Advice for Teaching High School Aspies about social media

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Lazambles
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10 May 2011, 1:16 pm

In addition to having a son with Asperger's, I am also a speech therapist working with high school students with HFA and Asperger's. I really believe that they could benefit from social networking sites and forums, but many have been sheltered from these because of the risks involved. I see it as a way for them to connect with other's with similar interests and to be able to connect with other's in college or work environments once they leave school. I want to teach them how to safely use this venue as well as successfully use it.

What advice would you give them? What are the things they need to know? What are things you wish someone had taught you? And finally, is it worth trying to teach this in a structured way or is it a live and learn type thing?



Avengilante
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10 May 2011, 2:49 pm

A social disability is a social disability, no matter the context. People on Facebook think you're weird and annoying just like they do in RL, and they ignore you and talk past you just like they do when you're in the room. WP is the closest thing to a social networking site I've run across for people with AS, but in general, I don't recommend anything that encourages autistics to further disconnect from realtime interaction.

In my experience, communicating with people online is the quickest way in the world to meet the dregs of humanity, the rudest, cruelest, most obnoxious and immature [email protected] [email protected]@rds the species has to offer. People say things to each other online they wouldn't dare say out loud in person. Not a good place to learn any kind of social skills. From what I see, the more time people spend online, the more social skills they lose, and the younger they are, the more pronounced that effect, because those skills are less ingrained and habitual.

But that and seven bucks might get you a decent latte, so what do I know?


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Lazambles
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12 May 2011, 7:25 am

I appreciate your frank reply. I definitely can see from posts on this site that FB has been a source of frustration for many people. I agree and recognize that the social disability crosses all venues of communication and was certainly not looking to the internet as an alternative to RL interaction at all. The fact is however, that it has become an integral part of communication in general for everyone and if I teach my students social skills for real time interaction, shouldn't I also provide some guidance for them to navigate socially in this realm as well? I was shocked to discover that many of my students have never even heard of FB or StumbleUpon, etc. I also recognize that people in RL discuss these websites in conversations. Not being part of these online communities excludes them from being able to participate in these conversations.

Would your advice be to introduce them to this site as a place to begin? At the very least, shouldn't I be letting them know that.."communicating with people online is the quickest way in the world to meet the dregs of humanity, the rudest, cruelest, most obnoxious and immature [email protected] [email protected]@rds the species has to offer. People say things to each other online they wouldn't dare say out loud in person"?



Manganus
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12 May 2011, 4:25 pm

Lazambles wrote:
I see it as a way for them to connect with other's with similar interests and to be able to connect with other's in college or work environments once they leave school. I want to teach them how to safely use this venue as well as successfully use it.

I would rather see it as a way to connect with others sharing the same experiences instead of interests.

If one finds a site where one can share one's interests with others is quite another thing, and very much depending on what that very interest may be.

In my experience, there are many important aspects that make different internet forums much more suitable for people with autism spectrum personalities than real life communication. I would argue that written communication in social forums "make" all people into autistics. But in some cases teenagers may not yet be curious enough of other humans to benefit from this.



NeverFitsIn
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12 May 2011, 5:01 pm

Manganus wrote:
I would argue that written communication in social forums "make" all people into autistics. But in some cases teenagers may not yet be curious enough of other humans to benefit from this.


This is a very interesting idea! I wonder if it is related to all the bad behavior we see online? Meaning, that once they are blinded to the social cues of body language and tone of voice, the vast majority of people forget they are talking to human beings and not interacting with a sophisticated computer game. I have found myself creeped out by people who I know in RL who are nasty, mean and vicious to others (and to me as well!) online, but who are very unassuming, quiet and conciliatory face-to-face. Maybe NTs are dependent on the visual/audio cues of another human being in order to appreciate that others have feelings too or are blind in their interactions without that feedback. It would explain a lot of inconsistent behavior I've seen between RL & online.

In a way, Aspies may potentially have an advantage over NT's in the internet world, if they have learned to cope in the absence of these cues. I know I am much more articulate online than I am in person, having the time to think, refine and proof read my thoughts before actually posting them for the public to see. I come online to my forums and fb when I need to socialize, because it is safe for me and on my terms, but (for the OP) there definitely needs to be some RL skills in place there first, it's not a place to learn those skills.



Manganus
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15 May 2011, 1:48 pm

NeverFitsIn wrote:
I come online to forums and facebook when I need to socialize, because it is safe for me and on my terms, but (for the OP) there definitely needs to be some RL skills in place there first, it's not a place to learn those skills.


This is the thing I wish someone had taught youngsters of today:
- aswell, I guess, youngsters of my own generation?

The safeness, and the mostly very good opportunities to ponder how to put and phrase one's thoughts, these two aspects make text communication in internet forums much more suitable for people of the autism spectrum than face to face contact with strangers and acquaintancies..

The rather long time allowed for answers, and the personal security one feels when one sits in one's own favorite chair with the laptop on the lap, or in one's own room with the door closed, and no other social demands, it all makes an optimal situation to start practicing successful interaction with others - on one's own terms.

Additionally, although one surely may get emotionally hurt also on line, its so much easier to coop with it when the perpetrator/perpetrators aren't physically present, doesn't see your reactions, and hence can not profitize emotionally from them.


Web cams
What I've written above makes me cautious against web cams.
Although, in my opinion that's an issue each must deside on for his or her own

However, adults and councellors may better try to underline the similarities between physical encounters and web cam encounters and remind the youngsters:
"Yes, it's possible to turn the cam off, but that's ostracizing precisely as it is if one tries to 'shut a physical person off' on the school yard."