An exclusive dating site for those on the autism spectrum is not entirely a new concept. However, the creators of the recently-launched SpectrumSingles.com claim their site to be unique.
Olivia Cantu, co-creator of Spectrum Singles, said other dating sites usually “portray autism in a negative light.” At the best, these sites group people with autism together without understanding that each person is different.
People on the autism spectrum are almost as diverse as people not on the spectrum. Not everyone with ASD same issues; some may suffer from social anxiety while others may have a problem with physical affection.
Nineteen-year-old Cantu and her 37-year-old mother, Kirsten Fitzpatrick, started the website with the aim to fill the gap left by other dating sites. The novelty of the site lies in its ability to differentiate between autism spectrum traits and bring like-minded people on the spectrum together for friendship or dating.
According to experts, dating can become a painful experience for those on the autism spectrum, particularly when their dates are not autistic. A big smile or a hug, holding hands or flirting these seemingly harmless gestures, can be extremely unnerving for them. Their medical condition makes it difficult for them to relate to others without the disorder and vice versa. However, dating sites like Spectrum Singles can help them make their dating experience much more enjoyable.
Those interested in becoming a member of Spectrum Singles have to first register themselves on the website. Then they are asked about 180 questions, covering areas such as attention tendencies, sexual preferences and social comfort level. Depending on the answers, the members are given a color, denoting a particular level or kind of autism.
The members can then look for potential friends or partner within their color group. The idea is to provide an opportunity to those on the spectrum to mingle with people who will understand them. Cantu said most of the dating sites for autistic individuals do not try to understand the personality of its member, which is crucial to find a friend or partner.
Being autistic themselves, Cantu and Fitzpatrick understand the ordeal of social interactions, particularly with non-autistic people. For several years, Cantu herself has tried to befriend someone with whom she can be herself. Her non-autistic friends fail to understand how certain actions could be disconcerting for her.
In frustration, Cantu turned to social networking sites to find a friend. To her dismay, she found these sites to be either biased or inadequate. Tried of the sites run by non-autistic people, she and her mother decided to design a more appropriate website catering to the specific needs of different autistic individuals.
The website has caught public attention as it has been created by autistic individuals and for autistic individuals. Since its inception, the site has been receiving an overwhelming number of membership requests. People from all walks of life have appreciated the effort put by the mother-daughter duo.
However, few have criticized the website for charging its members. Cantu and Fitzpatrick replied to the criticism by stating, “A membership fee is charged to make sure people do not register to the website with wrong intentions such as cyber bullying others members with Autism.” They also stated that the money received from the members will be used to maintain and develop the site.
Cantu, who studies at College of Canyons, California, manages the media and technology whereas Fitzpatrick handles marketing section.