social media for autistic persons
New report reveals autistic adults’ social media experiences and provides toolkits to better support the needs of neurodivergent users

Statistically,  Autism awareness has improved remarkably over the past two decades, with more than 6000 Brits being diagnosed. However, with all that success, the majority of autistic adults in the UK are still not receiving adequate support to fully participate and belong in their communities.

As you probably know, Autism impacts language and communication abilities of a person, which means the person will face difficulties when communicating to a neurotypical or ordinary person.

The challenge

The challenge is not exclusive to physical communication, but it also affects digital communication.

For example, those emojis on social media are sometimes not clear whether they intend sarcasm or literal meanings – Autism affects the way a person interprets cues, so with these emojis being vague and not precise, it makes sense that Autistic individuals are confused about what they intend.

This finding was brought to light in the research conducted by Professor Nelya Koteyko and her team. They explored how adults with Autism use social media, the challenges they face, and their opinions on the functionality of social media platforms. Professor Nelya Koteyko noted that while social media can be a great tool for self-expression, it is important to understand the unique needs of Autistic individuals in order to make these platforms more inclusive.

Technical solutions

In response to the findings,  Nelya collaborated joined forces with Autistica to develop a policy brief and toolkits to improve the accessibility of online platforms for autistic individuals. The policy brief, titled ‘Making online platforms autism-friendly,’ highlights key areas that need to be addressed in order to make digital platforms more accommodating for Autistic users.

These include sensory overload, lack of visual aids and clear communication, and a need for better moderation and safety measures. The toolkit provides practical guidance and resources for designers and professionals to implement changes on digital platforms and social media, such as adding visual cues and providing options for sensory-friendly content.

They can be grouped into two categories: The first toolkit provides technical solutions to developers or designers, and the second toolkit is for digital managers; it focuses on content creation and user interaction, making it accessible and inclusive for neurodivergent individuals.  Nelya’s research demonstrated how autistic people struggle with the nuances of social media interactions, often leading to misunderstandings and later exclusion.

This gap must be bridged if we want to achieve true inclusion, but first, designers and developers need to have a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by autistic individuals when communicating through technology. 

Raising awareness

It is hoped that the methodology can help raise awareness about inclusive design for autistic people and inspire more research on this topic. As more research and innovation is being put towards understanding Autism, Illinois Autism Center is one among many organizations committed to bettering the lives of Autistic individuals.

We provide quality ABA treatment for families impacted by Autism and work towards creating a more autism-friendly community. Check out our website for more information.