On September 26, 2015, Anita Lesko and Abraham Nielsen said “I do” in front of friends, family — and a room of people on the autism spectrum.
The autistic couple chose to tie the knot at the Love & Autism: A Conference With Heart conference in San Diego, an event organizers called the “First All-Autism Wedding.”
“My goal is to start the social movement to break down the misconceptions that people on the spectrum do not want and need relationships,” Dr. Jenny Palmiotto, a marriage and family therapist and the founder of Love & Autism, said in a press release for the event. “Autism is always there and love is always there; it’s nothing that an individual needs to overcome.”
Five months later, the couple has released their wedding video (below), shot by an all-autistic crew. They’ve continued to share their story to crush the stereotype that people with autism don’t feel love or want relationships.
“Autistic people have the same need for love, relationships and marriage, just like everyone else,” Anita, 56, told The Mighty in an email. “We might not show it on the outside as well as others, but on the inside we have the same human needs.”
“We are going nonstop as autistic advocates,” she added. “We truly feel that we were destined to meet to be able to work together to help our autistic community.”
Anita says their ceremony was not different than a “normal” wedding, but what she and Abraham experienced was “quite different than what most ‘neurotypicals’ would have experienced.”
For example, as she walked down the aisle, she grew overwhelmed by the harpist playing, the hundreds of people watching her and the aroma of rose petals scattered on the floor. “It all created a totally surreal experience to me,” she said.
The best part of the wedding, she says, was right after the ceremony when she and her husband stopped at each table to greet guests. The positive feedback from both autistic individuals and parents of autistic children will stay with them forever.
“They had tears in their eyes, saying that we gave them hope that their autistic child will grow up to find love and happiness like we have,” Anita said. “That was the greatest gift we could ever receive.”
As they continue to enjoy married life (“We’re inseparable!”), the two are on a mission to help autistic individuals form meaningful relationships and teach non-autistic individuals that people with autism are more than capable of emotions.
“Abraham and I thought it was beyond impossible to ever find love,” Anita told The Mighty, “so it was all the more special to us that we did find the love of our life.”