Studies from the medical fraternity and lay press about the clinical aspects of autism bombard paediatricians and psychologists virtually every day. Autism is a complex neurodevelopment disorder diagnosed by impairments in social interaction, communication, and behavioural flexibility (Daniel B et al. , 2009). The core deficits involve impaired social interaction and social communication. Recent studies have investigated the application of advanced interactive technologies to address these deficits and one such interactive technology is the usage of social networking sites (SNSs).
Preliminary research studies have shown that social networking sites can pose the advantage of enhanced social interaction among autistic people. The following section presents an overview of the studies conducted to explore the relationship between autism and social networking sites. Section 2. 1 provides an overview of autism. Section 2. 2 gives an overview of the usage of the Internet in social communication. Section 2. 3 highlights the usage and importance of social networking sites and Section 2. 4 provides the benefits of using social networking sites to improve social relationships of people with autism.
Literature gap is provided in section 2. 5 and finally a conclusion is presented. 2. 1 OVERVIEW OF AUTISM 2. 2. 1 WHAT IS AUTISM? The autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are understood by deficits in social interaction and communication, and this is shown in a diversity of strong developmental disabilities that include disorders such as autism, Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome and other developmental disorders not normally specified (Newton. et al. , 2009). Chamak, Bonniau, Jaunay, Cohen have cited the definition of autism given by the International Classification of Diseases – 10, fourth edition, U.
S. as “a disease of children which causes deficits in social interaction and lack of ability to form social relationships with others, as well as poor communications and the effects of this disease recurrence behaviours by children with autism and this disease occurs before the age of three years from the beginning of the child’s age” (Chamak et al. , 2008). Bron-Cohen & Bolton have stated that “Autism is a condition that affects some children from either birth or infancy, and leaves them unable to form normal social relationships, or to develop normal communication.
As a result, the child may become isolated from human contact and absorbed in a world of repetitive obsession activates and interests” (Baron-Cohen. S, 1993). Autism clearly appears in the first three years of age, and causes a neurological disorder that affects the ways by which the information is collected and processed in the brain which results in the impaired development of social skills, verbal and non-verbal communication, imaginative and creative play. 2. 1. 2 HISTORY OF AUTISM
Although many writings of autistic like behaviours had been said to be found in Europe from at least the eighteenth century, it was not until the twentieth century that it was scientifically categorised and organised as a medical condition. It is regarded as a syndrome much more commonly observed in boys than girls, and was recognised in Europe at about the same time as the U. S. A. , by Hans Asperger and Leo Kanner respectively in the mid 1940s (Chamak et al. , 2008).
Autism was first identified by professor Kanner in 1943 when he had identified a special group of children who had special handicaps (Wing, 1971). The use of this definition means that some early understandings of autism focused on the particular behaviour actions that autism produced. For example, up to one-third of the autistic children had other handicaps, such as epilepsy, meningitis or encephalitis, or interestingly they had parents who were from higher than average intelligence (Wing, 1971).
Autism is believed to affect about 2-4 children from every 10,000 children (Wing, 1971). Before it was formally recognised as its own developmental disorder, it was largely grouped under the disorder of schizophrenia, and then later as encephalopathy, all forms of degeneration of the brain (Mitler, 1968). However, it is not actually a psychotic form of brain disorder, but rather an acute form of developmental disorder, and so it stands alone from them in this way.
The distinguishing feature of autistic children, as identified by Kanner a child psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins University, was that the children were unable to relate to other people. This built on the findings of Bleuler, a Swiss psychiatrist from the early twentieth century, who introduced the adjective ‘autism’ by discussing the way that his patients could only understand the world in relation to themselves, and could not relate to others in any capacity (Ritvo. et al. , 1976).
By the early 1990s the issue of brain imaging was part of the research into children’s autism, which suggested that there was a significantly large growth in the frontal lobe and cerebellum area of children with autism compared with later growth deceleration (Rapin, 2008). 2. 1. 3 STATICTICS OF AUTISTIC According to experts it is estimated that 6 children out of every 1000 suffer from autism. Statistics also indicate that males are more susceptible to autism than females. According to MedTv report 1 in 500 (2/1,000) to 1 in 166 children (6/1,000) have autism (Anon.
, 2009). Internationally, the numbers for the occurresnce of autism vary, though comparisons can be made for diagnostic purposes. For example: 1. USA: 587,310 2. United Kingdom: 120,541 (Anon. , 2004) 2. 2. 3 FUNCTIONING OF AUTISM: Autism has a negative impact on the people who suffer from it as it causes a deficit in social interaction and leads to withdrawal symptoms like living in isolation. This causes a difficulty in understanding the feelings of others, making it hard for them to communicate and have social interaction.
But, the degree of performance of autism varies from person to person, with some autistic people suffering from low- functioning autism and other autistic people suffering from high-functioning autism. There are two nominal states of autism, low and high functioning autism. These are marked by those children with IQ below 50, and above 50 respectively. Those children with IQ above 50 can provide mental state answers but have difficulty answering contextual questions, so this suggests some of the different ways that they challenge the parameters of autistic behaviour.
They still have difficulty with context appropriate interpretations but they are varied in other forms of developmental and intellectual behaviours. The most consistent way to measure high functioning is through the IQ scale. Cognitive functioning can be translated to an IQ score, and this can help to ascertain whether a child scores on the high or low autistic function spectrum. 2. 2. 4 AUTISM SYMPTOMS: The effect of autism on the three major domains of behaviour which are seen in children and adults are also reflected in other areas, such as the brain’s circuits (Rapin, 2008).
Features of autism causes a deficit in social interaction which leads to abnormal social behaviour and the child suffers from language difficulties and repetitive behaviours (Llaneza. D. C et al. , 2010). People with autism suffer from the inability of social interaction, show withdrawal symptoms and have difficulty in understanding the feelings of others. They also suffer from dysfunction of an integrated sensory sensitivity, such as excessive noise or bright lights (Chamak et al. , 2008).
Orsmond, Krauss & Seltzer (2004) have indicated that “social deficit of autism is marked by impairment in the use of non-verbal behaviours to regulate social interaction (e. g. , gestures, eye contact), difficulty establishing and maintaining peer relationships, a lack of shared enjoyment of interests and accomplishments with others, and a general lack of social or emotional reciprocity”. The most important factors when diagnosing children with autism is to know the extent of their social contact with others.
However, there are always individual differences. Despite the differences in degree of uniformity from one child to another as well as different symptoms from which they suffer, the most common symptoms of autism are isolation of the child, as well as non-participation and lack of social interaction with others. All the articles mentioned above have indicated that social withdrawal of the person with autism is the most important characteristics of this disease.