Dating down and those of us who do it

“Early intervention can significantly improve the outcome, but kids grow up, and we don't have the proper services,” said Laugeson, who serves as director of UCLA PEERS, a program that teaches social, including romantic, interaction skills to teens and young adults on the spectrum.Central to PEERS is the promotion of “ecologically valid” social skills, traits humans have been shown to exhibit in reality, rather than what we think we're “supposed” to do.On one hand, a majority of online dating users agree that dating digitally has distinct advantages over other ways of meeting romantic partners: But despite these reservations, those who have personally used online dating themselves – or know someone who does – tend to have much more positive attitudes compared to those with little direct exposure to online dating or online daters.

As was the case in previous Pew Research Center surveys of online dating, college graduates and the relatively affluent are especially likely to know people who use online dating or to know people who have entered into a relationship that began online.

Nearly six-in-ten college graduates (58%) know someone who uses online dating, and nearly half (46%) know someone who has entered into a marriage or long-term partnership with someone they met via online dating.

“We know people with autism think very concretely,” said Laugeson.

“Social skills can be abstract behavior that's difficult to describe, but we try to break it into concrete steps.”For example, PEERS will take the seemingly mundane, but actually complex act of flirting and translate it into a step-by-step lesson.

A constant complaint among the individuals interviewed for this piece is the misconception that people with autism can't express love or care for others.

“I think a lot of times someone will go out on a date with someone on the spectrum and think they’re a robot,” said Alex Plank, founder of Wrong Planet.net, a popular online autism community.

The aspects of autism that can make everyday life challenging—reading social cues, understanding another's perspectives, making small talk and exchanging niceties—can be seriously magnified when it comes to dating.

Though the American Psychiatric Association defines autism as a spectrum disorder—some people do not speak at all and have disabilities that make traditional relationships (let alone romantic ones) largely unfeasible, but there are also many who are on the "high-functioning" end and do have a clear desire for dating and romance.

Although 15% of Americans have used online dating themselves, a larger share report that they are familiar with online dating from the experiences of people they know.

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