Whilst researching autism-friendly dating websites recently for the new lifestyle section of AdultsWithAutism, I came to the conclusion that I would not recommend any of these websites.
The first few results in Google search revealed autistic dating sites that appeared-at best-unregulated and unmanaged by anyone with knowledge of autism. The worst examples, were sites that did not seem to care about the safety of potentially vulnerable autistic people.
As an experiment, I signed up for one these websites. Having registered, I was immediately shown a page full of people with autism and their profiles. Before I could go any further, I was taken to a page where I was asked for my credit card details. It was something like £20 per month to contact a certain amount of possible dates. And that is what this particular dating site was all about: Making money. I'm not anti-business, but this is unethical and could put a vulnerable person in a dangerous or compromising position.
It's difficult enough for even for neuro-typicals to stay safe online. Many of us on the autistic spectrum are even more prone to manipulation. It may be much harder for us to know when we are being lured into an unsafe situation. Surely, at the very least, an autism-friendly dating website needs to check who's signing up to their service. Ideally, an autistic dating site would:
- Carry out checks on people signing up. These checks should be done in person by someone who understand the challenges we face with relationships, and social situations in general.
- The initial dates would be chaperoned by someone from the agency.
- Autistic dating websites should be regulated by a dedicated body to maintain safe practice.
- There should be regular discussions between the dating agency and the user to ensure nothing inappropriate is going on.
- The user's safety should be considered as priority at all times.
Running this type of an autism-friendly dating service would be costly. It would be difficult for the agency to maintain such high standards of safeguarding, whilst making a profit. I honestly cannot see a good business case for setting up an ethical autistic dating website. As a result, some of these companies are attempting to put profit over the safety of their users. I also think there are much better ways autistic people can find a suitable partner for a relationship.
Neuro-typicals generally find a partner through a social setting of some kind, or at work. Why should we be any different?
As autistics, we are likely to isolate ourselves This makes it extra difficult to meet new people and form relationships. Another factor is that a very high percentage of autistic people are not employed. So this way of meeting that special someone, at work will not possible.
As I mentioned in a recent YouTube video on Autistic Dating Websites, people on the spectrum tend to isolate themselves. and feel overwhelmed by their struggle with social anxiety, lack of confidence and low self-esteem.
The answer in my opinion; is not to hide behind your computer or mobile-phone, searching through Google for a meaningful relationship!
Instead consider these ideas:
- Go to places where you can meet others that have the same interests or hobbies as you. This doesn't necessarily have to be an autism based organisation.
- Find an autism social group in your area that meets on a regular basis.Try contacting an autism charity as they often run these types of groups.
- Depending on your social skills and confidence (and allowing for sensory difficulties) gatherings like parties or work related social events, are also opportunities to meet new people and form relationship.
I know that for many people with autism, these suggestions on how to meet new people will seem scary, or beyond your present level of confidence. But there are so many positive benefits of saying goodbye to your isolation, and taking part in all that life has to offer.
On the other hand, if anyone does know of a high quality, ethical dating agency for people on the autistic spectrum, please let me know and I will check them out.
But in the meantime, Be brave and Fight the fear. There are lots of nice people out there!
Thanks for reading-Steve