Although they aren't in the same room, I think they are learning much better social skills, because they spend so many hours together and have to learn how to regularly negotiate a constructive dialogue. They learn to work as a team. They learn to negotiate through tricky conflict situations. There's a lot of positive peer pressure. They learn how to be self-protective online and perhaps a little more private. On the other hand they are also more likely to share their problems with each other and seek help. I love it.
My son hangs out with a group of about 6-10 peers in voice chat every day. He is the only ASD, and as it turns out, is also often the group leader, as he also is a very talented and creative Game Master in a bunch of roleplay games they like to do together. He works hard at preparing for these, and it's really fun to listen to him, because he is so clever and articulate as he guides their characters through his rich and complex imaginary worlds.
And today, he unexpectedly managed to get them to all leave their computers for a while and meet at the mall. What a surprising turn of events! I never would have expected him to be the initiator of face-to-face contact.
To me, the lesson in here is, if you let someone with an ASD be who they are, and interact in a way that works for them as an individual, instead of imposing some kind of NT "ideal" on them, they will flourish.
So my message to you today is: