Awkward Love: Toronto filmmaker explores dating, intimacy on the autism spectrum

A young Toronto fillmmaker making a documentary about love and intimacy on the autism spectrum hosted a weekend dating seminar for people with Asperger's syndrome.

'There's a stereotype that people with Asperger's are anti-social,' says Evan Mead

Evan Mead is a 24-year-old filmmaker exploring what love and intimacy are like for people on the autism spectrum. His documentary, Awkward Love, is expected to come out later this year. (CBC)

Dating can be complicated, uncomfortable and downright overwhelming — something Evan Mead know all too well. 

The 24-year-old Toronto filmmaker was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome when he was five years old.

"Forget Asperger's syndrome; love is awkward in general," said Mead. 

Still, people with Asperger's, which is on the autism spectrum, can have difficulty with social interaction and non-verbal communication and are especially prone to social anxiety.

"We're very selective about who we're comfortable being around," Mead said. "So you can imagine what that's like in finding a romantic parnter."

It's a topic he's exploring in his upcoming documentary, Awkward Love, which he hopes to debut in mid-2016.

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Mead's social anxiety has been a major romantic roadblock for most of his life, he said, but he's made a lot of progress by working with dating coaches and relationship experts.

Date Camp For Asperger's

This weekend, he rounded up some of those experts for Date Camp For Aspergers, a workshop for people with Asperger's syndrome to learn about things such as body language, dating etiquette, conversation skills and more.

Stephen De Wit, who has personally helped Mead overcome some of his own romantic obstacles, was on hand for the event. 
Sexologist Stephen De Wit works with participants at Date Camp For Aspergers. (CBC)

"We all have these questions. We all have these concerns. But with people with Asperger's, they may not have had the opportunity to really look at intimacy and sex and relationships," De Wit said.

The workshop is like any dating seminar, with tips on how to read signals, be confident and talk to people — but held within a safe space.  
At Date Camp For Aspergers, people on the autism spectrum learn tips for dating and picking up on romantic signals. (CBC)

"There's a stereotype that people with Asperger's are anti-social," Mead said. "That's not entirely true. We're very social. But there's social boundaries that we're not always comfortable crossing."

Date Camp participant Daniel Share-Strom told CBC News he's looking to learn how to gain the confidence he needs to approach women and better read romantic cues. 
Daniel Share-Strom was a participant of Date Camp For Aspergers. (CBC)

"I'm just looking to learn a little more about approach anxiety and, you know, whether certain things mean someone is interested in you or just being friendly," he said.

"Those are the kinds of things that I've been more struggling with."

'Love is a universal emotion'

Mead will explore those types of struggles further in Awkward Love.

"I wanted to make a movie that shows what it's like for these people and to show that there is still hope," he said.

"The ultimate message that I want to drive home with Awkward Love is regardless of who you are, love is a universal emotion that flows through all of us and that unites all of us, and that it is always possible one way or another for someone to find love in form of their lives."

With files from Ali Chiasson