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    • Mikhaela:

      I have never dated another autistic person, only neurotypicals this has been my overall experience. Communication is important in any relationship. I used to not disclose until I trusted the person, however now I disclose early on to gauge someone's true nature. You can tell a lot about someone in how they treat you or respond once they know about this part of yourself.

      For example, I have had some people very clearly tell me it's okay for them to date me because I'm not "too disabled" for them. Others have been seemingly supportive only for me to later find out they actually discount my feelings and don't truly understand my needs, writing me off as quirky. It is important to never doubt your intuition. Even though as an autistic person I have trouble with nonverbal communication, my gut instincts usually prove to be correct. Unfortunately, a lot of people try to manipulate autistic people and I have had these people come to me under the guise of a romantic relationship. They use parts of autism that they know I'm self conscious about to validate their behavior and get away with certain things, saying I am misunderstanding. I have written more about how to recognize controlling behavior down below:

      With that said, I think its important to disclose whenever you are comfortable to do so. I have done both ways, earlier on and later on. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Just know if the person really cares for you, it will be a non issue.

      Dating in general is difficult for me. Most of dating involves flirtatious non verbal communication that I am unable to pick up on. As a result, I miss most flirting cues and miss out on the opportunities to meet potential romantic partners, shutting them down without even realizing it. To compensate for this I tend to be more straight forward. If I am interested in someone I will do my best to be a little flirtatious, but mostly I will just be myself. I try to be upfront as possible if I think there could be romantic interest. I do often think I am luckier in a way being a woman who is autistic because in dating, women drive the nonverbal coy signals. Men are usually more straightforward and so I can more easily learn social cues to interpret if they are interested romantically.

      When in a relationship, I make people aware of my sensory overload. I also do my best to make them feel loved in my own ways since I know I do not pick up on a lot of nonverbal signals of affection. Something that has really helped is to read about love languages. We all speak our own type of love language no matter who we are, and you can even take free quizzes online to see what types of love your personality repsonds to best. I encourage whoever I am dating to take these with me so we can both know how to best make the other feel wanted and appreciated. Beyond this, I keep communication open about how I feel most supported and ask them to tell me how I can best support them. I find that concrete examples help. "I love when you do the dishes." or "It is too difficult for me to process what you are saying if we eat with the TV on." These little things help the person to learn more about me while acknowledging actions they do that make me feel good.

      I will step out of my comfort zone from time to time to make them feel loved just as I hope they do for me. I do think that the hardest part for me is my inability to know tone and facial expressions, leaving me constantly worried about someone's true feelings or anxious that I have missed a cue of affection. Now, I simply tell people who date me long term these parts of myself. While it can certainly be harder, if they are the right person they won't leave me guessing.

      The most important thing is to be yourself and always speak your truth no matter how hard it is. Never sacrifice who you are. Don't compromise your core beliefs or who you are as a preson just to be "good enough" for someone. Just because we are autistic does not mean that our feelings are any less valid within a relationship.

    • An additional post I have written on advocating for yourself within any relationship, whether that be romantic or a friendship can be found below:

      It is important to recognize when someone is taking advantage of you, and as autistic people it is often hard for us to tell since we take people at face value. I created this guide so others can better recongize toxic relationships and find ways to advocate for themselves within those situations.

    • Mikhaela, you and I had a long conversation over this past summer about the challenges of managing a social media presence on multiple platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube) while still balancing the demands of work, family and fun.  

      I love how you’ve used Facebook Live to better engage with your fans on Facebook.

      Can you talk a little about your experiences with using Facebook Live?

      What else have you found helpful to stay connected with fans and followers on each platform and your blog, Edge of the Playground?

    • Balancing social media can certainly be difficult. I want every follower to feel heard but I also find I need to take breaks to enjoy life outside of social media. This is especially true since I focus on a lot of advocacy that does not take place online too. I typically set specific times to check my platforms and then remain offline so I do not burnout. I found that this has helped tremendously, before I was simply online all the time constantly answering follower questions and posting content to build my following. This is not sustainable, and loyal followers will stay even if you only post once or a few times a day.

      Facebook live was a great way to connect with followers in a more personal way. I know it is important for a lot of people to put a face to the name. I am face blind, which means I cannot recognize faces or facial expressions, so to me it did not occur at first that people connecting with me in this way was important. For me, knowing someone's face doesn't hold the same value since I cannot recognize it.

      Facebook live was also wonderful because it allowed me to interact in real time. It can be a little difficult trying to read the questions while answering live (a lot to process) so I often ask followers to submit their questions ahead of time. This gives me the extra processing time I need to deliver the best answers. I then field live questions as well.

      Other ways I stay connected is through my direct messages, email, newsletter, posting more personal content so people can get to know me as a person, and of course connecting in real life at conferences and events. I also always try to support other autistic advocates the best I can by sharing their content and having guest postings on my blog.

      Overall, social media is a wonderful way to stay connected. I am truly humbled by how many people I have been able to reach through these platforms and always inspired by the messages I get from parents and other autistic people about their own personal stories.

    • I also always try to support other autistic advocates the best I can by sharing their content and having guest postings on my blog.

      Your sharing of the spotlight with other voices within the autism community has been amazing. I was reading this guest post on equine therapy and it was fascinating to learn how grooming a horse provides social skills training to individuals on the spectrum.

    • Yes this was a wonderful post written by a close friend of mine. Equine therapy helped me a lot as a child with not only socializing, but my coordination and confidence within myself. Horses have a unique way of helping us feel comfort. They are patient and do not demand the same social complexities that humans do. Horses proved to be the steady companions I needed to develop at my own pace.

    • My mom and I are coming out with a book this spring that we have co-authored. It is written from both her perspective as a parent and mine as an autistic child (now adult). It follows our journey and personal stories while also documenting our struggles and successes. Our two stories come together to show how we worked as a team to support my strengths while accommodating my weaknesses. We hope that this book will help others and give them confidence in finding their strengths. It will be available on Amazon.

      For more information about the upcoming release, you can follow my Facebook page which is where most major announcements will be made.

    • That is fabulous news! I’m sure your followers will find the book both helpful and meaningful.

      Thank you Mikhaela and Mary Lynn for sharing insights and resources for transitioning adults and their families.

      And thank you as always to @Chris @Vilen @yaypie and @Victoria for providing an amazing platform for fascinating conversations!

    • Wow, what an inspiring conversation. As a parent I was asking myself throughout whether I would have been as determined to understand my child and try the different things you both tried. It's amazing how much you learned and what a bond you have now. 👏

      It also made me wonder if our children had a little bit of autism that I overlooked or didn't take the time to fully understand. I can't wait for the book to come out.