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In the United States, for example, dates typically unfold in noisy bars, busy restaurants or loud movie theatres.

These environments can worsen anxiety and even be painful for people with sensory sensitivities.

Shore was diagnosed with autism around age 3, about a year after he lost his few words and began throwing tantrums.

Doctors advised his parents to place him in an institution.

“We all have the same sorts of struggles, but folks with autism struggle even more,” Barnett says.

“The differences are a matter of degree, not kind.” Cultural factors can complicate courtship.

“There’s no incompatibility with being on the spectrum and being in a romantic relationship, being in love, being part of a committed partnership,” Barnett says.

“It’s one of the areas with perhaps the largest gap—I might go so far as to say it’s the area with largest gap—between community interest and need, and empirical research.” For most people, a healthy love life underpins psychological health and an overall sense of well-being.That doesn’t necessarily mean relationships are easy for people on the spectrum.Some features of autism, such as inflexibility, anxiety, sensory overload, difficulty communicating one’s own—and sensing others’—personal needs and limits, would seem to lend themselves to relationship disasters.That can beget a sense of isolation: Depression and anxiety are more than three times as common in adults with autism as in people without the condition.“There is a big problem with loneliness in this population,” says Katherine Gotham, a clinical psychologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. The intricacies of dating—striking up a conversation with a stranger or trying to gauge another person’s interest based on body language or facial expressions, for example—aren’t specific to people with autism, but they’re more difficult for people with the condition to navigate.Depression and anxiety tend to ebb in women with satisfying relationships.Scientists say these same benefits apply to people with autism—and when romantic relationships are lacking, a key piece of social and emotional health goes missing, too.But that thinking is based almost entirely on conjecture.Scientists have been slow to study how and why people with autism form satisfying relationships.The stereotype of children with autism as cold, emotionless robots is painful, pervasive and entirely misleading, she says.“Some are very aware of this social representation—it’s like a cloud that hovers over all of their thinking about whether they can be in a relationship or whether another person is going to want to be with them.” In fact, many people with autism both desire and sustain lasting relationships.

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