For parents, the thoughts of their child dating can raise some concerns. Some parents worry about their child being taken advantage of or having their heart broken. Other parents worry that their child is too young to date, or that their disability will make dating too hard. It is normal to think about these things and worry about your child. However, research shows that with the right education and support, young people with intellectual disability and/or autism spectrum disorder can have healthy and successful relationships.
Even if your child does not have the interest or capacity to have an intimate relationship now, it does not mean they won’t be able to in the future. As your child grows up, it is likely they will see the intimate relationships of people around them, or see intimate relationships portrayed in media, and want to experience this for themselves. Addressing this in a positive and proactive way will help your child feel like they are being respected and listened to. It will also help to minimise feelings of exclusion, loneliness and isolation. If your child shows an interest in dating or intimate relationships, you can then use this interest to motivate your child to build their social skills and reinforce your child’s understanding of healthy relationships. If your child does not show an interest in dating or intimate relationships, relationship skills should still be taught proactively to empower your child to be able to make safe and healthy decisions in the future.