Study Group Plan: Love on the Autism Spectrum




  •  Autism – a neurological disorder characterized by difficulty with communication, social interaction, and repetitive behaviors Example: The child was diagnosed with autism at a young age and received specialized education and support.
  • Spectrum – a range of different things, often used in reference to the range of symptoms and severity of a particular disorder or condition Example: Autism is a spectrum disorder that can manifest in many different ways.
  • Neurotypical – used to describe individuals who do not have neurological differences or disorders Example: The majority of people are considered neurotypical, without significant neurological differences.
  • Mocking – making fun of someone or something in a cruel or insulting way Example: She was hurt by her friend’s mocking comments about her appearance.
  • Point taken – an acknowledgment that someone’s argument or point has been understood and acknowledged Example: “I see your point, but I still disagree,” he said in response to his colleague’s argument.
  • Coincide – to happen at the same time or to occur together Example: The timing of the conference coincided with her vacation plans, so she was able to attend.
  • Undermine – to weaken or damage someone or something, often in a sneaky or indirect way Example: The negative comments from her boss were starting to undermine her confidence.
  • Deal breaker – a factor or issue that is significant enough to end a relationship or agreement Example: His unwillingness to compromise on a certain issue was a deal breaker in their business negotiations.
  • Contrarian – someone who opposes or disagrees with popular opinion or accepted beliefs Example: She always takes a contrarian approach to any discussion, challenging conventional wisdom and pushing for new ideas.

Discussion Questions

  1. How aware of autism are you?  
  2. Do you know people who are on the autism spectrum?
  3. Can you think of people in your classes growing up that might have been on the spectrum?  How were they treated by teachers and classmates?
  4. Do you feel like you have any ‘spectrum’ behaviors?
  5. In what ways are you not ‘neurotypical’?  How do you think your mind works differently from most people?
  6. What social situations confuse you and/or cause you anxiety?
  7. What are your ‘dos and don’ts’ advice for dating?
  8. What first date advice do you have (for someone on the spectrum or not) 
  9. On a dating app, what would be (is) your 2-4 sentence bio?


Signs of Autism (Excerpted from:  Signs of autism | Ada )

Signs of autism in older children and teens

  • Develop a narrow range of interests or obsessions with certain topics
  • Engage in repetitive behavior such as hand flapping, twirling or snapping a rubber band
  • Not make eye contact
  • Have difficulty with social interactions
  • Not understand emotions in others or themselves
  • Prefer to be on their own
  • Avoid physical contact
  • Have unusual sleeping patterns
  • Use formal language rather than the slang of their peers
  • Place great importance on routines and rules
  • Develop strong preferences for certain foods, clothes or objects

An adult with mild symptoms, who is towards the higher functioning range of the autism spectrum, may:

  • Have difficulties with social interactions
  • Avoid making eye contact
  • Not understand nonverbal facial or body gestures, such as frowning or shrugging
  • Not understand changes in tone of voice, such as sarcasm
  • Be comforted by rules and routine
  • Get upset at changes to routines
  • Be under- or over-sensitive to loud noises, strong smells or tastes
  • Engage in repetitive behaviors, such as pacing or hand flapping
  • Have a narrow range of interests
  • Have a good memory and recall of facts

Many people with autism spectrum disorder engage in repetitive behaviors, known as stereotypy, self-stimulatory behavior or stimming. Examples of these kinds of behavior include:

  • Flapping arms
  • Rocking from side to side
  • Jumping or hopping, including while seated
  • Flicking a rubber band or piece of string
  • Staring at lights
  • Twirling
  • Watching a moving object
  • Head banging
  • Making the same noise repeatedly
  • Scratching

Some people with autism develop extreme preferences, dislikes or practices around food, for example:

  • Only eating food that falls into the same food groups, such as sweet, salty or bitter
  • Selecting or refusing foods based on texture, smell, color or temperature
  • Covering all food in sauce
  • Putting too much food in the mouth, where a person lacks sensory sensitivity
  • Biting inner lips and cheeks when faced with food they don’t like
  • Only eating food presented in the same manner each time


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