She explains she has a soft spot for animals, both her German shepherd and “cats trying to fit into spots that they can’t.”Symptoms of Asperger’s vary widely, but often include a lack of social intuition, obsessive interests and trouble reading body language.
Instead of simply noting some participants are running late, he says: “In the case of this being the fourth-largest city in North America, we have traffic to deal with, because both of our sports teams are doing really well and the Jays just started a game right across the street from us.”At one point Mead interrupts a dating coach during her discussion on social etiquette, then catches himself — “an example of etiquette there,” he notes wryly.
Laughing about his former nickname, Michael Jackson — earned in high school due to his “groovy hair” — Mead reveals his casually precise memory.
“He died seven years ago next month and we’re still talking about him.”His mind moves at a fast clip in a group setting, but he’s at ease.
Organizer Evan Mead at a social dating workshop for people with Asperger's Syndrome in downtown Toronto.
Getting a date isn’t so much the end goal as validation that participants can start down the road to romantic intimacy.
A group of strangers sits semi-circled in a downtown condo common room. The young men and women here all have Asperger’s.“I’ve never had a date in my life,” says Tori Durham, 34.They shift in their chairs, smiling tense and attentive, and steal glances across the hardwood floor at each other. Benny Lai, 37, wearing a purple Raptors T-shirt, asks: “Will you help us improve our social skills and learn how to get a date?”Facing the group stands Evan Mead, flanked by several “sexperts.” A wiry, quick-eyed 24-year-old, Mead is a man with a plan.Diagnosed with Asperger’s at age 5, he now wants to help teens and adults on the autism spectrum get comfortable with romantic relationships, intimacy and “just hanging out” via a “dating day camp.”“Forget Asperger’s, dating is awkward for a lot of people,” says Mead, his deliberate tone gusting calm into an uncertain room.Launched this year in conjunction with a sexologist and a dating coach, his free half-day workshops invite “Aspies” to meet, mingle and trade social cues more easily.The participants hear from experts, share their challenges and play out exercises involving speed networking, positive thinking and facial expressions. In one activity, participants pair up and sit facing each other in a row to describe who they are.“I love gadgets, I hate clothes shopping,” says Durham.