DOI: 10.1044/2024_jslhr-23-00707 ISSN: 1092-4388

Exploring Online Communication in Self-Identified Autistic Adolescents

Morgan Oates, Rebecca McCauley, Allison Bean
  • Speech and Hearing
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics


Social media sites provide autistic youth a familiar space to interact that is devoid of many of the challenges that accompany face-to-face interactions. As such, it is important to determine whether the linguistic profiles observed during online interactions are consistent with face-to-face interactions. This preliminary study took a step in this direction by examining gender differences observed in autistic adolescents in an online forum to determine whether they are consistent with the emerging body of research investigating linguistic gender differences in autistic adolescents.


We analyzed the entries of self-identified autistic adolescents in an online forum to determine whether autistic girls ( n = 99) and boys ( n = 94) differ in their use of linguistic features as a proportion of total words produced. Transcriptions were coded across discourse, lexical, and semantic features and compared to previous research investigating linguistic gender differences in autistic people. Exploratory comparisons were also made to linguistic gender differences in neurotypical people.


Of the linguistic features we examined, three out of four of the gendered usage patterns observed in the online forum language samples were consistent with previous research on face-to-face communication for autistic adolescents. Only one feature out of 12 occurred in the same gender distribution as previous research on neurotypical communication.


Autistic girls and boys demonstrate largely consistent gender differences in their language use across in-person and online communication contexts. Interestingly, most of the significant gender differences previously reported in neurotypical communicators were not seen in this sample of autistic adolescents, suggesting that perhaps autistic individuals may linguistically express gender characteristics to a different extent or in a different manner than neurotypical individuals.

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