Investigating the Use of Social Media Technologies by Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Saudi Arabia

  • Alaa MashatEmail author
  • Mike Wald
  • Sarah Parsons
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 9739)


People diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) face difficulties in everyday life with their communication and interaction skills. Previous studies have shown that the use of social networks could be used by people with ASD to help them build connections and overcome their difficulties with social skills. However, most autism intervention research has involved young children in Western cultures. In Arab countries, adults on the autism spectrum experience the same difficulties in addition to dealing with other issues, such as stigma within society, a lack of services, cultural rules and the inability to sufficiently benefit from existing technologies designed according to the culture and language of Western countries. This study focuses on exploring and observing the use of social media by people with ASD (high-functioning autism and Asperger syndrome) in Saudi Arabia. The aim of this research is to understand the role that technology plays in the lives of adults with ASD in Saudi Arabia, in order to make recommendations for research and practice. This research could also help future researchers to understand the needs and behaviours of Arab individuals with ASD towards social technologies, and it could be a leading research for the autism community in Arab countries.


Social media Technology Accessibility Usability Communication Social skills Culture Arabs Adults Autism 


  1. 1.
    American Psychiatric Association. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM 5: bookpointUS (2013)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Burke, M., Kraut, R., Williams, D.: social use of computer-mediated communication by adults on the Autism spectrum. In: ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (2010)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Grandin, T., Attwood, T.: Different not less: inspiring stories of achievement and successful employment from adults with Autism, Asperger’s, and ADHD. Future Horizons Incorporated (2012)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Brosnan, M., Gavin, J.: How technology is used by people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). How those with ASD thrive in online cultures but suffer in offline cultures. In: Rosen, L. (ed.) The Handbook of Psychology, Technology and Society. Wiley Blackwell, Hoboken (2015)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Edwards, T.L., Watkins, E.E., Lotfizadeh, A.D., Poling, A.: Intervention research to benefit people with Autism: how old are the participants? Res. Autism Spectrum Disord. 6(3), 996–999 (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Parsons, S., Guldberg, K., MacLeod, A., Jones, G., Prunty, A., Balfe, T.: International review of the literature of evidence of best practice provision in the education of persons with autistic spectrum disorders (2009). Research Reports No 2Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Bishop, J.: The internet for educating individuals with social impairments. J. Comput. Assist. Learn. 19(4), 546–556 (2003). doi: 10.1046/j.0266-4909.2003.00057.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Mazurek, M.O.: Social media use among adults with autism spectrum disorders. Comput. Hum. Behav. 29(4), 1709–1714 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Askool, S.S.: The use of social media in Arab Countries: a case of Saudi Arabia. In: Cordeiro, J., Krempels, K.-H. (eds.) WEBIST 2012. LNBIP, vol. 140, pp. 201–219. Springer, Heidelberg (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Omoush, A., Saleh, K., Yaseen, S.G., Alma’aitah, M.A.: The impact of Arab cultural values on online social networking. the case of facebook. Comput. Hum. Behav. 28(6), 2387–2399 (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Amr, M., Raddad, D., El-Mehesh, F., Mahmoud, E.-H., El-Gilany, A.-H.: Sex differences in Arab children with Autism spectrum disorders. Res. Autism Spectrum Disord. 5(4), 1343–1350 (2011). doi: 10.1016/j.rasd.2011.01.015 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Kemp, S.: Digital, Social & Mobile Worldwide in 2015. We Are Social (2015). (Accessed on 22 Jan 2016)
  13. 13.
    Veltri, N.F., Elgarah, W.: The role of national cultural differences in user adoption of social networking. Paper presented at the Southern Association for Information Systems Conference, Charleston (2009)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Spolsky, J.: It’s Not Just Usability. Joel on Software (2004). (Accessed on 10 Feb 2016)
  15. 15.
    Goby, V.P.: Personality and online/offline choices: MBTI profiles and favored communication modes in a Singapore study. CyberPsychol. Behav. 9(1), 5–13 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Rochman, B.: MyAutismTeam: a new site for families with Autism. (2011). (Accessed on 10 Feb 2016)
  17. 17.
    Winter, S.: The story of Squag. MaRS (2012). (Accessed on 10 Feb 2016)
  18. 18.
  19. 19.
    Francis, S., Begley, J.: Connect: creative social networking for the UK Autism community. Paper presented at the 2nd international conference on Innovative Technologies (IT) for Autism (ASD), Paris (2014)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Hong, H., Yarosh, S., Kim, J.G., Abowd, G.D., Arriaga, R.I.: Investigating the use of circles in social networks to support independence of individuals with autism. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2013)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Hong, H., Kim, J.G., Abowd, G.D., Arriaga, R.I.: Designing a social network to support the independence of young adults with Autism. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the ACM 2012 conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (2012)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Kowalski, R.M., Morgan, C.A., Drake-Lavelle, K., Allison, B.: Cyberbullying among college students with disabilities. Comput. Hum. Behav. 57, 416–427 (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Özdemir, Y.: Cyber victimization and adolescent self-esteem: The role of communication with parents. Asian J. Soc. Psychol. 17(4), 255–263 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Robertson, C.: Autonomy and identity: the need for new dialogues in education and welfare. Support Learn. 16(3), 122–127 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Boyd, M.: Ethnic variations in young adults living at home. Canadian studies in Population 27(1), 135–158 (1944)Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Mehzabin, P., Stokes, M.A.: Self-assessed sexuality in young adults with high-functioning Autism. Res. Autism Spectrum Disord. 5(1), 614–621 (2011). doi: 10.1016/j.rasd.2010.07.006 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Lough, E., Flynn, E., Riby, D.M.: Mapping real-world to online vulnerability in young people with developmental disorders: illustrations from Autism and Williams Syndrome. Rev. J. Autism Dev. Disord. 2(1), 1–7 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Al-Jarf, R.S.: Connecting students across universities in Saudi Arabia (2005)Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Al-Awsat, A.: 68 percent of saudi girls drop last name on facebook (2010). (Accessed on 11 Feb 2016)
  30. 30.
    Alsheikh, T., Lindley, S.E., Rode, J.A.: Understanding Online Communication through Arab Eyes. Paper presented at the CHI 2010, 10–15 April 2010, Atlanta (2010)Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Essa, M.M., Guillemin, G.J., Waly, M.I., Al-Sharbati, M.M., Al-Farsi, Y.M., Hakkim, F.L., Ali, A., Al-Shafaee, M.S.: Increased markers of oxidative stress in autistic children of the Sultanate of Oman. Biol. Trace Elem. Res. 147(1–3), 25–27 (2012). doi: 10.1007/s12011-011-9280-x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Nasr, O.: Autism in the Middle East. Anderson Cooper 360°, CNN. (Accessed on 11 Feb 2016)
  33. 33.
    Al-Wabil, A., Al-Shabanat, H., Al-Sarrani, R., Al-Khonin, M.: Developing a multimedia environment to aid in vocalization for people on the autism spectrum: a user-centered design approach. ICCHP 2010. LNCS, pp. 33–36. Springer, Heidelberg (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Al-Arifi, B., Al-Rubaian, A., Al-Ofisan, G., Al-Romi, N., Al-Wabil, A.: Towards an arabic language augmentative and alternative communication application for autism. In: Marcus, A. (ed.) DUXU 2013. LNCS, vol. 8013, pp. 333–341. Springer, Heidelberg (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Al-Ghamdi, F.: Two Students Design the First Rehabilitation Application for Autistic Children. Al-Watan (2014). (Accessed on 11 Feb 2016)
  36. 36.
    Al-Wakeel, L., Al-Ghanim, A., Al-Zeer, S., Al-Nafjan, K.: A usability evaluation of Arabic mobile applications designed for children with special needs—Autism. Lecture Notes Soft. Eng. 3(3), 203 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Let Me Talk. (Accessed on 11 Feb 2016)
  38. 38.
    Patton, M.Q.: Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods. SAGE Publications Inc., Beverly Hills (1990)Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Mashat, A., Wald, M., Parsons, S.: The role of photos in social media interactions of adult Arabs with Autism spectrum disorder. In: 9th International Technology, Education and Development Conference, Madrid, 2–4 March 2015Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Darwish, K.: Arabizi detection and conversion to Arabic (2013). arXiv preprint arXiv:1306.6755

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK

Personalised recommendations