Autistic People and the Internet
Updated: Sep 1, 2020
The internet has been a pretty big deal for autistic people
I don't see it talked about much, but I think it's pretty reasonable to say that the internet has been one of the most significant innovations for autistic people and autistic advocacy.
That might sound strange at first though, so let me explain.
As someone who was autistic and grew up with the internet from a really early age (I was browsing the internet by the age of 8) the internet has been a major vehicle for not just understanding myself better but advocating for myself better. As a matter of fact, I first realized for myself that I was autistic by browsing the internet and stumbling across an explanation of what autism was.
In the time since then, the importance of the internet has only grown–both as a part of my life and as a part of everyone else's. Today, the vast majority of Americans have an internet connection and use social media, and connecting with people is as easy as can be even if you don't live near each other.
And it is here that the internet has been so important for me, and other autistic people too. Where previously we relied on making in-person connections (something that is obviously a hang-up for many autistic people, including myself), now it is possible to connect with each other virtually. Instead of being confined to the few autistic communities exist offline, now autistic people from around the world can congregate without issues!
Even more importantly, though? We can be heard out when we explain things and speak to people who understand us in ways that are difficult (or impossible) for neurotypical people to understand. And we don't really have to worry about how we come off or whether or not we're communicating well–at least not to the extent that we do in neurotypical situations.
We can also talk about and indulge in our interests without having to worry about being judged or blown off, something that I've experienced plenty with non-autistic people. I cannot begin to describe how liberating it is to actually talk with people who take interest in the things I'm interested in! And obviously a lot of the autistic people I interact with feel much the same way when I reciprocate interest.
This is just a small–and I must emphasize that–handful of the many, many ways in which the internet has benefited autistic people and autistic advocacy. There's obviously a lot more to this subject and the general autistic experience with the internet, and I'll be talking about it and exploring it more in posts on here in the future. For now though, I hope this brief glimpse into this realm gets people thinking about the subject.