Dignity Prevails on Netflix’s ‘Love on the Spectrum’

A recently published study could end up encouraging more pregnant families to get prenatal tests for autism and, unfortunately, could lead to an increase in abortions. There is already a devastating number of children aborted after being diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb; autism tests could lead to a similar trend. While one of the paper’s authors noted that “early detection means better treatment,” we know that it also means further destruction of so-called “imperfect” human life.

But the imperfection it is life, and one of the best places to see those living their best life with autism is the US version of the popular TV show “Love on the Spectrum. The reality show documents the first-time dating experiences of people living with autism, featuring people on the very low and high ends of the spectrum. He invites viewers into a world they may know little about, revealing tender idiosyncrasies about each character’s entire life.

Episodes go back and forth between individual stories, where viewers meet at least one important friend or family member in the main character’s home life. They are usually parents, since the people who appear do not usually live alone. Most have never dated before, but are eager to find love and share their lives with someone. After all, we are created by God with a natural desire to be in a lifelong relationship, and that’s no different for people with autism.

However, living with autism means that finding “the one” may not be as easy as online dating or finding a partner through friends or work.

The benefit of the program is its ability to find and match people with others on the spectrum. This is accomplished through online dating apps, speed dating, or other means arranged by the show’s producers. Viewers viscerally feel the nervous anticipation of first date nerves, the palpable awkwardness of new conversations, and the familiar angst of saying, or being told, that someone isn’t interested in a second or third date.

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Sweet moments of connection, like when two characters bond over their autism, accompany difficult interactions when personalities collide. Authentic vulnerability, something that people with autism clearly display, is the magic that carries the show. The characters become beloved friends across the screen, and viewers develop bonds as they wait for their favorite couples to last.

Google shows people regularly searching to find out if certain couples are still together or the fate of characters who weren’t so lucky in love. Some of the most moving pieces of the show are the hopes and joys of parents who have walked with their autistic children through the harrowing moments of a world that is cruel and unfair to those who are different.

After her daughter’s successful first date, Season 3’s Abbey’s mother euphorically proclaimed, “I’m already planning the wedding!” Her mother joked, but a year later, the couple is still together and that feeling can become a reality.

Showcasing their experiences brings dignity to those who are often left out of society, who have been bullied as children, or who simply have difficulty relating to a neurotypical world. While many are not intimately familiar with autism in their personal lives, watching “Love on the Spectrum” has sparked conversations about it online.

In America magazine, Matthew P. Schneider wrote about a study in Taiwan that asked parents of autistic children about prenatal diagnosis of autism in the future, and a staggering 53 percent said they would choose abortion. Given what we know about many prenatal tests, which are often wrong, this result becomes even more frightening.

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“Love on the Spectrum” gives people with autism a deeper voice and identity, filled with passions, personal struggles, and dreams. It’s hard to say if autism is on the rise or if doctors can diagnose it more accurately, but today more families are dealing with this problem than ever before.

Regardless, promoting awareness, compassion, and resources is a positive. In the case of neurodivergence or other atypical conditions such as Down syndrome, inclusion and compassion are of vital importance. When you get to know people, you cannot help but recognize their human dignity. Too often, the obviously different are not represented in mainstream society.

While “Love on the Spectrum” has received some criticism for infantilizing the show’s characters and for allegedly “being scripted,” most of the feedback is positive.

After watching all three available seasons in their entirety, I walked away knowing a little more about autism and the lovable people who live with it. Looking back on my life, I began to recognize people I had known who were probably on the spectrum, and our interactions now make more sense. Programs like this will help others identify these extraordinary people in their own lives and appreciate them for who God made them to be.

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