Friday, October 17, 2014

Emerging Evidence Shows How Computer Messaging Helps Autistic AdultsCommunicate

Today, Aske Plaat at Leiden University in the Netherlands and a few pals say they have carried out just such a study. These guys have compared the computer-based communication patterns of over 100 high-functioning adults with autism against a control group of around 70 individuals without autism. And their findings provide a fascinating insight, not only into the way in which technology can help autistic individuals, but into their levels of life satisfaction as a result. Plaat and co begin by recruiting volunteers for both groups and asking them to fill out a number of questionnaires about the way they use the Internet and various computer-based forms of communication. They also asked individuals to fill in a standard questionnaire about their well-being and a standard test that measures their degree of autism. They also collected basic details about their sex, age, occupation, whether single or in a relationship, and so on. Finally, they mined the resulting data looking for interesting correlations. The results show clear differences between the groups. Plaat and co say that people in the autistic group tended to use computer-based communication just as much or more than the control group and tend to appreciate it more and in different ways. They also have more online friends on average than the control group. To find out why, the team simply asked people in both groups about their preferences. One advantage for the autistic group is that te slower pace of text, e-mails and the like reduces the need for an immediate response and gives people more time to think. The control group also say that time flexibility is an advantage of computer-based communication but for a different reason. In this case, the advantage is mainly convenience: being able to reply in one’s own time. “All in all, people with autistic spectrum conditions name and value advantages that help to mitigate their autistic impairments, while for controls aspects of convenience seem more relevant,” say Plaat and co. The team also says that the relationship between computer-based communication and well-being is significant as well. “People with autistic spectrum conditions are relatively satisfied with their online social life; more so than with their social life and their life in general,” say Plaat and co. “They still do not reach the level of satisfaction of controls, but the difference is smaller than in the other aspects of life, and on average, they are on the positive end on the scale.”

 Read more here.