Social Media & Special Needs


How many times have you excitedly asked your child, “What did you learn in school today?” only to receive a dreary “Nothing” in response? Probably far more times than you’d like. It’s frustrating to hear that “Nothing.” It can’t possibly be true!

 

Ever wonder if there’s something you can do to change this conversation?

 

Well, there is: Get on social media!

 

If you’re surprised by our answer, you shouldn’t be. According to Pew Internet Project’s 2013 research study, 78 percent of Internet users ages 30-49 are on social networking sites. And schools are catching on. More and more school districts are using social media to reach families and community stakeholders.

 

And why wouldn’t they? Social media is cost-effective, transparent and promotes community building and branding. Social media is proving to be the perfect tool for schools and outreach organizations to connect with parents and families where they already are. Here are some ideas to consider:

 

Follow Your Child’s School

 

If your child’s school uses social media, such as Facebook or Twitter (which it probably does), the school provides you with an inside glimpse of your child’s school day. Many schools use these sites to update families on what kids are learning, remind parents about field trips, volunteer opportunities, resources for deciphering MCAS results and for supporting learning at home.

 

Local school district Special Education Parent Advisory Councils (SEPACs) are making great use of social media. Parents in Easton jump-started their new SEPAC by organizing through Facebook –

 

more than 61 people signed up overnight! The Quincy SEPAC joined Facebook in February of 2010 and has a strong following with 225 likes. Over the years, it has posted hundreds of links to resources, explained its mission and promoted its annual resource fair. The Arlington SEPAC posts its Tweets @SEPACArlMA on the front page of its website and encourages families to check their Twitter feed the day of any scheduled event for the most accurate information. The Amherst Regional Public School SEPAC started a blog in 2013 and now has 21 followers. These social media tools are free and easy for volunteer SEPAC officers to maintain and update. They serve as an essential outreach channel.

 

Being actively engaged in your child’s school no longer means you need to be physically in the school building. Parents are busy and are often pulled in a million different directions. For many 21st-century parents, the best and most manageable way to receive up-to-date information about their child’s school is when they are scrolling through their Facebook news feed.

 

With schools and educators embracing social media, the traditional school-to-parent communication is fading away. As we know, parents know their kids best – they are educators’ best allies. Parents now have a place in the conversation.

 

Facebook and Twitter give parents and guardians an opportunity to ask questions and have them answered in a timely manner – either by the organization running the site or by other people following the site (like you!). There you can express congratulations and voice your concerns in a transparent forum, talking to teachers, principals, school counselors – even the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

 

Invested educators from around the world (such as Duncan and possibly officials from your district) meet on Twitter each week to participate in Twitter chats. If you’re interested in parent-teacher partnerships, check out #ptchat. If you want to learn more about what’s happing in education, check out #edchat. Do you have a child with special needs? If so, #spedchat might be a nice fit for you. These chats, as well as social media in general, provide innumerable resources, tips and most importantly, connections to knowledgeable people from around the world.

 
For more social media options, read the next page!
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Other Options

 

• Receive Texts. If you’re not quite ready to jump into the Twitterverse, that’s OK. You can use the “Fast Follow” option, where you can receive tweets as text messages from certain Twitter accounts you’d like to follow. Schools often use Twitter to post emergency information, school cancelations, as well as the everyday events and other information you want to know about. If you follow your child’s school, you will be able to receive up-to-date information straight to your cell phone.

 

• Read Blogs. Another great way to get an inside glimpse into your child’s school is to check out blogs by your child’s teacher, the principal or superintendent. Many educators are now blogging, which allows them to reach out beyond the walls of their schools and classrooms to explain their teaching or leadership philosophies, or to express their views on educational issues, such as standardized testing or common core standards. Blogs also provide parents with expectations for the school year, day-to-day classroom and school activities, and general information.

 

Now that you’ve seen pictures of your child’s class science project and have been updated about your child’s class field trip, the question changes from “What did you do today?” to “That science project looked pretty cool. How did you get the plant to grow like that?” or “How was your field trip today? I saw you went to exhibit X, can you tell me about it?”

 

By connecting with your child’s school on social media, you become an active participant in your child’s education. Social media affords parents the ability to have a voice, seek support and resources and connect with educators and other parents from around the world.

 

Sarah Stevenson is the communications coordinator for the Boston-based Federation for Children with Special Needs. She oversees content for the Federation’s social media sites. The Federation can be found on Facebook, Twitter (@fcsn) and its blog “Perspectives: What Matters to Us.” For more information, visit fcsn.org.

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03 Sep 2014


By Sarah Stevenson
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