Autism and the Network Effect

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poolIn economics, the network effect relates to something that increases in value as the number of people who use it, increases. There is also a negative network effect, where the value decreases as the number of people increases. Facebook is a good example of both a positive and negative network effect.

The more people who join Facebook the more valuable it is to everyone. The flipside is that the more people on Facebook, the more computers they need to transmit updates to all the members. Facebook has so many users that they have created algorithms to decide which updates to broadcast and to how many “friends” to send the update.

According to the “Intense World Theory” of Autism, the senses of children with autism are inundated with too much information. They see too much, they hear too much, they smell too much and the feel too much. Just like Facebook, these kids  need to develop ways of dealing with the overload – a negative network effect.  They sit in the corner covering their ears and their eyes all in an effort to manage  the overload.

networkWhen Ethan was young, he used to hate the sound of running water. It was so  overwhelming that he used to cry. It took him many years to find a way to adjust. Ethan still flaps on occasion, but we have found that if we let him flap, he self  regulates and then manages to calm down.

There are many professionals who believe that children with autism should be  taught to sit still and control their stems. What they fail to realize is that just like    any network that is not allowed to adjust to an increase in “traffic”, not allowing these kids to self-regulate will eventually cause the network to fail.


By Dalia Shkedy – Ethan’s Mom

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