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Love At First Kiss Recap: Alex Discusses Dating with Autism

posted: 08/18/16
by: Korenne Smith

Alex Kisses Natalie

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Alex has a hard time reading body language due to Asperger's. He's excited to go straight for a kiss without having to guess or pick up on social cues. Alex kisses Natalie, a girl who typically likes a southern gentleman.

On the most recent episode of TLC's "Love At First Kiss," viewers met Alex. He shared how he appreciated the show's approach of "kiss first and ask questions later" given his autism. Alex quickly became a fan favorite and his story struck a chord. You can watch the clip above to see his first kiss with Natalie.

We asked Alex to share more about how being autistic has impacted his experiences with dating and relationships. Here's what he had to say:

For those who don't know, what is Autism and Asperger's?

Autism affects an individual's ability to communicate. It's a very broad spectrum that ranges from those of us who are unable to talk and require constant help to those of us who can speak but have difficulties with executive function, eye contact, reading body language, and understanding social situations. A lot of times we have an "autistic special interest" which is a passion that we focus on intensely.

Autistic people are very intelligent. There are many successful people with the diagnosis, including Nobel Prize winners, actors like Dan Ackroyd and Daryl Hannah, and even the creator of Craigslist. But, many of us face tremendous challenges, such as difficulty getting and keeping a job. A lot of this can be fixed by society providing more support to those of us on the autism spectrum.

Prevalence estimates range from 1 in 68 to 1 in 45. The diagnosis numbers continue to rise because we now have much more awareness and doctors are better at identifying autism at an early age, which is a good thing because more people are able to get help and services.

Asperger's has been removed as a separate diagnosis as of the latest diagnostic manual for psychiatrists.

When were you diagnosed?

I was 9, although my parents always knew I was different. At the time, autism was mistakenly still considered a rare condition so I had trouble finding other autistic people to relate to. Consequently, when I was a teenager, I created WrongPlanet.net, a web community for those of us on the spectrum to connect. It now has over 100,000 members.

How did Autism affect how you approached dating and relationships when you were younger?

I didn't have a clue what to do. In high school, I did have a girlfriend, but I didn't even know when to make the first move so she ended up doing it for me. I got involved in acting and theater in high school and that helped me a lot.

How does being autistic affect your relationships now as an adult? Or, does it at all?

It's definitely a part of who I am so it still affects my relationships. But, one thing a lot of people don't realize is that autistics can definitely learn how to be more social, so as we get older, we get better at navigating relationships and dating.

When is a good time to share this type of a condition with your partner?

It's totally up to the individual. In my case, however, since I'm somewhat of a public figure, most girls find out pretty quickly after googling me so it usually comes up pretty early on. I've found that the reaction I get when they find out is usually pretty positive. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma because most of society doesn't really understand autism. Sometimes the reaction will not be ideal. But, building more public awareness can educate those who are uninformed.

How can someone dating an autistic person be a supportive partner?

It's important to understand that you need to be clear about how you feel. If something bothers you, don't expect your partner to be able to read your body language and realize that you're bothered. Also, don't blame problems in a relationship on autism. Most problems in relationships stem from a lack of communication, which is something that both people are responsible for.

Share any advice that you have for those with Asperger's who are interested in dating in today's digital world of texting and Tinder.

I think the rise of Internet dating is great for autistic people because it is much easier for a lot of us to interact online. You don't need to be good at eye contact or reading body language on Tinder! The most important advice I can give is to have a positive attitude and to learn from your experiences.

Where does your relationship with Natalie stand now?

Natalie is an amazing girl and I'm very lucky to have gotten to know her. We dated for a bit after the show. We've both moved on but we keep in touch. It was a great experience.

What resources are available for those who'd like to educate themselves about Autism?

Definitely check out my website, WrongPlanet.net and follow me on Twitter (@alexplank). I'm giving a presentation about dating at a conference called Love & Autism in San Diego in October. You can see my list of all of my upcoming appearances on my website, AlexPlank.com.

Alex Plank is creator of WrongPlanet.net, the leading site for individuals with Asperger's syndrome and Autism. Both Alex and Wrong Planet have been featured by CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and Good Morning America. Wrong Planet has over 100,000 registered members and its discussion forums contain millions of messages.