorating their valentine boxes with their favorite super heroes and cartoon characters, passing out goodies to their peers? While it only makes sense to look forward to such an enchanting holiday for people in relationships, it can be one of the loneliest days of the year for singles. It can be especially hard on singles who lie on the autism spectrum.

People with autism often see their unique characteristics as obstacles to forming bonds with others, especially romantic bonds. Instead of solely thinking of autism as a speed bump in the realm of dating, it’s time that we analyze what it means to lie on the autism spectrum while searching for love. Forest Bezotte, a sophomore at BHC interested in pursuing English as a degree, shares with us some information about the autism spectrum and some advice for singles, with and without autism, on Valentine’s Day.

Forest Bezotte, otherwise known as The Pancake King, has his own blog–“Life On the Spectrum”–where he expresses his views and experiences living on the autism spectrum. But what exactly is the autism spectrum? In an online interview with Bezotte, he explains that it’s imperative to understand what autism is first before we can understand what the autism spectrum is. He states that “Autism is a mental condition that normally starts in early childhood, characterized by the difficulty to communicate and form relationships with other people and in understanding certain concepts, particularly abstract ones.” Symptoms often include experiencing difficulty in social interaction, expressing feelings, and controlling obsessive or repetitive behaviors.

When it comes to the autism spectrum, it isn’t a concept with a clearly defined top, middle, and bottom. Regarding the complexities of the spectrum, Bezotte explains, “Autism is different in everybody… The experiences of one autistic person are not typically the same experiences as another. For instance, I was diagnosed with high-functioning autism, which means my ability to be independent is greater and I’m able to understand a wider variety of concepts and appropriate social interactions, but still have trouble understanding other important concepts.” Therefore, there are different cases of autism. Depending on the type of autism someone has, their effectiveness in social interaction, for example, may be completely different than someone with a more severe, or less severe, case of it.

Furthermore, there are lots of misconceptions surrounding autism. One of these misconceptions is the belief that all autism is the same. The autism spectrum indicates that this clearly is untrue. Unfortunately, many of these myths and misconceptions affect how autistic people are regarded in our society. One of the most damaging misinformations I’ve heard is that autism is an intellectual disability. In fact, people with autism often excel in certain subjects at school, eclipsing their peers without autism. Referring to autism as an intellectual disability is damaging in every sense of the word. It is simply a false claim that harms both society and the self esteem of autistic men and women. This can easily lead to autistic people adopting a severely self-degrading mentality.

Bezotte describes in his blog post how his middle brother’s self esteem has been negatively affected by having autism and being unsuccessful in dating. In regard to his brother, Bezotte states that “he has pointed out to me how he doesn’t feel like he has it in him to attract any potential partner and that no girl will ever like him. Sadly, this sort of mindset can be common in other people on the spectrum as well.”

Imagine going years on end searching for that special someone yielding absolutely zero positive results. After several futile relationships, or no relationships at all, one may wonder what am I doing wrong? What changes can I make for the better? What can I do to finally find someone? Imagine believing that the reason you aren’t finding love is because of something you have absolutely no control over. It’s detrimental to view something like autism solely as a limitation. One clear way to stop the self-degradation that we’ve seen in people like Bezotte’s middle brother is to stop attributing terms like ‘restriction’ and ‘limitation’ to autism without also considering the incredible things that come with it.

What are some other ways we can help singles with autism in the dating field? Bezotte claims that something as simple as words of encouragement can make a world of difference to someone with autism. Something important people with autism need to understand is that they are “worth it.” They aren’t better or worse than anyone else searching for love. Bezotte further illustrates, “just because you have autism doesn’t mean you’re ‘less than’.  It doesn’t make you incapable of living life to the fullest, finding love, or pursuing your dreams.  You’re worth it, just like everyone else.” In fact, the same can be said for just about anybody. Words of encouragement, while they may seem small and insignificant, are a terrific way to brighten up anyone’s day–especially singles on Valentine’s Day.

Autistic people struggle to find healthy relationships much in the same way everyone else does. Bezotte states, “If a person on the spectrum is struggling to romantically bond with someone, chances are that person is struggling in other areas too.” In other words, difficulties in some areas can easily lead to difficulty in finding relationships. However, the challenges people on the spectrum face can be very different compared to the ones people who aren’t on the spectrum experience. Bezotte explains that “there are portions of autistic people who do not have a very wide range in terms of emotions. Most of the time they can come off as very ‘unfeeling’ or devoid of any real genuine emotion. Because of this, they can also have a difficult time interpreting other people’s emotions and then acting appropriately in turn.” For example, if someone with autism is visibly angry in public, he or she might act in a way that isn’t necessarily appropriate.

In conclusion, Valentine’s Day is one of the loveliest days of the year. This is agonizingly true for couples. However, it can be one of the worst days of the year for singles–“Singles Awareness Day,” as Bezotte calls it. For people without autism, it’s so important to stay true to yourself while looking for love. You are, after all, looking for that special someone. Pretending to be someone you aren’t for the sake of impressing a potential date or for whatever arbitrary reason is an exercise in futility. You’re not just looking for someone to show off to your friends–you’re looking for someone you can spend the rest of your life with, so stay true to yourself.

For people on the autism spectrum, it’s still necessary to be honest about yourself, but with the autism spectrum comes a world of differences other people may require time to get used to. That’s perfectly fine, but in order to maintain a happy relationship, you must come to terms with your own individual autism. Bezotte declares, “You’ll know if someone truly recognizes your worth if that person is willing to learn what [autism] means and how he/she can work around that. Being on the spectrum means that you have the chance to introduce a whole new ‘world’ to someone else, so find someone who has that kind of enthusiasm to ‘see’ it and tolerate and even love what makes you different.” Autism is not simply a weighted chain around the ankles of people who have it. It’s something that makes an individual a genuine person with unique flaws, beautiful characteristics, and charming personality traits. This Valentine’s Day, if you’re single, enjoy the holiday for what it is and do not dwell on your past unsuccessful relationships. There’s a whole world out there full of beautifully different people. Let’s celebrate that this Valentine’s Day!

Thank you so much, Forest Bezotte, for your input! Click here to access his blog post on his own personal blog site regarding the autism spectrum and dating. Copied below this article is the full online interview with Mr. Bezotte. Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody!

–Interview With Mr. Bozette–

1. What is the autism spectrum? What, in your opinion, would lie at the top, middle, and bottom of it?
To explain what the autism spectrum is, first you must know exactly what ‘autism’ is.  Autism is a mental condition that normally starts in early childhood, characterized by the difficulty to communicate and form relationships with other people and in understanding certain concepts, particularly abstract ones.  Common symptoms include difficulty with communication, difficulty with social interaction, obsessive interests, and repetitive behaviors.  From everything I know, there isn’t really a ‘top’, ‘middle’, and ‘bottom’ of the spectrum.  Autism is different in everybody.  One good quote I’ve found is that if you meet one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.  The experiences of one autistic person are not typically the same experiences as another.  For instance, I was diagnosed with high-functioning autism, which means my ability to be independent is greater and I’m able to understand a wider variety of concepts and appropriate social interactions, but still have trouble understanding other important concepts like managing finances for instance, I have obsessive interests and repetitive habits, and sarcasm typically eludes me among other things.
2. Why do you think autism is seen by a great deal of people (with and without autism) as a big obstacle–especially in da-ting? Is it really as big an obstacle as people believe it is?
Autism can commonly be seen as a big obstacle to people not on the spectrum because it means extra effort in communicating with those on the spectrum in ways that they will be able to comprehend and understand.  People on the spectrum typically need more time to transition into new places in their lives, which also means extra effort from the parents to see them off on their own.  Certain people on the spectrum may not be able to become completely independent at all and will need someone looking after them to make sure they’re tending to their own needs like proper hygiene for example.  Dating in particular is a greater challenge for autistic people because they lack proper social skills that neurotypical people have.  Their behaviors and mannerisms might easily come off as rude or inconsiderate to others, which can easily be taken personally and misunderstood as intentional.  Their obsessive interests might also prove to be a problem in dating because they make the conversations feel one-sided.  Their dating partner might feel like he/she can’t really engage in any of the conversations since the autistic partner is only talking about what it’s interested in.  One scenario that can prove to be a challenge but an admittedly rewarding one is two autistic people dating each other.  I myself am currently dating someone who’s on the spectrum like me (a feat that admittedly took several months to think over first lol), with most of the same disadvantages as me, and the process has required being very straightforward with her about any issues or concerns I might be having.  We have to put a little more effort into making sure the relationship is two-sided, meaning both of us get the chance to share our interests, and both of us get the chance to do things we personally enjoy.  I am happy to say however, that it is possible for this kind of scenario to be successful.  Can autism feel like an obstacle in a relationship?  Absolutely, but it’s possible for a relationship with an autistic person to work if both people are willing to learn what they need to and do the work required to try.
3. Can you give me some examples of effective words of encouragement for struggling autistic people?
My words of encouragement to struggling autistic people would be this: just because you have autism doesn’t mean you’re ‘less than’.  It doesn’t make you incapable of living life to the fullest, finding love, or pursuing your dreams.  You’re worth it, just like everyone else and you have a purpose of your own, be it big or small.
4. If you have any advice for single people WITHOUT autism looking for love on such a lovely day, what is it?
My advice to people without autism looking for love is this: if you want to find a partner and you want to impress a date, be exactly yourself.  Your desire for fellowship means you have the desire to share your life with someone, which means being honest about yourself and presenting yourself exactly as who you are.  That is one of the very first keys to forming a quality relationship with someone.
5. If you have any advice for single people WITH autism looking for love on such a lovely day, what is it?
My advice to people with autism looking for love is this: like with anyone who’s not on the spectrum, be yourself, which means being honest about the fact that you have autism.  You’ll know if someone truly recognizes your worth if that person is willing to learn what that means and how he/she can work around that.  Being on the spectrum means that you have the chance to introduce a whole new ‘world’ to someone else, so find someone who has that kind of enthusiasm to ‘see’ it and tolerate and even love what makes you different.  You may have weaknesses, but your autistic mind also has strengths, and those strengths can make your relationship with someone unique and special.
6. What are a few issues people with autism encounter when dating that people without autism don’t encounter as often?
There are portions of autistic people who do not have a very wide range in terms of emotions.  Most of the time they can come off as very ‘unfeeling’ or devoid of any real genuine emotion.  Because of this, they can also have a difficult time interpreting other people’s emotions and then acting appropriately in turn.  For instance, if someone is sad and is even making it visibly clear, the autistic person might not do what is socially appropriate to comfort or console that person.  This is another way that people—particularly dating partners—might find autistic people insensitive and uncaring.
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Author: Logan Raschke

I'm just your average sophomore at BHC who loves writing articles. I can't thank the Chieftain's readers enough for their support! If you have questions/concerns/awesome stories you want shared, contact me! Email: lraschke@mymail.bhc.edu

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