The Internet can be a social paradise for high-functioning autistic people
and people with Asperger's syndrome. Here, the nonverbal niceties of social
interaction that they find so perplexing don't apply. People who might strike
others as gauche in person often fit in perfectly well on Internet message
A Web link to an autism screening test posted
recently on Digg.com, a tech news site, generated hundreds of comments from
users. Many self-described computer geeks took the online test, for which a
score of 16 is considered average, and a score of 32 or higher suggests
As your child with autism becomes an adult, he will face challenges, of course. But young adults with autism also have more and more opportunities. The key is to start planning for the transition before it comes. Here's how.
"Twenty. Not autistic, just plain geek," one user commented.
"Thirty-eight, definitely 38. Time for Judge Wapner," wrote another,
a reference to a TV show watched obsessively by an autistic character in the
movie The Rain Man.
Of course, you can't diagnose anything by taking a quiz on the Internet.
"It is only a screening instrument. It is not a substitute for a full
diagnostic assessment," says the test's author, Simon Baron-Cohen, PhD, a
psychology professor and director of the Autism Research Centre at the
University of Cambridge, England.
"In addition, the [test] tells you if you have lots of traits but it
does not tell you if these traits are causing problems. A diagnosis is only
given if the person is suffering in some way," he tells WebMD.
But if nothing else, the lively discussion thread on Digg.com, and similar
activity at other online techie hangouts like Slashdot, illustrates that many
of them are inclined to identify with autism.
"It's been said that people with autism invented the Internet," Eric
Hollander, MD, director of the Seaver and New York Autism Center of Excellence
at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, tells WebMD. "By email you don't
have to read people's nonverbal social cues. You don't have to look at body
language or facial expressions. It's just the verbal content of
Not only does the Internet downplay autistic social deficits, but the
language of computers also allows some people with autism to give full
expression to their exceptional abilities.