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2007 December » Blogging AS an Aspie
Matt has Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and is writing this blog so that people can gain more of an insight into how people with the condition process thoughts, feel emotions, react to situations and generally handle life.

20 Dec 07 Social Networking

Being a typical teenager in this day and age, I regularly use websites such as Facebook, Bebo & MySpace. I use them to keep in touch with my old friends as well as colleagues from St John Ambulance, peers at college (both the specialist and local sector), and my family.

So it’s an understatement to say I was shocked when the service provider had installed filtering software on the network to prevent access to these particular websites. In my past, I was quite good at bypassing network restrictions (a skill I perfected at high school), and proceeded to do so; using little-known (found using Google) cgi proxy servers I was able to access Bebo and MySpace. Facebook, however, has a security restriction on its own servers which only enables you to login directly to their servers – cgi proxies are not allowed! Not that not being able to access Facebook at the specialist college bothers me too much; I have signed up to Facebook Mobile, which enables me to access most Facebook commands via a text message and my laptop is also registered with The Cloud, which convienently has a hotspot at the local sector college.

Being a curious young adult, I asked the member of staff in the IT suite why this had been put in place, and more importantly, why hadn’t the learners been informed of such change; remembering at this point Aspies do not cope with change very well, especially when they are not notified of the change. His explanation was much less than satisfactory, in that he had not been informed of the change, and neither had any of the senior staff on duty. Hiseducated guess was that some learners were extremely vulnerable when using such websites, and the filtering was in place to protect them; he then went on to explain equal opportunities and that if it has to be blocked for one leaner, it has to be blocked for all.

I had a problem with this equal opportunities idea. Quite a large problem at that. If we use the theory of “If one learner can’t, then no learner can“, the whole risk assessment system collapses. As an example, during all of my first year, my behaviour was considered too risky for me to be allowed to access the local city centre independently; but all of my mates were allowed into the local city centre independently. Why? They had completed a successful risk assessment to enable them to do so.

My argument was such that learners should be risk assessed to access social networking websites in exactly the same way that they are risk assessed to go out into the community independently, or self-administer their medication, or complete their weekly chores. My other main point was that at minimum a senior member of staff on duty should have a satisfactory explanation, at best there should have been a memo at least 7 days prior to the change taking place, in order that learners are aware of it.