Review of the Interactive Autism Network

Review by Lauren Salmon , Special Educator & Hunter College Graduate Student

The Interactive Autism Network (IAN) is an online community linking families, friends and individuals with ASD together with researchers dedicated to accelerating the advancement of education and treatment of ASD.   The two components of the IAN Network are IAN Research (https://www.ianresearch.org/login) and IAN Community (http://www.iancommunity.org/).  Anyone can visit the site to read articles, posts and reports however you must become a member to participate in research, receive mailings and join discussion boards.  Membership is free.  The network aims to help its members: understand the research process; keep up with the latest research findings, news and events; understand the value of participating in autism research; and influence the direction of research.

Collaboration with the community allows researchers to gather more data to be used towards discovering more about the treatments, causes and diagnosis.  Should they choose to, individuals with ASD and their family members can provide researchers with data, through secure online questionnaires, that will be used to aid in finding answers and furthering their mission.   There are currently over 10,000 individuals who are taking part in the research component of the IAN.  IAN Research includes the following diagnoses: Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified, Pervasive Developmental Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Whether or not you choose to participate in research based data collection, anyone interested in or impacted by ASD can use the network as a library.  Regardless of whether you are a beginner in the field or more advanced, the Community site provides a tremendous amount of information including articles from leaders in the field, reports on findings based on data collected by the IAN researchers as well as specific sections of the site geared strictly towards those newly diagnosed. Information is provided on domestic and international conferences and events as well.   As a member, you can participate in discussion boards on dozens of topics such as why you decided to participate in IAN research, bullying, and eating and sleeping issues.

I find this collection of sites to be clear-cut and easy to navigate which is very important to me when selecting sites to read, recommend and re-visit.  I strongly support the creation of an online community of educators, researchers, individuals with ASD, and their loved ones and think it is important to give these individuals and families an opportunity to be involved in such a hands on way through the research and data collection component.   Many families may feel alone in this process and offering them an outlet within a trusted platform through the IAN Community, allows them to connect with people in similar situations.  I like how articles and reports have references should visitors wish to investigate further on their own.  I also noticed that staff members frequently chime in on discussion boards, in a very non-invasive way, which I believe adds a very personal touch and helps to further unite this network.  The Community site includes articles and posts added within the past few weeks as well as many dating all the way back to 2007, which I found to be a good sign, showing that these sites are current, up to date, and also have a strong history of materials.

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