Dr. Aarti Nair discusses the ins and outs of dating as it specifically applies to individuals with autism. She considers the need for teaching such skills to autistic adults and answers common questions she receives in her work. The presenter uses the UCLA PEERS program to discuss sources for potential partners, how to give compliments, digital communication, and more. Nair shares positive and negative role-playing videos for dating steps and uses a perspective-taking exercise to point out non-verbal social cues and outcomes. She underscores dating safety and comfort before the question-and-answer session

Handouts are online HERE
Learn more about our speaker, Dr. Aarti Nair, HERE
Take the knowledge quiz for this webinar, HERE

In this webinar:

1:55 – PEERS program background
2:48 – Evidence-based methods PEERS
5:12 – Choosing appropriate people to date
6:59 – Dating sources
9:16 – Appropriate online dating sources
10:20 – PEERS outline and role-play videos: Talking to mutual friends
13:45 – PEERS outline and role-play videos: Flirting with your eyes
18:06 – Social coach practicing
19:35 – PEERS outline and role-play videos: Asking if they are dating anyone
23:10 – PEERS outline and role-play videos: Give in compliments
27:04 – PEERS outline and role-play videos: Asking someone on a date
28:08 – Five W’s
34:17 – PEERS outline and role-play videos: Accepting rejection
38:46 – PEERS outline and role-play videos: Turning someone down
41:58 – PEERS outline: Electronic communication
44:34 – PEERS outline: Planning and preparing for a date
45:30 – PEERS outline: Beginning a date
47:46 – PEERS outline: During a date
49:32 – PEERS outline: Making conversation on a date
50:10 – PEERS outline: Staying safe on dates
51:13 – PEERS outline: Paying on a date
53:06 – PEERS outline and role-play videos: Ending a date
56:30 – PEERS Dating Do’s
56:40 – PEERS outline: Handling dating pressure from a partner
59:13 – Role-play video library website
59:53 – Q & A

Summary

Dr. Nair outlines the evidence-based social skills teaching methods employed in the UCLA PEERS program (1:55). She describes their role-playing techniques and small group format (2:48). The speaker notes that many of the skills they discuss may seem intuitive to non-autistic people, which, she continues, makes explicitly teaching these skills to autistic adults a necessity (5:12). She provides characteristics of people you would want to date and not want to date based on how they treat and respect individuals (5:54). Nair answers common questions that autistic adults ask about dating and shows social story video examples for many of the topics. 

Where do people find potential partners to date? 

Some appropriate dating sources include mutual friends, community gatherings, the park, church groups, and many other places (6:59). As most individuals with autism often attend few social events, online dating is also a great way to meet potential partners as well (8:00). Nair lists inappropriate dating sites and tips for spotting questionable websites (9:16). She lays out the PEERS rules for talking to mutual friends (10:20), shares a role-playing video, and explains the perspective-taking exercise used to point out non-verbal social cues throughout the presentation (11:34)

How do people who don’t know each other flirt in real life? 

The speaker suggests flirting with your eyes and giving compliments and notes that if someone asks about your dating status, they may be interested in you as a potential partner (13:45). She gives a negative and positive example (14:43) of flirting with your eyes and lists the corresponding PEERS steps (15:53)

How do you ask someone if they are dating anyone?

Nair suggests that, instead of abruptly asking such a question, you begin a conversation by trading information and discussing common interests (18:16). That way, the question can naturally slip into the discussion (19:35), as portrayed in the positive role-play video (21:16)

How do you give good compliments?

As a general rule, Nair suggests using specific compliments (i.e., “That was really interesting”; “You have a nice smile”) for people you do not know well and general compliments (i.e., “You are so smart or funny or beautiful”) for individuals you know well (23:10). Physical compliments, she continues, should be from the neck up and too many physical compliments can be seen as creepy or awkward, as shown in the role-play videos (24:30)

How do you ask someone on a date?

The presenter discusses knowing when you are ready to ask someone on a date and how you can tell if someone wants you to ask them out (27:04). She presents PEERS guidelines for what to do before asking someone out (28:06) and conversation instructions reflected in the positive role-play video (31:40).  

How do you handle rejection?

Nair underscores that rejection is something everyone experiences. She emphasizes that adults with autism need to know how to reject people they are not interested in as well as how to accept rejection (34:17). The speaker provides PEERS steps for accepting rejection (34:17) and turning someone down (38:46) along with negative and positive role play examples for both scenarios. She suggests keeping things friendly and maintaining respect in all interactions. 

What are the rules for electronic/digital communication?

It is important to remember, Nair states, that things shared online can be seen, read, or heard by anyone. Therefore, the PEERS rules for electronic communication suggest not to get too personal and to identify yourself when contacting someone new online. Nair discusses emoji use and respectful contacting hours as well (41:58)

How do you plan and prepare for a date?

The five W’s (who, what, where, when, and how) are a good outline to use for planning a date. Nair also suggests confirming the plan the night before and provides tips for preparing yourself before the event (44:34)

The speaker briefly discusses suggestions for beginning a date (45:30), what to do during a date (47:46), how to make conversation on a date (49:32), paying on a date (51:13), ending a date (53:06), and what to do after a date (55:58). She also emphasizes the importance of safety on dates. This includes letting friends and family know where you are going and who you are with, knowing what dangerous situations may look like, and much more (50:10). Nair provides suggestions for handling dating pressure from a partner (56:40), noting that you should not feel pressured to do something with which you are not comfortable. She provides resources and acknowledgments (59:13) before the question-and-answer session (59:53)

About the speaker:

Aarti Nair, Ph.D.

Dr. Aarti Nair is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Neurology at Loma Linda University, CA. She received her Masters’ degree in clinical psychology from UNC, Charlotte. Upon graduating from this program, she worked at the Center for Autism Research, Childrens’ Hospital of Philadelphia sparking her long-standing interest in the neural substrates of autism spectrum disorder as well as neuropsychology. She continued this line of research as a graduate student in the SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program and obtained her Ph.D. in neuropsychology in 2015. Dr. Nair completed her clinical internship and postdoctoral training at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Her research has been supported by grants awarded by Autism Speaks, Autism Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Nair’s current research interests are in the neural basis of social cognition deficits in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder and early-onset psychosis. She is specifically interested in applying multimodal neuroimaging techniques to examine changes in neural architecture affected by targeted interventions in these populations.

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