Friday, 2 March 2012

Autism and Asperger's syndrome, can computers help?

This interesting piece on autism, Asperger's syndrome and computing is definitely worth a read.

From the Gary McKinnon case to the threefold rise of children with autism in Silicon Valley in California, the article explores recent autism research and covers both the positive and negative sides of the impact of those on the autistic spectrum using technology and computers.

There has been an established link between computer use and autism for many years and since virtually all human behaviour is an interaction between genetic and environmental factors, it would be surprising if the increasing role that sophisticated computer programmes, computer games and technology take in today's world were not impacting on levels of autism, particularly at the Asperger end of the spectrum.

It true to say, as Professor Simon Baron Cohen does, that computers can help autistic people form relationships and learn about social skills, but it is equally important to limit computer time so that autistic people can have as much chance as possible interacting with others face to face rather than relying on a computer.

As Gary McKinnon's mother, Janis Sharpe, advises, "People with autism need space, and computers can offer that, but we have to make sure they don't take over and make other relationships, already difficult for people with autism, even harder."

From the human givens perspective though, until there is an understanding that 'caetextia' is the key cognitive deficit, remedial programmes using technology or not can at best be addressing only part of the problem of autism.

'Caetextia' literally means context blindness, and can be summarised as a disorder manifesting in the inability to adjust behaviours or perception to deal appropriately with interacting variables.


Caetextia is the organising idea behind the conditions of autism and Asperger's Syndrome. Because the name is innately descriptive, it points to more effective ways that we can work with and relate to people who have caetextia, whether that is by the use of computers or not.

Read more on caetextia and watch a video of Joe Griffin explaining the concept.

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