Autism and Technology: A Match Made for the 21st Century

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The cover of the New York Magazine on November 5th, 2012, asks “Is everyone on the spectrum?” and goes on to say that Aspergers is “the most popular and flattering diagnosis in town”. It may be that in our technological world, having Autism now makes one more likely to succeed. The article focuses on how autism and Asperger’s Disorder have become an increasingly common phenomenon because many of the characteristic traits are commonly seen amongst highly successful, famous people. They cite Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg,  Bill Gates, and  Warren Buffet as examples of people who display signs of autism.

While there is no evidence that any of the aforementioned have ever actually been diagnosed with Autism, the fact is that increasing numbers of people are being diagnosed with Autism. The article cites a recent study that suggests that 1 in 29 boys in New Jersey is on the Autism Spectrum and the CDC reports that the prevalence is one in 88. Increasingly  individuals who formerly were known as nerds, eggheads, or techies are now being placed somewhere on the autism spectrum.

The relationship between Autism and technolgy does seem to be one that holds some weight. A series of studies conducted by Simon Baron-Cohen suggests that there are higher concentration levels of Autism among people who are engineers and involved in technology. This may be simply that many adults who have met the current diagnostic criteria for the diagnosis of Asperger’s Disorder gravitated towards fields that involve less interpersonal skills such as technology, computers, and engineering.

Autism and technology is a natural fit in a digital world where there are increasing opportunities for people who relate well to technology and notice the details in visual patterns; traits that describe many children and adults with Autism. Many jobs require specialty with computers, programming, and electronic communication. Even in the field of psychology, much of the testing that we do is becoming computerized and revolves around facility with technology. In medicine, many types of surgeries are best performed by those who are skillful with video game-like technology and the analysis of computer images.

Individuals uncomfortable in social relationships, such as those on the autism spectrum, may also be benefiting from the increasing manner in which these interchanges rely upon electronic connections, rather than face to face interactions. While many criticize the today’s generation as not being able to engage in-depth face-to-face relationships, this shift to communicating via Facebook, texting, Instagram, and other social networking may be a  boon to individuals who struggle with social and communication skills. These technologies have made it increasingly possible for individuals with Autism and Aspergers Disorder to not only join the workforce,  but to become very accomplished in today’s technological world. Connecting young children affected by autism and technology may be one of the most important tasks of parents to prepare them effectively for the world that awaits them.

Our Series on Autism in the Digital Age:

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