This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a graduate student at Seton Hall University. He started the club Student Disability Awareness on campus to help spread awareness and raise funds for those affected by autism. Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events.
Oh the almighty power of social media. It all started for me my second semester of college. I went to a charity event near my hometown in Jersey City, New Jersey with a group of friends when someone asked me to “tag them” in a photo I took. I remember being slightly confused for a second until I was later introduced to the social networking tool of our generation called“Facebook.” It was the hip new trend that would evolve the way I communicated forever.
These memories came back to me earlier this month when I received 3 emails from parents within one week about the advantages and disadvantages of their young individuals with autism using Facebook. In the end, like many experts say, face-to-face interaction never plays second fiddle to online communication, but I think that’s easy for some to say when they are not referring to individuals with autism. I’ve been dealing with anxiety for years when it comes to face to face interaction. Between making enough eye contact, worrying about standing too close to someone, to having topics to discuss to avoid awkward silences, it in all essence becomes like a job, and that’s not fun. It’s a chore at times.
That’s why I love Facebook. I can decide to communicate with people during my free time, and when I feel the most comfortable in doing so. Between adding friends, towards starting groups with friends, playing games, instant messaging, adding photos, it gives you a new outlet to I think the main thing to remember is that most things must come in moderation. Facebook can be as much as a confidence builder in helping individuals with autism as it can be a deterrent if it’s over used (1-2 hours daily should be the max). That’s the key. Autism and Facebook work because it is a communication building tool for youth. After time it should help encourage involvement off the web. As I’ve progressed through Facebook I’ve spent less and less time on it, in exchange for hanging out face-to-face.
What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you have a loved one with autism who is just starting out on Facebook? What are your concerns? I know there are also a lot of underlying issues (cyber bullying, procrastination, etc.), so as always feel free to email me or comment below with any questions!
This is one of my Autism Speaks U related blog posts. If you would like to contact me directly about questions/comments related to this post I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through my Facebook Page here.