Updated: Aug 14, 2020
Written by Krupa Patel, CCPRD Project Associate
Love on the Spectrum is not your typical reality dating show.
This new Netflix reality series from Australia features eleven people on the autism spectrum (including two couples) sharing their experiences with dating and relationships. What many people do not understand is many people with autism not only have a desire to date, but many have fulfilling relationships. The cast of characters in this program features some very charismatic adults who challenge many assumptions about dating and connection, making this show very relevant to those who work in the fields of education, disability, and sexuality.
One of the strengths of this show is that it features people on the spectrum sharing their own stories about their lives. Oftentimes, those who make policies and decisions that affect people with autism are not on the spectrum themselves. Many people with autism have been critical of neurotypical people (those without autism or a neurological disability) speaking on behalf of those with autism. As more media coverage of Love on the Spectrum increases, it is important to read critical reviews of the show written by people with autism, such as articles by Marianne Eloise, Sarah Kurchak, and Dr. Kerry Magro, ED, The author of this post has a neurological disability, but is not on the spectrum.
Part of the widespread appeal of Love on the Spectrum is that it introduces the audience to many broad yet nuanced topics that might be otherwise difficult to talk about. Some of those topics include the following:
Autism Spectrum-Inclusive Sex Education: Some of the cast members work with Jodi Rodgers, a qualified sexologist, counsellor and special education teacher. Through her coaching, many cast members improve skills needed for dating such as: reading body language, finding common interests, asking someone out, and handling rejection. These sequences raise the questions of: What does comprehensive sex education look like for those on the spectrum and do children and teens with autism receive the education that they deserve?
LGBTQ+ Inclusivity: Erasure and stigma of queer and transgender identities is still common despite the many gains of LGBTQ+ movements worldwide in the past few decades. One of the strengths of the show is that the cast includes three bisexual people on the spectrum, including two who go on a very meaningful date with each other.
Neurotypical Privilege: There are many privileges that come with not having neurological disabilities, and the show makes those apparent. Many cast members describe the negative impact of bullying, isolation, and lack of opportunities for romantic connection in their lives. A few characters also touch upon the impact of being diagnosed later in life versus early childhood, partly rooted in how autism presents itself differently in girls than boys.
Role of Family and Community: Through many interviews and cameos featuring parents of cast members, the role of family support is emphasized. This is important as some people on the spectrum may not be able to live independently from family or guardians due to needing extra support. Many cast members find connection also through being active in community events, such as attending comic conventions or social events for people with disabilities.
Love on the Spectrum is an important tool to bring more people into the conversation about the rights of people with autism and provide urgency to being in solidarity. Liana Marks, a adult sexuality teacher at Milestones, writes, “a lack of comprehensive sex education may prevent them from forming fulfilling romantic relationships, and it may make them targets of abuse.” People on the autism spectrum have a right to sex education that is tailored to their specific needs. May more media, policies, and curriculum emerge in the years to come from those living on the spectrum and in the margins.
Read more from our staff:
Marks, L. (2020, March 12). Why adults with autism need sex education. Spectrum | Autism Research News. https://www.spectrumnews.org/opinion/viewpoint/why-adults-with-autism-need-sex-education/