In one of my favorite blogs, Pucks and Puzzle Pieces,Neil, the blog’s author, wrote a post describing how his son on the autism spectrum successfully completed an obstacle course.

One of the things Neil did to help his son prepare was to show him a video of others completing the course. I thought this was a brilliant way to prepare him and help him better understand what he could expect.

I used similar visual supports, pictures or videos, to prepare the Navigator for a big trip to Great Britain. Even our watching of Doctor Who and Harry Potter was in part to help the Navigator get a visual of some of the places he would be visiting.

We were able to give him all that information through the internet, via Netflix, You Tube, Pinterest, and Google searches.

When I was a kid, immediate access to information was a concept of science fiction, like the Enterprise computer on Star Trek responding upon request, extracting the requested information from its database in seconds.

In the real world, if I wanted to see pictures of Great Britain, I had only the aging encyclopedia’s in my parents’ home which might have a photo accompanying the text. Or I would have to get my mom to drive me to the library and Dewey Decimal my way to photos.

Access to videos – films in those days – would have been even harder and more limited. Access to multiple, slightly differing perspectives of the same thing from average people to get a more global understanding, would have been almost impossible.

With the internet, when the Navigator had questions, we could get him answers quickly and without a lot of trauma. He didn’t have to sit and possibly stew in increasing anxiety over a perceived gap in his knowledge.

It would have been very difficult to frequently load up the Navigator to go to the library to look at pictures in books to prepare him for something – he would likely have refused to get into the car.

Without the internet, it would have been so much harder to broaden his knowledge base, much harder to build in circles as we have since his diagnosis, and I think maybe he would not have been able to come as far as he has.

Some people might say “kids have it easy these days” and suggest that some kind of character-building component is missing when information is more easily gotten via computer instead of a trip to the library.

It seems to me, though, that a learning curve into adulthood is a learning curve into adulthood, regardless of the quantity and quality of tools and resources available.

The Navigator’s character will not be developed by how he gets his information, but by how he uses it.

Whether it is from a book or a computer, how he uses it is going to be fully dependent on what information he has access to, and how his parents help him interpret it.

The internet just made it possible.

The Internet and Autism