Welcome to our site!

July 21, 2010

This website has been created for Education Policy Studies 415 taught by Dr. Nick Burbules at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign by Shana Bender, Claire Dovantzis, Kelly Little, Ian Molay, Meredith O’Hara, Mehr Shakir, Jenny Slagor, and Vanessa Starbird.  We are all master’s students in special education, as well as special education teachers and special education teacher candidates.  Our website is a guide for parents and teachers on how they can facilitate children 14-22 with cognitive disabilities in joining, and safely navigating online social networking sites such as Facebook.com, MySpace.com, and/or Twitter.com.

As teachers or parents of students aged 14-22 with cognitive disabilities, it is our responsibility to ensure that our students and children have access to the best education and the most life opportunities possible. We want our students and children to benefit from all of the age- appropriate activities that their peers without disabilities are engaging in. One such activity is online social networking.

According to Amanda Lenhart (2009) in her presentation, “Teens and Social Media: An Overview”, 65% of teens with access to the Internet have an online profile on a social networking site. Of that, 38% of twelve-fourteen year olds have an online profile, while a significantly larger percentage of fifteen-seventeen year olds have online profiles (77%) (Lenhart). Socializing in online environments has become a big part of the typical teenager’s life. Brendesha Tynes (2007) in her article, “Internet Safety Gone Wild? Sacrificing the Educational Psychosocial Benefits of Online Social Environments”, writes, “From social networking teens are able to be a part of an online community where they can share and receive information about themselves and topics of interest” (Tynes, 2007, p. 579). And the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) maintain that “children with exceptionalities may use the Internet as much as, if not more than, other students. In some cases, it may be their only social outlet.” (CEC, 2010). It is apparent that social networking is not only a large part of young adulthood, but is beneficial to many including those with disabilities.

Children with cognitive disabilities will also benefit from the opportunities that online social networking provides. Due to the delays and impairments often associated with a cognitive disability, we know that our students and children may experience difficulties and even danger when looking to learn and navigate through social networking sites. Paciello (2000) writes in his book, “Web Accessibility for People with Disabilities” that, “Common Web tasks such as reading, searching, and purchasing are often difficult, or in some cases impossible, for a person with a disability to perform…” thus we need to help those with cognitive disabilities overcome these barriers of access by teaching them how to navigate web pages (5). This also entails teaching the child or student what the use of the website is and what information may be appropriate or not appropriate to share.

In creating this website, our group is providing a resource for teachers and parents to aid in teaching students with cognitive disabilities to use social networking sites and to be safe in the process. Our mission is twofold: (1.) To provide you with accurate background information about social networking sites and the potential consequences and issues that might arise, and (2.) to supply some tools and suggestions for actually teaching teens and young adults with cognitive disabilities to use social networking sites while maintaining safe online behavior. We hope that you find us successful in meeting our mission and find this to be a useful tool in leading your child into the world of social networking.


Picture Courtesy of Google Images

(2010). Bullying of Children with Exceptionalities: Tackling It in Your School and Your Classroom. Council for Exceptional Children.

Lenhart, A. (2009). Teens and Social Media: An Overview. New York: PEW/INTERNET: PEW INTERNET & AMERICAN LIFE PROJECT.

Paciello, M. (2000). Web Accessibility for People with Disabilities. Lawrence, KS: CMP Books.

Tynes, B. M. (2007). Internet Safety Gone Wild? : Sacrificing the Educational and Psychosocial Benefits of Online Social Environments. Journal of Adolescent Research , 575-584.