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Love on the Spectrum: Where are all the working-class Aspies?

Love on the Spectrum: Where are all the working-class Aspies?

By Connor Long-Johnson

I have recently discovered the joys of the hit Netflix show Love of the Spectrum. Being Autistic and having met my first girlfriend at the age of 25, I am always eager to discover how others with Autism Spectrum Disorder navigate the complicated world of dating and relationships.

After watching the pilot episode with my partner, I was hooked. I binged both seasons across two nights and quickly moved on to Love on the Spectrum: Australia to see how those with ASD down under find love. I could not get enough of Dani, Abbey, James and Steve and followed their adventures avidly as they took the first steps out of their comfort zones to find the one.

It was fulfilling to see people like me make the same mistakes and take similar missteps when trying to find love. It was also fulfilling to see the success stories of those who did manage to go on dates and eventually find someone special. Much like The Undateables – a similar show in the U.K. – I felt that I had found another show that accurately represented the day-to-day struggles of Autistic people who were interested in dating.

However, watching the show left me with some burning questions. It was while watching Abbey – a twenty-three-year-old from Los Angeles – and her boyfriend David jet off to the African savanna in season two that it occurred to me. All the people on the show were wealthy, or at least their parents are. Cast member David works in HR and is somehow able to afford a trip to Africa for five people that includes a Safari. Only after some research did I discover that David’s father, Alan Isaacman, is a lawyer in Beverly Hills, California.

Another lonely heart, Steve Spitz, is a 63-year-old living in San Francisco who is seemingly unemployed but living in a spacious apartment in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. He is not alone in this, almost every cast member on the show and its Australian counterpart seems to come from an idealised home in the suburbs. Wide open spaces, large gardens and expensive holidays are the norm.

For me this raised an important question, where are the working-class Autistic people? They certainly exist, having ASD and coming from South London I can say with confidence that there are working-class Autistic people out there looking for love. More shocking is that only 16% of Autistic adults are in any kind of employment according to the U.K.’s Office of National Statistics. This makes it more unlikely that any of the cast can afford houses, let alone expensive trips to exotic destinations.

The cast of the show receive all the encouragement and support they could need in their quest for love from parents and caregivers. Conversations are focused solely on finding happiness in the form of a partner. This makes sense, given that it is the focus of the show. But not once are audiences given insight into their wider lives and how dating fits into this apart from an odd sentence about jobs and interests. All we see are a group of people who have the economic freedom to focus entirely on themselves, never in want of necessities or forced into work. While shows such as Love on the Spectrum are well-intended, showing us the lives of those benefitting from generational wealth, who have the time and resources to date constantly, free from the stresses of financial constraints is not representative of Autistic people as a whole.

One can only wonder at what the life of an autistic person on a low income, struggling to cover soaring rents and rising energy bills might look like. Let alone how they find the time to look for love. While the lives and achievements of all Autistic people should be celebrated, and Netflix commended for their part in doing this, it would be nice to see how those on the other side of the economic scales go about their lives.

Love on the Spectrum raises a larger issue with much of the current Autism-centric media. As the name suggests, Autism is a spectrum that encompasses a wide range of people and challenges. The media seems to want to only report on the two extremes of the spectrum, those who need round-the-clock care, unable to work or function without the intervention and care of others; and those who have risen above their challenges (often with the help of their parents) and can now begin to focus on developing themselves and finding relationships.

What is missing is a lack of focus on those who are more mildly impacted by Autism. Those on the spectrum who are functional enough to be independent but not so unshackled by their Autism to be successful rarely seem to interest producers and audiences. The struggle of those who strive to live independently continues to go unnoticed.

Connor Long Johnson
Connor Long-Johnson is a writer and teacher. He is studying at the University of Greenwich and working towards a PhD in English Literature. He enjoys reading and writing horror stories and spends all his free time gaming, reading or writing.

His website is https://cljohnson.co.uk/

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