Computer class went really well tonight; at first, as usual, Mike was his usual hesitant self about going to class. But like most things, he warmed up quickly. I didn’t know what was in store for him and the rest of the class tonight; he just started 2 weeks ago, but had no class last week due to Easter break. That first class they taught the class about sending emails, adding contacts to their address books, and initiate/respond to/participate in chats with those contacts. The class is primarily taught by 2 college-age girls, who are supervised by someone from the Nassau County PAL Special Needs Unit. The class is made up of teens with different developmental disabilities; of those kids, Mike knows one other boy, also named Mike, who lives in the same town and attends the same Special Needs video game club offered by the town library.
This week was quite a surprise; I thought they would be using their iPads, which Mike can navigate with ease. But as I sat outside in the computer lounge a notification came across my phone telling me that Mike was now on Twitter. After I confirmed that it was in fact him, I thought about this for a moment.
Most parents, if strapped into a polygraph machine (AKA lie detector) probably would prefer that their kids stay off social media if at all possible. For kids with Autism, I think the opposite is true, at least for me. Knowing that the majority of Autistic children have some form of communication issue, any new way for them to communicate with their peers and friends is definite step in the right direction. I don’t believe for a moment that Mike will suddenly become tethered to his Twitter feed, or post his latest Instagram pics of his favorite meals, but on the other hand, it would surprise me either; unlocking that next new thing is something that parents on the Spectrum are always seeking for their children. Let’s face it; Twitter is a language all its own. If a child with Autism can communicate via tweets, in a social platform, who’s to say what he can or can’t do? It is not a coincidence that Autistics are drawn to technology; here is an instance of how that attraction begins, and hopefully allows them to flourish among their peers, and within society.
I didn’t sit in class next to him this week, like I did in week 1. After class, I asked him how it went. Mike told me he asked his friend Mike to sit next to him in class today. He said he talked to him about his favorite movie and about video games, but not much else.
Communication. It’s a start. It’s a beautiful thing to watch as it develops.
By the way, here’s a shot of Mike’s first tweet: