Google hacks for people with Autism

Whether you’re working on a group report, planning your next holiday or creating a revision timetable, the ability to stay on top of our digital life is important for not only succeeding, but maintaining a healthy mental wellbeing. However, organisation, processing information, sensory overload and social interaction, can make daily tasks overwhelming for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

On 2nd April 2019, as part of World Autism Awareness Day, the United Nations hosted a conference on the role of affordable assistive technologies in breaking down these barriers “to their participation on an equal basis with others” in day-to-day life. Free, multiplatform and accessible word processors like Google Docs are a great example of the ways in which technology can make a difference and help people to achieve their goals. 

Read on to discover the ways Google Docs, and more, can help to make your life easier:

Type with your voice 

Do you have difficulty transferring your thoughts into the written word? Speech-to-text software can be a real game-changer. The accuracy and ease of Google Doc’s Voice Typing tool - “shockingly accurate" according to Quartz at Work - frees you from the physical effort of handwriting and typing, allowing you to focus on expressing your ideas.

Screen grab of Google Docs voice typing

Bonus Hack!

Do you ever have flashes of inspiration or things you need to jot down quickly whilst on the go? The handy Google Keep app lets you to take photos, handwrite with digital ink and record audio. You can then send these notes to Google Docs to flesh out your ideas! Check out this previous instalment in our hack-in-the-box series on Google Keep for more top tips!

File your Docs in Google Drive

Structure and order are very important to people with autism, but prioritisation and organisation can be difficult. Google Drive is an amazing tool for organising your digital life in a way which suits you, to access anytime, anywhere, on any device. Any type of file can be saved, and any document created in Google Docs is available in your Google Drive immediately. 

The National Autistic Society highlights colour coding and visual supports as helpful tools for prioritising and organising tasks and daily schedules. In addition to being able to colour code your folders in Google Drive then, the “star” feature really shines for its accessibility. Can’t remember which folder you put that half-finished project in? Find all your urgent files quickly and easily with the handy star icon! Right click on the file to add it to your “starred” folder for easy access.

Screen grab showing Google Drive starred files

Bonus Hack!

Is your screen becoming over-cluttered with multitudes of apps? Google Sheets are intuitive spreadsheets with built-in formulas which can be tailored to whatever purpose you might require. Spreadsheets are a very logical way of formatting information, and Google Sheets comes with templates to get you started, from making travel plans, balancing budgets or creating a revision timetable. 

Collaborate online

Whether it’s for a job, university or even playing a game, team work can be difficult to navigate for many people. For those living with autism the level of social interaction required can make it particularly stressful. An article in The Guardian on autism in the workplace tells us that “the hidden depleting effects of enforced social interaction take their toll”, so working closely with others on a shared presentation for example, could become unbearable.

Google Docs offers a solution- you can share files or whole folders to edit together in real-time online. If you have autism, the ability to virtually collaborate on shared work can give you the time you need to think without the stress associated with anything from making eye contact to meeting up in loud and crowded places.

Chat while you work

In a shared file you don’t need to just rely on comments to communicate with others, you can collaborate over chat too! Having a chat box in the file further helps to make group work more accessible for those with social difficulties as it enables complex discussion without being in the same room, and means students do not need to connect on social media with their peers if they would rather not. 

Choose add-ons to suit you

How people experience autism differs widely, and whilst ASD is not a learning disability, confidence with writing can be affected. Google Docs has plenty of exciting add-ons (many of them free) to assist you in creating notes that are exactly the way you want them to be. Add-ons include spelling and grammar support such as LanguageTool and visually appealing mind-mapping software like MindMeister - all yours for the choosing!

Bonus Hack!

Is the cluttered screen crushing your creativity? Stay focused with Distraction Free Mode for Google Docs! This great extension hides all controls and buttons and lets you focus on the writing. 

Screen grab of Google docs distraction free mode

AbilityNet can help

AbilityNet is a UK charity that helps people to use technology to achieve their goals. If you have questions about disability and technology you can call us on 0800 269 545 or email

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