Netflix’s newest dating reality show is an honest look at what dating is like for people on the autism spectrum. “Love on the Spectrum” features several singles as well as a few couples as they navigate the tricky waters of dating. The Australian show aims to represent people on the autism spectrum in an authentic way, which includes focusing on their desire to find love.
The show’s premise debunks the myth that someone from the neurodiverse community is not interested in intimacy or romance. In fact, the singles are very open about their desire to find a partner, get married, and become parents. Jodi Rodgers, a relationship specialist for people with autism, helps the singles learn different skills that are used on a date. She shows them how to ask the other person questions and how to look for signs that they have something in common with their date.
Rodgers says the show hopes to shatter the stigma that someone with autism doesn’t want a close relationship. “Look, it’s not for everybody, which is the case in the general population as well,” Rodgers told The L.A. Times. “But what I’ve found is that once people on the spectrum hit adolescence and early adulthood, they desperately want those relationships. The difficulties they’ve had weren’t for lack of warmth but the complex social skills needed to develop and maintain those relationships.”
“Love on the Spectrum’s” cast is made up of individuals chosen from hundreds of applications, identified through social groups, employment centers, and organizations serving people with autism. The producers of the show made sure to provide accommodations for each individual as they needed them. Filming took place over a period of five months and usually only lasted a few hours a day. Crews remained limited to the same three people, whose goal was to be invisible but supportive during dates. Sometimes that meant taking multiple breaks during a date or calling it quits on any particular day.
Producers also want viewers to know that nothing in the show is forced or scripted, like with other reality shows. “A lot of dating shows often want a heightened experience of the fish out of water,” Executive Producer Karina Holden told The Times. “But for many of the young people who were part of the show, this was their very first experience of dating. That in itself can be quite emotional, so the tension and the drama comes from them feeling comfortable enough to open up to another person or the audience, as opposed by being pressured by producers to create a certain emotion.”
The result is a series that presents very real dating moments that are recognizable to anyone whose ever been on a date. How do you greet your date? Who pays for dinner at the end of the date? What do you do when the conversation starts to lag? Rodgers can be seen coaching the singles through certain exercises designed to equip them to handle these awkward situations.
“We as a society have focused a lot on supporting people on the spectrum when they’re young, and equipping them with independence skills for the rest of their lives,” Rodgers says. “But we’ve collectively dropped the ball [when it comes to dating].” One of Rodgers goals for the singles is to make sure they are honest with their dates. If they don’t want to pursue a second date she encourages them to be kind but honest with the other person.
What stands out most about the series is the singles hopefulness about love and the support they have from their families, friends, and specialists to find it. Many have never dated before, but are excited to learn and are willing to put in the work it takes to form a lasting relationship. And in turn, they are encouraged to go out and find that love!
Love on the Spectrum is available on Nexflix now.