Healthy Living

Autism and Romance: Finding Love on the Spectrum and Online

Photo: CNN

Anyone who has a loved one with autism will find this article to be a burst of sunshine. Finding love is difficult for anyone and for those on the autism spectrum, the challenges might be greater.  Some people assume a person with autism is unable to form a romantic relationship. 

To appreciate the uniqueness of individuals on the autism spectrum, we all need to cast away assumptions, so we can appreciate the unique qualities of each person along the spectrum. Nico Morales and Latoya Jolly found each other using a dating website for people with autism.

Autism and social interaction

People on the ASD spectrum are considered to be higher functioning and have average or above average cognitive skills. Yet, even those with higher-functioning ASD may still struggle with issues related to social interaction and conversation.

Nico and Latoya appear to have conquered this barrier.

According to Paige M. Siper, PhD and chief psychologist at the Seaver Autism Center, “One of the myths of autism is really the fact that individuals with autism do not want social contacts or friendships. Many individuals with autism actually want to have friendships and relationships with others, but lack the skills to do so.”

How Nico and Latoya met

Both Nico and Latoya shared the loneliness they’d been enduring for many years before ‘stumbling upon’ each other. They had both joined an online dating site for those with Asperger’s. “They never thought they’d find love online until they met each other,” says CNN.

On a Facebook public post from December 2017, we see a picture of the two, snuggling, as a smiling, happy young couple out in the community with others.

"I honestly don't know what I did to deserve such an amazing woman like Latoya in my life," Nico says. "But who am I to question a good thing?”

The lives of Nico and Latoya

From two videos publicly posted to Facebook from CNN’s homepage, we find that both Nico and Latoya weren’t able in the past to make ‘close connections’ with others. And yet, they appear to have reached across that chasm and located their ‘soul mates.’

Nico and Latoya are both considered ‘high functioning’ on the autism spectrum: Both had previously been diagnosed with Asperger’s. 

The video, “Matters of the Heart” includes a documentary of one of their outings at an arcade. At the start of the video, the couple shares a peck on the lips. Each say the other is the first person they’ve ‘intimately kissed on the lips’.

As they stroll along the arcade, they hold hands, and casually chat about the games they’ll play.

“Be still, my beating heart”

In another video, we get to meet Latoya’s mom. She explains how it takes a lot of patience and focus to raise a child with autism. She speaks of needing to call Latoya to make sure she’s made it to school, or anywhere else she was supposed to be.

Regarding Latoya’s relationship with Nico, her mom says: “He seems like a good guy. He tells me things I would like to hear. I’m happy for Latoya.”

Nico and Latoya continued contacting one another through the Asperger’s dating site, and eventually decided to have their first date on January 2, 2017.

Nico says about seeing Latoya for the first time: “My mind said, be still, my beating heart.” He relates that he’d never seen a woman more beautiful.

During their date, Latoya relates that her Mom kept calling her and asking, “Where are you?” Latoya admits she was due to be at the restaurant at that time.

Finding someone who understands

In this second video, Latoya shared that she was seeking a man who wouldn’t take advantage of her. She noted her difficulty in speaking with non-autistic people “because they don’t understand” how it is for her.

She happily shared how easy it is to talk with Nico, “because I can understand what he goes through himself as I go through the same things too.”

Paige, the psychologist from the Seaver Autism Center, says, “There are two things we need to take into account regarding those with developmental disabilities; one’s chronological age and where they are developmentally, or, in this case, socially.”

“Those with autism are often socially naïve, and come across as being much younger than they actually are,” she concludes. It seems that Nico and Latoya have dodged potential ‘social bullets’ by finding one another.

Daily life for Nico and Latoya

Nico and Latoya burst any reservations people may have about folks with autism leading full lives. Both are students. And Latoya has a driver's license and provides the transportation for their dates. 

in the last video, we also get to see Latoya working in a restaurant, wearing a chef’s hat and uniform, spreading icing on a cake. And later, in an apron, cooking at the stove.

Relationships for those with autism

Psychologist Paige Siper says, “there are a lot of benefits to people with autism finding friendships and relationships: better quality of life, more self-confidence, happiness.” 

According to Kenneth Roberson, PhD, “People with Asperger’s love just like anyone else. With the right kind of communication and a strong desire to make the relationship work, intimacy is entirely possible.”

Together, they are extraordinary

In speaking of Nico and Latoya, the American Autism Association writes, “Their love for each other is obvious from the way they look at each other to the endless smiles they spread on each other’s faces.”
Or, as Nico puts it, “Separately, we are amazing individuals, but collectively, we are extraordinary.”