Amy Harmon of the New York Times has written the lovely story of a young couple in Greenfield who are doing what young couples do. They are learning to share their lives, finding their way through arguments over control of the kitchen and whether to get a cat, and negotiating a tiny apartment with moments of tension and of sweetness.
This couple, 19-year-old Jack Robison and 18-year-old Kirsten Lindsmith, both have Asperger syndrome, a kind of autism.
Harmon tells the story of this couple in compelling detail, but she notes that the challenges they face in finding love and in learning to live in it are increasingly common. She writes:
Only since the mid-1990s have a group of socially impaired young people with otherwise normal intelligence and language development been recognized as the neurological cousins of nonverbal autistic children. Because they have a hard time grasping what another is feeling — a trait sometimes described as “mindblindness’’ — many assumed that those with such autism spectrum disorders were incapable of, or indifferent to, intimate relationships. Parents and teachers have focused instead on helping them with school, friendship and, more recently, the workplace.
Yet as they reach adulthood, the overarching quest of many in this first generation to be identified with Asperger syndrome is the same as many of their nonautistic peers: to find someone to love who will love them back.
The recent recognition that their social missteps arise from a neurological condition has lifted their romantic prospects, they say, allowing them to explain behavior once attributed to rudeness or a failure of character — and to ask for help. So has the recent proliferation of Web sites and forums where self-described “Aspies,’’ or “Aspergians,’’ trade dating tips and sometimes find actual dates. Lessons learned with the advent of social skills classes and therapies, typically intended to help them get jobs, are now being applied to the more treacherous work of forging intimacy.
Be sure to see the lead video and clips tagged throughout the story.