This question is very common. So many parents have asked me. Well What can I say? My answer to that is, Absolutely. It’s human nature to want love, be loved and express that love verbally, emotionally and physically. Even kids with autism who do not speak will “dry hump” an object or person they have affection for. It’s an extremely uncomfortable scenario for everyone else present, and all children with autism have to be taught to be more private about sex and physical love. Children with autism will masturbate as well, and they don’t need to have anyone teach them that when they quickly figure it out on their own!
As for crushes, or falling in love, the kids who fall on the higher functioning end of the spectrum are able to verbalize their feelings toward someone else. One little boy I know says all the time that he really likes girls and he wants the girls to like him! This is his own idea, expressed in his own words, and it’s clear that he does think about relationships and love with the opposite sex. Some of the girls in his class obviously like him back, and that’s a very good thing. He won’t feel the sting of rejection because he wasn’t stuck in a special ed classroom the whole time, but was mainstreamed with peers who readily accept his differences as something special. (The harder thing will be convincing the parents of these girls that this autistic boy isn’t going to hurt their daughters or that he’s “retarded” as some parents are still very ignorant about autism and what it means.)
Really high functioning adults on the spectrum get married and have children, and they express their love and affection for their very understanding partners all the time. They are the first of their generation to prove that love is universal, and it doesn’t stop with a developmental disorder.