You have to get to know them for a long time to see if y’all are trustworthy and compatible. You have to be good friends and be there for them no matter what. You need to know if they are special needs or not. If you’ve known someone for a long time and you feel a spark…if it is a guy who you meet who might not be special needs but maybe supports the community, you can take a chance. If they support the special needs community, then yeah! But if they aren’t advocates, I probably wouldn’t be interested in dating them. It’s important because then you know that no matter what, all is calm and they can help you through your anxiety and stress. I meet guys who are regular, and they might have a lot of stress and anxiety too. I don’t judge. I just need someone understanding. Your partner has to be ready and in a safe situation. You can start dating someone by asking them if you want to go out. Sometimes my partner and I are not on the same page and we argue, but our biggest struggle is people not being supportive of the relationship or getting involved in my relationship when they shouldn’t. That’s a boundary ordeal. Most of the staff at ArcGNO are supportive of my relationship. They see that we are leaders and see how we advocate. Matthew and I just have the big picture to think of. The best thing about my relationship with Matthew is I always wanted to be with him. He makes me happy. My life is complete with him and his family. He calms me and gives me advice that makes me realize that I can be strong. He helps me not worry or panic when things don’t go my way. I’ve known Matthew forever and that’s the kind of genuine person he is. No matter what I’m going through, he will have my back and guide me. He won’t step away from my problems. Challenges happen everyday, but he’s done that for me for so long. I love to go dancing with Matthew. We go drinking sometimes! But mostly we like to bring awareness to those who are developmentally disabled. Everyone responds really well to our relationship. We’ve been really supported over the years.

Jill is a self-advocate, member of ArcGNO’s Board of Directors, and participant at the Uptown Community Center. Want to hear Jill speak about creating inclusive communities? Join us at Tulane’s Spread the Word to End the Word event on March 26th from 2:00 – 4:00 in the Lavin-Bernick Center on Tulane’s campus.