Internet Safety and Your Child With Autism


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Parents are inundated with the warnings about the perils of cyberspace and the necessity of protecting their children, a task made more daunting if that child is a guileless autistic.  When my fourteen-year-old son gushed that he had met a boy on a forum that was interested in all the same things he was, right down to creating his own language system, alarms immediately went off. To further raise my suspicions, the other boy also happened to be autistic. Of course, as a parent, we think of the worst-case scenario of an old man in a bathrobe mirroring a young teen to gain his trust.  Even more anxiety intensified as they wanted to meet.

Fortunately, there is something known as "time checking."  This is when the correspondent holds up a newspaper with the date and time (not unlike a hostage displaying a newspaper), takes a picture of him or herself and emails it back immediately. This instant validation process makes it very difficult for an online predator to operate anonymously. Once my son’s email pal turned out to be who he was, the boy’s equally nervous mother and I arranged to bring our sons to The Aquarium so everyone could get acquainted in a safe environment.  All went swimmingly.  Plans are on for the next excursion as we parents slowly foster a new friendship between our uncannily similar children.

My children didn’t have access to the Internet until relatively late in their lives, and for good reason.  But for parents whose children do get an early start at cybersurfing, there is a completely free Internet browser called Zac Browser (www.zacbrowser.com), which was developed by a grandfather who wanted his low functioning autistic grandson to have safe and happy access to the Internet.  It is the only browser made specifically for kids on the autism spectrum and is loaded with fun activities and has received very high marks from parents who have tried it.

Adults will be jealous — it has no spyware, ads or viruses.

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Did You Know?

  • * In 1970, Autism affected 1 out of 10,000 children
  • * Autism now affects 1 out of 88 children
  • * Autism affects 1 in 54 boys
  • * 1.7 million Americans have some form of autism
  • * 4 out of 5 autistic children are boys

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