Dating and Relationships with Autism with Unicorn Children’s Foundation

We’re feeling the love with two guests on today’s Valentine’s Day episode of Lift U Up: Inspiring Health Stories. Our first guest is Ali Nyman, a social worker who partners with Unicorn Children’s Foundation to teach classes to adults with autism all about love, dating, and relationships. Alongside Ali is Katie Santoro, a twenty-something self-described “oversharer” who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 24. Together they sit down with our host, Tamika, to discuss the importance of relationships for people of all abilities.

A Remarkable Journey

For Ali Nyman, helping people was her calling. She always envisioned her career in counseling and psychotherapy, pursued the right courses in college, and then found her way creating a position she loves. In 2016, she moved back to South Florida to begin providing social-educational and therapeutic services to adults with disabilities. As the co-founder of Remarkable, she partners with Unicorn Children’s Foundation (a nonprofit dedicated to creating career pathways for people with developmental disabilities) to provide classes on topics like dating and relationships. Their classes promote independence and inclusivity, with the core belief that everyone has unlimited potential.

Finding Answers

When Katie Santoro was wrapping up her college years, she felt extreme anxiety about taking on the upcoming transition into adulthood. Challenges that seemed manageable for her peers, felt overwhelming to Katie, and she didn’t know how she was going to manage the basics, like being employed or entering the dating world. It wasn’t until she was 24 when everything clicked: she was diagnosed with autism. Suddenly everything made sense. She had an explanation for why her brain worked the way it did, resources to help her overcome challenges she has, and support from organizations like Unicorn Children’s Foundation. Since her diagnosis, Katie has found employment, moved out on her own, created groups of friends, and blossomed. 

Dating and Relationships 101

As discussed by both Katie and Ali, ability is not the determining factor for who gets to enjoy happy and healthy relationships. Just like people with disabilities can be confident in their sexuality (Listen to our episode on the Bold Beauty Project for more on this), they can also have the ability to date and find relationships. Ali shares that during one of her jobs working with adults with disabilities, she saw that they would often look to their favorite movies for dating advice. According to Ali, life is not a fairytale. This observation inspired Ali’s idea to host a class all about dating and relationships for people with disabilities. In this class, they discuss interest levels, dating stages, disability disclosure, and much more.

We all deserve love, and Remarkable and The Unicorn Children’s Foundation are making it even more accessible. 

What else can you expect in this episode?

  • Katie’s dating history and what she learned about herself along the way.
  • A larger discussion on disclosing about a disability when dating, and when the right time might be. 
  • Why it is important to realize that everyone is different in their own ways. 

Where to find today’s guests: