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“Convenience with the Click of a Mouse”: A Survey of Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder on Online Dating

Abstract

Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have difficulty forming romantic relationships despite having motivation to establish them. The lack of success through traditional, face-to-face dating may lead to pursing relationships through other modalities, such as online dating, which present both advantages and disadvantages for the population. However, little is known about how adults with ASD utilize online dating services. Therefore, a preliminary survey on online dating in a sample of adults with ASD was conducted. Seventeen individuals with ASD participated in an online survey. Results indicated that slightly more than half of the sample used online dating services in the past with variable success. Additionally, participants discussed their opinions of online dating. The most frequently endorsed disadvantage of online dating was safety concerns. The results of the survey suggest that the population may benefit from additional research in learning how to navigate the online dating world successfully and safely.

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Author information

Correspondence to Matthew E. Roth.

Appendix

Appendix

Online Dating Survey

(Roth and Gillis 2013)

The following questions will ask about your background information. You can skip any question you do not want to answer. You can end this survey at any time by exiting out of your browser or clicking the link at the bottom of the page.

What is your age?

What is your zip code?

What is your gender?

  • Male

  • Female

How do you describe your sexual orientation?

  • Heterosexual

  • Gay/Lesbian

  • Bisexual

  • Asexual

  • Other (Please Describe): ____________________

At what age were you diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Who determined your Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosis?

  • Physician/Pediatrician

  • Psychiatrist

  • Psychologist

  • I don’t know

  • Other (Please Describe):

The following questions will ask about your online dating history and opinions toward online dating. You can skip any question you do not want to answer. You can end this survey at any time by exiting out of your browser or by clicking the link at the bottom of the page

Have you tried online dating?

  • Yes

  • No

If yes, for how long?

If no, what are your reservations toward using online dating?

If yes, how many dates have you had using online dating?

How does this number compare to your expectations?

  • More than expected

  • Less than expected

  • The same

Have you had a long-term relationship with someone you met online?

  • Yes

  • No

If yes, how long was the relationship?

Have you had a long distance relationship (someone who does not live in close distance to you) with someone you met online?

  • Yes

  • No

If yes, where did your long term relationship partner live?

  • In another part of the state

  • In a nearby state

  • In a far state

  • In another country

Are there certain dating websites you like to use?

  • Yes.

  • No.

If yes, which dating websites do you like to use?

Are there certain dating website you do not like to use?

  • Yes

  • No

If yes, which dating websites do you not like to use?

What are some reasons for your preference in type of online dating website?

Which type of online dating website do you prefer to use?

  • Paid websites

  • Free websites

  • No preference

  • I do not use online dating

What are some things you think are good about online dating?

What are some things you think are troublesome about online dating?

Are there aspects of online dating you find easy?

  • Yes

  • No

If yes, what are some aspects of online dating you find easy?

Are there aspects of online dating you find difficult?

  • Yes

  • No

If yes, what are some aspects of online dating you find difficult?

Do you feel it is easier or harder to meet people through online dating than traditional dating methods (for example: meeting someone in person, at school/work, or through a friend/family member)?

  • Easier

  • Harder

  • No difference

What are some reasons?

Do you have safety concerns about online dating? (for example: someone taking advantage of you, lying about their identify, attempting to scam you, etc.)?

  • Yes

  • No

If yes, what types of things are you concerned about?

If you use online dating, do you currently take precautions to protect yourself?

  • Yes

  • No

  • I do not currently use online dating

If yes, what are these precautions?

If no, what are reasons you are not taking precautions?

Have you been taught safety precautions for online dating?

  • Yes

  • No

If yes, what precautions have you been taught?

Who was explained online dating safety to you in the past?

  • I have not been taught online dating safety

  • Reading on my own

  • Parents

  • Teachers

  • Counselor

  • Other (Please Describe): ____________________

Would you be interested in learning more about using online dating websites and how to protect yourself?

  • Yes

  • No

If yes, how would you prefer to learn about online dating?

  • Online course

  • Face-to-face class/Counseling

  • No preference

The following pages will describe different topics that could be taught in an online dating program. Your opinions about these topics will be asked. You can skip any question you do not want to answer. You can end this survey at any time by exiting out of your browser or by clicking the link at the bottom of the page.

Topic 1: Information in profile or emails. This topic includes how people using online dating websites may complete their profile dishonestly. They may “gently” lie about certain characteristics (e.g., age, weight, occupation, hobbies) or present themselves as a more desirable, attractive, or interesting person. For example, using an older picture for a profile rather than a more representative and current one. Finally, this topic includes instruction on how to fill out one’s own profile (i.e., what type of information should be disclosed publicly versus privately) and how to pick out a profile picture.

______ How interested you are in learning about this topic (1)

______ How useful this topic is to you (2)

______ How much you need to work on this topic (3)

If you have comments or opinions about this topic, please add them here

Topic 2: Moving from computer communication to face-to-face meetings. This topic includes instruction on safe ways to move from chatting with someone through email and instant messaging, to talking on the phone/video chatting over the Internet, and to meeting in person. Specifically, information on how long each type of communication should last before moving to the next stage, how to use email as a screening process, when meeting a person is okay, safety precautions to take when meeting someone in person, and information about long distance meeting (e.g., who visits who, and staying in someone’s house versus a hotel).

______ How interested you are in learning about this topic (1)

______ How useful this topic is to you (2)

______ How much you need to work on this topic (3)

If you have comments or opinions about this topic, please add them here

Topic 3: How to deal with rejection and rejecting others This topic includes rejection in online dating. For instance, individuals will be taught about reasons for rejection and how it is not always personal (e.g., an individual did something “wrong” or incorrect). Additionally, information on respecting someone’s rejection will be discussed as well as the potential consequences of continuing to pursue someone after rejection. Finally, information on how to reject someone in a polite and tactful way will be presented.

______ How interested you are in learning about this topic (1)

______ How useful this topic is to you (2)

______ How much you need to work on this topic (3)

If you have comments or opinions about this topic, please add them here

Topic 4: Identity frauds and scams This topic will present information on the types of situations where an individual may grossly misrepresent who they are. These situations include someone who is married, someone presenting themselves as the opposite sex, and someone who is significantly older/younger than their stated age. Additional information (and how to handle it) that will be presented includes pornography websites looking to have people sign up for their websites and financial scammers looking for personal financial information. In particular, this topic will focus on what information to look for on profiles or personal messages that should raise “red flags.”

______ How interested you are in learning about this topic (1)

______ How useful this topic is to you (2)

______ How much you need to work on this topic (3)

If you have comments or opinions about this topic, please add them here

Please add any other additional topics that you would like to learn in a online dating course here.

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Roth, M.E., Gillis, J.M. “Convenience with the Click of a Mouse”: A Survey of Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder on Online Dating. Sex Disabil 33, 133–150 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11195-014-9392-2

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Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Adults
  • Online dating
  • Sexuality
  • Safety skills
  • Victimization
  • Online survey
  • United States