Last August two important changes happened in my life and work. Professionally, after many years in “traditional” healthcare communications, both at PR agencies and working at Bayer HealthCare, I had taken on a new focus in social media. Coincidentally, that same month, my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. So here I was, discussing with clients how to better listen and participate with stakeholders through social media and, at the same time, coping with/trying to support a child for whom social skills can be such a challenge.
The convergence link wasn’t obvious. Sure, I’ve been following #aspergers and #autism on twitter, have been reading emotional, inspiring posts such as those on Life With Aspergers , Wrong Planet , and Cutest Kid Ever — but not until recently had I started to connect the dots.
Then, last week, a parent of an Aspie mentioned that The Sims helped her child better understand/read personal expressions. That got me thinking…
Social media is widely used by Aspies and, in many cases, their caregivers. So how can we better leverage these technologies to help people with Asperger’s socialize? Here’s a few starters:
Dr. Gary B. wrote an interesting post on Wellsphere about some of his patients using Facebook – that’s awesome!
My son loves to play with computers and with my iPhone. Model Me Kids (which also runs a social network) recently introduced a new app to help kids navigate challenging everyday situations. It’s free and complements their video-based programming. There’s also the iPrompts app, which uses visual prompting tools to help transition from activity to activity. Both great ideas and I hope to see more of the same.
iPods – yet another example from the Fraser Child & Family Center (Minneapolis), who are using iPods to help kids by providing an “inner voice” on what’s appropriate behavior.
And wouldn’t it be cool to see an augmented reality app that could help kids better read facial expressions or social cues?
Every day I see how “normal” social interactions can be a challenge for my son. But I also see every day how online social tools allow people to connect in a way that is (maybe) less threatening. I’m hopeful that these technologies can help my son and others, and I look forward to exploring them further.
What are your opinions on this? How would you use social media to help people with Asperger’s (and their caregivers)? Please share your thoughts, along with any similar experiences, in the comments box.