Phyllis B. Matthews
EDUC 521 – Foundations of Exceptionality
Dr. Erik Mullinix, Ed.D.,
January 26, 2014
The article Evolution of Autism Support and Understanding Via the World Wide Web is written by Chloe J. Jordan, American Associate on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. The article discusses features of the internet and their relevance to Autism Spectrum Disorder, virtual communities, autism advocacy, internet negative consequences, and coevolution of Autism and the World Wide Web. The author suggests that internet technology has radically changed society. In this article, the author will explore the interface between autism and the World Wide Web by reviewing evolving virtual communities pioneered by individuals with autism as well as reveal the positive and negative consequences that arise from autism’s fledgling voices.
According to the author, the Internet presents a unique opportunity for individuals with autism spectrum disorder when considering both their exceptional abilities and their impairments. Martijn Dekker, founder of the email-list, wrote, “The Internet is for many high-functioning autistics what sign language is for the deaf” (Mitchell 2003). Virtual communities such as WrongPlant, SpectrumForums, andTogetherForAustism were cited by the author as useful online forum for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. They allow users to feel that conversing online is a way to socialize without experiencing the demands associated with real-life conversations. Along with online forum, there are an increasing numbers of advocacy organizations that operate online to increase public awareness about the day-to-day issues faced by people on the spectrum.
In regards to the negative consequences, the author states that despite the manifold benefits the World Wide Web bears for autism, there are also negative consequences. Among the Web’s greatest attributes in the Western world is the sharing of information, free from censorship, although inaccurate information is perpetuated as easily as accurate information. Autism’s newfound self-representation by individuals online may lead to splintering within the autism community (Caruso, 2009), potentially slowing the progress of the autism movement. Regardless of the consequences of splintering, the Internet has opened discourse, allowing greater “democracy” in the autism community rather than exclusive voices.
Individuals with autism spectrum disorder can find supportive social communities online, but some researchers fear that “chronic” Internet use may foster feelings of loneliness and inhibit real-life social interactions (Markoff, 2002). The author suggests that although empirical studies have not yet been conducted examining the effects of Internet use of face-to-face interactions, it is possible that excessive time spent online might discourage individuals with autism spectrum disorder from initiating conversations in real life, given that online discussions may be more rewarding.
The question of whether there is an “autism epidemic” often arises in public discourse. There has been an almost 13-fold increase in autism prevalence rates in the past 20 years (Wallis 2007). Interestingly, the increasing prevalence rate of autism spectrum disorder appears to coincide with the rise in Internet use in U.S. households. One study estimated that Web use grew by over 2 million users per month throughout the last decade. (A Nation Online 2003). The article reveals that given the vast body of information available online, the coincident rise in autism prevalence and Internet use may reflect a growing public awareness of autism spectrum disorders.
In agreement with the article conclusion, it is feasible to state that the development of the World Wide Web has important consequences for autism spectrum disorder. It is good to