Written by Ellen Davidson, Social Thinking Coordinator & Charles Culp, Career Coordinator
In honor of Valentine’s Day, CIP Bloomington students during Social Thinking Lab viewed the new documentary, Autism in Love. The film explores the diverse romantic lives and perspectives of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder on their quest towards romance and acceptance. The movie helps people understand the struggles of ASD through the testimonials of those young lovers working with their diagnosis. For CIP students, it was an honest look into the lives of people as they seek to find romantic fulfillment. Their response to the movie was animated, heartfelt, and very interesting.
Many CIP Students are involved in relationships or are seeking someone else to share their time with, but, there are a few who enjoy the single life and fear losing the freedom that comes with it. “Relationships are confusing,” says Jacky, when asked how he feels about being vulnerable around another person. Jacky isn’t alone. A majority of CIP students are interested in getting romantically involved with someone else, but as with many things in their day to day lives, it comes with its own set of hurdles. “Love is when you realize you have feelings for the person,” stated CIP student Joe, following the introduction to the film, “it takes time to see if a relationship works.”
“I had a crush on someone, but he didn’t feel the same way about me,” Marina sighed, as she reflected on the potential of an early relationship, “but now all that has changed.” Marina has been romantically involved with her current boyfriend for quite some time, and now that she’s in a relationship, she’s encountering new problems. “I fear my mother will intrude when she finds out that the relationship is serious. I am afraid of her interfering with my future plans.”
Many people with ASD must learn to communicate with their families as well as their love interest as they grow romantically. The movie follows the life of boy named Lenny who is facing a similar problem. Lenny is conflicted about his purpose and value in the world and he thinks finding a girlfriend would change all that. But, Lenny has a more conventional attitude when it comes to dating and gender roles. He gets most of his information on the subject from the internet, which can be a bit misleading. Many of the things he says about relationships caused CIP students to groan and roll their eyes. “Lenny needs to find inner happiness within himself before being in an intimate relationship,” remarked Parker. A lot of the students agree with Parker’s words on the subject of love.
“Seek fulfillment in yourself; don’t look for it from others.” – Cody, CIP Bloomington Student
From a social thinking perspective the film offers an opportunity to examine and think about the multitude of diverse pathways toward romance. It stimulated animated conversations and interesting reflections about challenges our students have encountered in past relationships or situations they might have to work through as they anticipate future emotional connections. While ‘Autism in Love’ provides us with an intimate view of the triumphs and pitfalls of dating with ASD, it did not provide a set of positive, romantic guidelines for young learners on the ways of love. Everyone agreed that that comes with knowledge and, above all else, experience.
You can access the “Autism in Love” documentary through PBS, Independent Lens.