Five years ago, Jordan Hilkowitz was a non-verbal five year old. Today, he hosts a YouTube channel with over 2.5 million viewers and 7,273 channel subscribers. Jordan, who was diagnosed with autism, always had a hard time communicating and making friends, but his interest for science had been apparent from a very young age.
A year ago, Jordan’s babysitter suggested that he should share his science experiments on YouTube with other people who may be interested. He searched online and found kid-friendly science experiments that he can recreate, providing step-by-step instructions for his viewers to try at home. Only a year later, Jordan has earned over $2000 through his YouTube business. Beyond his new-found hobby, Jordan has more confidence in himself, made new friends, and learned how to communicate verbally.
This isn’t the first time researchers have seen social media help people with autism to learn to communicate and share their stories. Carly Fleischmann, a non-verbal autistic teenager from Toronto, also uses social media to get her message across. She tweets and posts updates on Facebook, but more uniquely has a website titled Carly’s Café which is described as a way for people to experience autism through Carly’s eyes.
Although still unknown how social media can ultimately evolve the lives of those with autism, one theory from Dr. Szatmari is that, “the human face doesn’t have the same drawing power for an autistic child, and that something about technology triggers the motivation that’s lacking in face-to-face contact.”
Social media is commonly blamed for its negative effects, creating an arena for children to cyber-bully. But for parents with children diagnosed autism, social media can provide an outlet for their child to develop in ways that they were never able to in the past.