Asperger Love: Searching for Romance When You're Not Wired to Connect by Amy Harmon. A New York Times/Byliner Original. Available for Kindle, iPad, Kobo, and Nook, $2.99.
And Straight On Till Morning: Essays on Autism Acceptance, edited by Julia Bascom. Published by the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network. Available for Kindle, $2.99.
Reviewed by Steve Silberman
In the early 1990s, a mother told a conference of autism professionals that the upside of having a teenager on the spectrum at home is that they will never want to do the things that often get kids in trouble. There will be no need for awkward conversations about sex, because people with autism are either uninterested in or incapable of intimacy. Parents won't have to worry about a late-night knock on the door from the local sheriff, because autistic teens have no desire to party. If these generalizations now seem naïve, offensive, or some combination of the two, this mother had a lot of company in her assumptions. The notion that people on the spectrum are disinclined to seek connection with others is embedded in the very word autism, which is derived from the Greek word for self, autos.
One of the world's leading authorities on the subject, psychologist Tony Attwood, devotes only a handful of pages in his Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome to sexuality and relationships. Specifically, there are two references to "lack of desire," four to pornography, two to exploitation by predators, and two to celibacy. Casting a further chilling effect on the notion of romance, Atwood cautions potential suitors that people on the spectrum may find a friendly touch on the arm "unpleasant and even difficult to tolerate, let alone enjoy" because of sensory sensitivity, and compares embracing an autistic partner to "hugging a piece of wood." This is the historical backdrop that looms -- albeit invisibly to most readers -- behind the publication of a new ebook by Pulitzer prize-winning New York Times reporter Amy Harmon, Asperger Love: Searching for Romance When You're Not Wired to Connect.