If you have a subscription to Netflix, I highly recommend watching Love on the Spectrum. The show offers a heartwarming glimpse at the lives of autistic individuals looking for love–although you should note that the producers selected individuals that are concentrated at one end of the spectrum and they are predominantly white. What I loved about the show was the absence of manipulation and deception, which is likely inevitable in a competitive environment like on shows such as The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. I was truly rooting for everyone to find their special someone and felt heartbroken when they didn’t succeed. Don’t worry, this post doesn’t include any spoilers. I just wanted to share some research that I conducted based on some observations from watching the show.
1 in 54
First, for some context, the CDC estimated that about 1 in 54 U.S. children have been identified as autistic (about 1 in 160 worldwide). There are no overall differences in prevalence among black children compared with white children. The prevalence is lower among Hispanic children.
The formation and consolidation of gender identity appears to be unique among autistic individuals. For some autistic individuals, their sexual orientation may be associated with their gender experience. One study estimated that 15 to 35 percent of autistic people without intellectual disabilities identify as non-heterosexual. To provide some perspective, only 5.6 percent of U.S. adults identify as LGBT, according to a survey conducted by Gallup in 2020. Another analysis found that 6.5 percent of autistic adolescents and 11.4 percent of autistic adults reported a wish “to be of opposite sex” which was more than twice the general population. This suggests that LGBTQ+ groups and communities should be more intentionally inclusive of neurodiverse people.
A recent study found that 60 percent of autistic individuals are non-right-handed. A quick search on Wikipedia suggests that only 10% of the general population are left-handed and 1% are ambidextrous. Research suggests that hand preferences are associated with the development of regions of the brain related to language versus manual skills and motor coordination. Although another study suggests that handedness is unrelated to visual (and speech) networks.
One study found that only 5 percent of autistic adults were married by the time they reached mid-adulthood. Nearly half lived with a family member. A study by Canadian researchers found that 9 percent were married and almost 1 and 3 had a partner. Among the general population, around 2 in 3 people have married by mid-adulthood, although due to divorces and widowhood around 50% are married during a given year.
I was surprised to learn that there is little to no research on autistic parents. I only found studies that focus on heritability (like this one) rather than the experiences of autistic parents. That’s a shame given that Love on the Spectrum highlighted strong desires for having and raising children.