Near the end of July this year, Netflix release an original series called “Love on the Spectrum.” The program follows a number of men and women on the autism spectrum in romantic situations. Many of them have struggled to find love, while a few of them have been able to really connect with someone else. There aren’t any eliminations, and they don’t try to have one person date a bunch of other people in order to pick one (like the Bachelor). While the show isn’t perfect, it can help more people understand some of the difficulties that autistics face romantically, and some of those challenges are just like the average person’s challenges.
The show reveals that people with autism do desire romantic connection with people, and they are quite capable of forming and keeping deep meaningful relationships. Depending on where they are on the spectrum, they might need more assistance with the social conventions of dating. This is where relationship expert Jody Rodgers appears on the show to help certain individuals develop the social skills necessary to begin and develop new relationships with others. Her methods are criticized for sometimes attempting to create typical behaviors and gestures that are just formalities, such as holding out a chair for someone. Conversation skills, eye contact, and body language are all practiced, but as one reviewer points out, the typical gestures may not make much of a difference dating someone else on the spectrum. It does seem to be, however, helpful for some of the people to at least help them begin to relate to their dates and attempt to connect.
The show focuses on matching autistics with other autistics. It would be interesting to see an average person relating on a romantic level with a person on the spectrum, without actually being on the spectrum themselves. There is a sort of autistic bubble created that is fairly unrealistic.
The truth is that dating can be hard for most people, on the spectrum or not. Finding things in common, being physically attracted to one another, and having the same goals and values are all part of searching for a good relationship. Struggling with loneliness and wanting to find that someone special is something that people who have autism deal with, just like everyone else. What is great about the show, is that they are so honest about what they want and if they want to move forward with dating a person or not. There is no pretense about how they feel or what they really want, and they don’t try to pretend to be someone that they are not in order to impress anyone. That is one of the most refreshing aspects of watching this show, and it raises the question of whether or not typical people have dating all wrong. The average person is not comfortable enough in their own skin to just be themselves and tell the truth to the face of a person they are dating if they aren’t what they are looking for. The autistic people on this show do not have that complication.
Overall, it is a fun watch, and many scenes are somewhat endearing. It is a window into that world, but is by no means conclusive or representative of the entire autism spectrum, or of ethnicity, age or orientation. Love on the Spectrum is very entertaining. There are humorous moments when the honest, straightforward comments of some of the autistics on the show truly make others laugh. It is fascinating to watch how they relate to their families and then how they act on their dates. There is a lot of love and support on the show from family, and seemingly from behind the scenes. It is definitely worth the watch.