Netflix series Love on the Spectrum a step in the right direction, say parents
On 22 July, Netflix will debut Love on the Spectrum, a four-part documentary series that follows young adults on the autism spectrum. The show aired in Australia last year and this month Netflix is bringing it to viewers in other countries.
Seven single people on the autism spectrum taking baby steps into the tricky world of dating. Helping them along with practical tips and advice are their families, a relationship coach and a clinical psychologist specialising in autism spectrum disorders. This is the storyline of Love on the Spectrum, a five-part documentary series by Netflix that releases worldwide on 22 July.
The series was first broadcast on ABC Australia in November 2019 and will now be available as a Netflix original in all countries other than Australia.
Disabled people are a rare presence on TV
It’s a significant moment for mainstream content as people with disabilities are rarely represented on TV. In a statement, series director Cian O’Cleary talked about what led him to explore this theme.
There is a common misconception that people on the autism spectrum are not interested in relationships or romance. From my experience, this simply isn’t true. In making television series about disability over the years, I have spoken to many young adults on the autism spectrum as well as families, job coaches, psychologists, and autism organisations. One thing really stood out for me: So many people on the spectrum were wanting to find love, but many had never even been on a date in their lives. When you speak to many people whose main desire in life is to have a partner, and they haven’t even been on a date, something isn’t right. – Cian O’Cleary, Director, Love on the Spectrum
Apart from singles looking for love, the series also features steady couples, whose love stories can offer inspiration to others.
O’Cleary hopes the series will help trigger conversations. “I hope this series will start conversations, help bring about understanding and acceptance, and ultimately inspire people with autism, their families and society at large to find ways to help people on the spectrum find love.”
Sentiments echoed by Anjali Dada, Co-founder, SOCH Autism Society in Jalandhar, who is also a parent to a child with autism. “I am very excited about the show and have told many parents to look out for it. It’s great that such themes are being explored in mainstream content now because after all we are talking about building a more inclusive world. People with disabilities are a segment that is devalued in society and that must change. Such shows will help towards creating that”.
Anupam Vasudev, who heads Dawn Rehabilitation Trust in Pune, is curious to see how a spectrum condition like autism is portrayed on the show. “Given how nuanced autism spectrum is, there is no one size fits all. It’s a case by case matter so it would be interesting to see how this issue is handled. As a parent to a child with autism, I think such shows are a good idea and should be encouraged”.
While welcoming the idea, the message of inclusion, says Indrani Basu, Autism Society of West Bengal, would have been better communicated without separating people based on disability.
“There are people on the spectrum who are married to people who are not so I would have loved the idea or a show where people were in a mixed group”. She welcomes the concept overall. “It’s great that people are thinking about such things because it’s not like people with autism cannot be in relationships or don’t have emotions. They just don’t get the opportunity to learn about these things”.
Mumbai mom Darshana Sawant, who has a 21-year-old son with autism, agrees and says many young people with autism in different parts of the world are finding love and are in relationships. “It is time that people in India recognise that and this show will hopefully help change perceptions”.
Love on the Spectrum airs on Netflix on 22 July.
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