Neurodiversity and iNaturalist!

If it’s any comfort to you, online interactions - granted for some of us more than others - are problematic, period. No matter how carefully and neutrally you word a thing, someone will misconstrue your tone and intent.


A few people commented this thread to me after my most recent post. I had scrolled through and read some parts before, but figured I have enough thoughts that I can properly vocalize them now.

My 11 year old son has autism, and I grant him essentially full access to my iNaturalist account on the app. Not on the site, because it’s a lot more elaborate on there, but we can go on that together. On the app though, I let him upload stuff on his own and look through other places on the map. He absolutely loves it. It’s been almost therapeutic for him, to go through the process of looking for things, taking the pictures, then uploading the observations. He’s been so much more excitable and engaged with me, his sister and my wife. He’s super good at retaining information, and I find that he’s better at identifying many things than I am.

In general, it’s been amazing for bonding between us, which is something that hasn’t always been easy because of his sensory problems. Having iNaturalist as a tool for him, as well as it going to good use for others, has been so fantastic. He loves watching people agree with the IDs and going through the research grade observations that he uploaded and seeing if they’re in projects, etc. and he feels proud. He has vocalized to me that he feels useful and proud of that.

It’s also noteworthy that it’s helped our bonding even when we are not with one another. I travel a lot for work, and when it’s far enough away from home, he cannot come with me. He will go out and take pictures to send to me, to be uploaded, or sometimes he uploads them himself, and he will go on and on about all he saw. It’s helped me a lot personally, dealing with the distance between me and them.

I could keep going, but I just think it’s phenomenal that this thread exists, because it really hits a nerve for me, in a good way! Thanks for making it, and thank you everybody, for contributing to such a nice community.


It’s exciting to read how iNaturalist has helped your son bloom and given you a new bond. I can think of so many games, more or less, that iNaturalist can accommodate. Trying to achieve a certain number of observations of X in your neighborhood. Finding X other observers in your town that have observed that species, and seconding or commenting on their observations (with supervision in the case of a child). Choosing a species you haven’t found yet and tracking down where to look for it. Looking at scientific names to see how many species are in the genus Canis, or Equus (horses), or Sequoia. I have autistic friends who are super good with dichotomous keys for identification. The original purpose of iNaturalist is to “connect people with nature,” in all different ways. It’s lovely to see how it accomplishes that.


This is so great! Please feel free to connect with me along with your son if you want any autism community resources or anything like that, or just commiseration. I had a really hard time getting through school back in the 80s and 90s (there was no iNaturalist and i lived in a concrete wasteland). Don’t send me a message here as i am buried in notifications, but you can use naturalist.charlie @ . Or maybe others would offer the same, it doesn’t have to be me! But since i figured out my diagnosis a year and a half ago i have been very hyperfocused on autism and neurodiversity stuff (probably to the point that it reduced my inaturalist observations a little as my hyperfocus moved elsewhere :D ) Finding the autistic community has been among the most important and positively impactful events of my life, and i actually arrived at this discovery in part through talking to another iNat user.

Us autistic people are programmed to collect and classify information so iNat is perfect for us. Many of us just found our way here, without even knowing we were neurodivergent.


True in many ways, but a lot of us neurodivergent people do better in text than verbally. In person i do like unless a big crowd. But the phone? noooooooooooooooo