I’ve been trying to research on guidance for people with special or differing needs on how to best use Twitter. Bottom line of it is that there doesn’t seem to be any at all. By differing needs I mean communication issues mainly, like Aspergers or Autism. But I guess I am also thinking of people with other communication issues, such as extreme shyness, social phobias, mental health issues and depression – anything that makes communication difficult. Twitter ought to be a good place to communicate because it lacks the stress of physically meeting people, but at the same time, it can be an absolute nightmare if you have these issues. I’m not aware there is way for people who have sight difficulties to Tweet.
It’s also difficult for those of us without any communication difficulties to understand that the person they are tweeting with have issues. If we knew, surely we’d react more appropriately. And yet, having to flag that you have a difficulty seems all wrong as well. Twitter can be such a bonding place that I’d really love to see some kind of system in place where we can be more understanding and embracing to those who find communication difficult and yet it seems so insulting to ask people to flag up their differences.
Since I’ve been on Twitter I’ve corresponded with people with severe mental health issues, whose Tweets appear on the surface to be inappropriate, but because I knew that it was the issue speaking and not the person, I was able to respond accordingly, or at least ignore the inappropriateness. But when you don’t know – that’s when you just think you are Tweeting with someone rude or aggressive. I’m also in regular correspondence with someone with a communication difficulty and it’s a very rewarding Twitter relationship. Not everyone can see past the difficulty though, and that is just heart-breaking to see. It’s tough enough to have an issue without ending up having to apologise every five minutes because what you said wasn’t said in the right way for the recipient.
I’m a strong advocate for special needs integration and equality and also strongly believe that Twitter is a place for everyone; it’s such brilliant reflection on real life – yet important members of real life community, those with special needs – just aren’t catered to in any way. I don’t know what the answer is – a mentorship scheme, maybe – but I really wish there was one. Any ideas?
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Interesting point Jane and I don’t have an answer, but i have read in quite a few places that spending too much time online can increase the likelihood of depression, which I can sort of understand. On another level I think it provides great opportunities for those who find it difficult to relate face to face with others, for whatever reason.
What a great post, my nephew has Downs Syndrome and would be a star on twitter if he could fathom it. He has a strong opinion on everything and is so funny, but can’t write that well. He’s better with visuals so I wonder if I should encourage him onto Instagram. He would be brilliant on a platform that allowed him to film himself, a bit like VIne…altho once on it he might never get off….A
My son has Aspergers, and Twitter is one place where he can actually ‘talk’ to people about his interests. He doesn’t get involved in ordinary chatter, just factual stuff and conversation about computer things and video games he enjoys. Oh, and he sometimes posts what he had for dinner LOL. On forums, he usually sets a note in the ‘signature’ space that says he has Aspergers.
I know from an anxiety suffer, Twitter means that I can speak to speak without the barrier that anxiety brings. I have also found a community of other suffers who support me when I need it. It is not a perfect tool, for everyone who loves it there’ll be a person who cannot feel they can use it.
Thank you for this post! And thank you in general for your posts about people with special needs (I especially liked your post on the Paralympics). I have Aspergers and have made the choice not to use twitter because of my social fears. But thanks for your insight too!!
This is so thoughtful, and certainly, for me, who deals with disability issues every day because of my sister, opened my eyes to something I had never considered before. Props Jane for thinking – and writing – about it.
I love that you’ve written about this. My sister has Aspergers and can’t hold a conversation with someone she doesn’t totally and utterly trust (so basically me and my mum,) but Twitter allows her to engage with other people about her interests and not have to worry about plucking up the courage to use her voice. She has found people like her online and social networks have allowed her to find a new confidence that she never had before – she wouldn’t get through a day without a forum or chat room, twitter conversation or winkie emoticon. It would be great to raise awareness of this online somehow.