Welcome to your weekly Tips from the Team. We’ll be bringing you information from knowledgeable writers on a range of subjects including biomedical treatments, nutrition, advocacy, safety and more—information you can use to improve the quality of life for both your child and yourself.
Online Safety on the Spectrum
Counter internet-based threats to your child’s well-being with foresight and strategy…

By Sandra Morton Weizman

The first year we began homeschooling our son Benji when in high school, we also had another teen on the spectrum that I’ll call “Adam” who attended our home school. We hired a teacher who worked with both boys each morning. When they were on a break from their lessons, they would often come upstairs to play on the computer in my office. One time while I was out of town on a business trip, while checking my emails to confirm times of appointments, I noticed a stretch of a couple hours where no emails had been received. I assumed there was either a technical glitch or else my server was down. Unfortunately, I missed some vital information about upcoming meetings. But then, I started to notice that Adam’s parents and a couple of other mutual acquaintances were suddenly accepting my “friend” requests on Facebook. This was kind of strange because I hadn’t asked to friend them. When I got back to my hotel room and went on my laptop, I discovered that Facebook indicated that I had indeed sent friend requests to the people in question earlier that morning.
What was going on?! Adam and Benji had been playing on my computer that morning and Adam had clicked to open my email and downloaded all the new posts. Since I had my email set on POP, the emails disappeared from the server. I since learned to change the settings to IMAP so that if such an event were ever to reoccur, the emails would remain on the server and show up on my phone or other devices. Since my personal computer has all of my passwords “remembered”, Adam was able to log into my Facebook account. Since he noticed that I wasn’t friends with either of his parents or other mutual acquaintances of our families, he thought he was doing me a favor by correcting this oversight and sending out the requisite friend requests.
When I told his mother what had transpired, and she explained to Adam the ramifications of his activities, he had a lot of difficulty comprehending why this was wrong when my computer was turned on anyway. This story underscores the importance of teaching our youth about privacy issues and personal boundaries, both face-to-face as well as online.

It also illuminates some of the challenges for those with ASD in understanding not only where their own body and property end and that of others begin, but also where one draws the line between accessing other people’s personal information and the necessity of asking others for their permission before doing so. It’s also a useful example to use when explaining possible ramifications or negative outcomes to our ASD youth.
Internet Piracy / Copyright Infringement
Downloading music or movies free of charge from pirated sites is a very common practice, despite the fact that it is illegal. In fact, most people under the age of 30 never pay for a single movie, television show stream or music download. Many twenty-somethings who have worked as aides for my son over the years weren’t even aware that this practice is illegal. Nonetheless, since most individuals with autism spectrum disorders interpret rules very literally, it’s important to teach our kids which sites to avoid because they are pirated and where and how they can purchase music or rent movies. Sure, the police aren’t going to go after every single person who streams from pirated sites, but think about what kind of message we’re giving our kids if we condone an activity that breaks the law.
Cyberstalking is a big issue for teens and young adults on the spectrum. Just like in real life encounters, many with ASD have difficulty understanding the more subtle rules of both etiquette and netiquette. Adam, for example, has an obsessive interest in wrestling and “follows” various lady wrestlers on Facebook. One of them launched a complaint to Facebook because she took Adam’s all-too-frequent messages on her wall as a sign of harassment, when in reality he just didn’t understand how frequently he should or should not be posting on her wall as a wrestling fan.
In her book, A 5 Is Against the Law! Social Boundaries: Straight Up! An honest guide for teens and young adults (AAPC Publishers, 2007), Kari Dunn Buron discusses the concept of young men staring at someone to whom they are attracted and why this may make that person feel uncomfortable. As a rule of thumb, she counsels adolescents and young adults on the spectrum to “take a quick glance once or twice” and then move on. In my own home, I have adapted her advice to advise my son Benji. When he’s interested in perusing the albums of photos on Facebook of pretty girls who are his acquaintances, I tell him he’s allowed to do it once or twice and then he has to move on. Likewise, if someone does not respond to his FB wall or private messages, after his second message, he’s not permitted to contact them any further.

To continue reading, click here.

Sandra Morton Weizman, DMH, DHHP practices Heilkunst Medicine
and Homeopathy in Calgary,Canada. She is a board member of the International Heilkunst Association. She has a special interest in treating autism families. Sandra is the mother of two adult children, one of whom has an autism spectrum disorder. Call 403-238-1734; email, or visit her website at Appointments are in person, by phone and by Skype. She welcomes long distance patients.


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