Social media interventions for autistic individuals: Systematic review

Social media interventions for autistic individuals: Systematic review

Gabarron, E. Skafle, I. Nordahl-Hansen, A. Wynn, R.
Frontiers in Psychiatry
Background Research on the use of digital technologies for delivering behavioral interventions has shown mixed evidence on their efficacy for improving both autistic symptoms and co-occurring psychiatric disorders. Little knowledge exists on the specific use or efficacy of using social media in interventions aimed at autistic individuals.Objective To review and describe the current existing evidence-based research on the use of social media in interventions aimed at autistic individuals. Methods A search was conducted across 8 databases (PubMed; EMBASE; Cochrane Library; PsycInfo; ERIC; Education Source; Web of Science; and IEEE Xplore). We included primary studies and reviews that dealt with autism spectrum disorder (ASD); described interventions that use social media; and reported results from the intervention. The quality of the evidence of the included primary studies was graded according to the GRADE criteria, and the risk of bias in systematic reviews was assessed by drawing on the AMSTAR guidelines. Results were synthesized and sorted by quality of evidence. Results A total of nine articles were included in this review: eight primary studies (five non-randomized interventions and three randomized interventions) and one systematic review. The total number of participants with an ASD-diagnosis in the included studies was 164 (aged 5 to 22 years old). Studies weighted as being of moderate quality of evidence have reported significant positive effects in the groups that received the social media interventions: increased social engagement and participation in life situations; increased physical activity level; increased improvement on occupational performance, specified goals, and behavioral problems; and decreased plaque scores coupled with parent reports of intervention success. None of the studies have reported any negative effects linked to social media interventions. Conclusion There is very little evidence of good quality on the use of social media in interventions aimed at autistic individuals. While there is a need for more high-quality studies, all the included studies, with one exception found positive results of the interventions. These findings are encouraging, suggesting that social media-based interventions may in fact be useful for supporting behavioral changes in autistic individuals.

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