Online dating can be an easier route for those who have trouble initiating conversation. For people with Autism Spectrum Disorder, it’s an alternative to picking up people at bars or parties and risking potential in-person rejection.
Garry Burge is 41, lives with his parents in Brisbane, Australia, and was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in 1998.
Over the years, he’s tried dating sites like the Canada-based LavaLife and Australia’s RSVP, but he found his most recent long-term relationship on Facebook.
“In 2008, I met a female on the autism spectrum in the United States,” Burge says. “That became sort of a long distance relationship for a while, and that collapsed due to the immigration difficulties.”
Despite having some success in online dating, Burge isn’t optimistic about finding a partner.
“I’ve got to the stage where I just find the whole concept of dating and relationships is just simply overwhelming,” Burge says. “I don’t think there’s any future in that direction for me.”
Jeremy Hamburgh is a New York-based dating coach for both neurotypical people and people with disabilities. He’s a Hitch for those who can hardly flirt, and he spends hours hiding behind book shelves and potted plants in bars and restaurants as his clients attempt to initiate conversation, then offers feedback later. Hamburgh also leads workshops at Adaptations, a program through the Manhattan Jewish Community Center that teaches life skills to people with developmental disorders.
Hamburgh says that it’s part of his job to introduce neurotypical people to the idea that people on the spectrum are not as different as they may seem.
“One of the things that I work on with my online dating clients is trying to break through the stigma of autism by explaining what my client struggles with and what he or she is great at,” Hamburgh says.