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Love and Life Lessons from the Autism Front

photo of Nebeker
photo of Nebeker
June 25, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Romance can seem out of reach for people with autism, who struggle with the social cues needed to build relationships. However, much like anyone else, many adults with autism long to make intimate connections.

Lindsey Nebeker works for the Autism Society of America. She was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2. She says as she grew up, she struggled to fit in.

"I really just had a bad track record when it came to making and keeping friends, and I had a really bad track record when it came to establishing and securing a healthy, long-lasting relationship."

Nebeker says after many failed attempts at dating, she met Dave Hamrick, who also has autism. The two hit it off, and, more than six years later, they are still together. While they share a home in Virginia, their own personal challenges and rituals keep them from sleeping in the same room or eating together. But Nebeker says their shared diagnosis is what has helped make the relationship work.

"It's that deep understanding for each other in that we know, we get it, we get why we are the way we are."

Nebeker says with love, you never know what might bring two people together, and for her and Dave it likely was autism. She adds that while many pursue love in order to be happy, she says it isn't necessary. She says the key to happiness lies more in finding your own personal peace in life.

Despite the challenges she has faced over the years, Nebeker finds herself empowered by her own personal achievement. She says prior to meeting, both she and Hamrick worked for years studying communication and learned the social scripts they needed connect with others. That has been a critical tool in their relationship, she explains.

"Whenever we reach conflicts, or have to work how to resolve a problem or figure out the art of compromise, we are able to get by because we've learned how to be very effective communicators."

Her advice for others growing up on the autism spectrum - or anyone looking to build relationships - is to define your own success, instead of getting trapped in the idea of what the world defines as achievement. She says the personal success that can lead to strong connections comes from within: your own self-confidence and self-esteem.

More information on autism is available by emailing the Autism Society of Ohio, askASO@autismohio.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH