Adultswithautism.net is a new social networking site that caters primarily to adults suffering with autism. The site is designed to create a safe, comfortable environment for members to interact, develop better social skills, network and share stories and ideas.
Recently, ICare4Autism had the opportunity to sit down and talk more in length about the site with the director and founder, Kathy Clair. Clair, whose background is in teaching, received a Masters in Educational Psychology. She talked to us in depth about what sparked her interest in autism, and why she began this project.
Q: What inspired you to start AdultswithAutism.net?
My daughter used to be a program coordinator at SARRC (The Southwest Autism Research & Research Center) and worked at the academy for the adults. She taught classes like resume writing, Excel, life skills training, etc. What she noticed was that her clients were still not getting the social interaction that they craved for, and we determined that creating a social networking site for adults with autism could provide that. I did some research and realized that there are very few resources out there that deal with just socializing, and people with autism can feel lonely and isolated. So we thought that with video conferencing and web casting, we could have socializing occur for these individuals.
Q: Why is autism important to you?
This is an epidemic; I read somewhere that every 20 minutes someone is diagnosed with autism. Not only is it important for the individuals, but also it’s important to society to have an autism-friendly environment. So, I see Adultswithautism.net as an opportunity to help people and help society. I see it as a bridge from a treatment center or clinic to the general society.
Q: How do you ensure that the site is safe and appropriate for the users?
We do have a standard disclaimer on the website and encourage our users to report inappropriate use. In addition, we want to monitor the site for inappropriate remarks, images, etc- these things will be identified and removed. We also will have sections on appropriate use, terms and conditions that need to be met by the user.
Q: You mentioned web casting, what are some of the other features of the site?
We will have all the standard features of a social networking site: message boards, chats, photos, etc. Once we build a good community of people, we will begin to have more events and activities. We plan on doing live movie reviews, where users can video conference and discuss a previously determined film. We also plan on collecting information on interests through our database and getting background information- that way we can spotlight topics that are relevant to the users.
Q: For those who suffer with autism and are reluctant to join the site, what is your advice?
I encourage them to take a chance. If they feel uncomfortable, they can always switch off their computer and return to their lives- they are in total control. What’s good about video conferencing is that it can be done in the comfort of your own home– so many people with autism who are reluctant to go out in normal social environments, can use this as a platform to feel more comfortable. Many users can also tune into video conferencing, but not necessarily be up on the screen. They can learn from watching other users interact and this way, they can build the confidence to maybe try it themselves.
Q: What is your vision for AdultswithAutism.net?
My vision would be that we create a large network across the county and host events. In November, we plan on administering a $5.00 monthly fee to participate in the site. This way, we can hire people to execute and monitor social gatherings online and eventually, have face-to-face social gatherings in areas through out the country for our members.