Videoconferencing Opens Up a New World to an Adult with Autism

September 06, 2021

Ph.D. Science Student Becomes Closer to Colleagues Via Zoom During the Pandemic

Anya Lawrence is a Ph.D. student who lives in Great Britain. She is also an adult with autism. Anya recently wrote an insightful article that describes how virtual meetings, necessitated during the pandemic, introduced her into a less stressful work and social environment. Her article, published in Nature, begins with Anya’s description of her challenges with face-to-face communication which include: misunderstanding facial expressions, becoming alarmed by different tones of voices, confusion over body language, and an aversion to making eye contact. Due to these issues, in-person interactions and meetings had been a constant source of stress to Anya. All of that changed during the coronavirus lockdowns in March of 2020, when she had to attend her weekly supervision meetings with her lead supervisor via Zoom rather than in person. After an initial few moments of trepidation, Anya realized that video conferencing was an easier way to communicate with her colleagues. She no longer had to worry about eye contact or reading body language. Even though Anya’s coworkers attended the meeting, they were all contained in little square boxes at the bottom of her computer monitor. Since only Anya’s face and shoulders showed on the screen, she realized that she could stim freely with her hands without guilt or shame. Taking part in these meetings at home also proved beneficial to Anya. She knew which noises to expect in her own environment and therefore, her sensory issues were more manageable. After Anya became comfortable with Zoom, she used the technology to branch out and network with other researchers. Due to her new confidence with Zoom, she has presented at international scientific conferences and has taken part in panel discussions. Anya now even uses Zoom to socialize with other individuals with autism from around the world. Ultimately, she believes that videoconferencing has provided a new communication method for her and other people with autism to show that they have a unique voice that deserves to be inserted into the neurotypical world.

Original Article

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