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Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter help some with special needs and developmental disorders to better communicate

8:45 PM, Feb 21, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Online communication and social media get a lot of scrutiny. However, it's being used more and more to save and change lives.
In recent years, there have been a lot of studies that express concern about social media ruining communication skills, especially for younger users, but that same technology has brought communication to some who were struggling without it.

"You can see on here, I have quite a bit of activity."

20-year-old Kyle DePriest scrolls through his latest Facebook posts.

"I try to share a lot of inspirational quotes," he explains. "This one says 'the best relationships tend to begin unexpectedly.' I can vouch for that."

He shares encouragement with others, because at one time, that was what he needed most.

"At one point I tried to talk to people. I tried to act 'normal' and just with the mental issues I've had, it's just like freezing up for a test."

Kyle has been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder and Asperger's Syndrome, which is a developmental disorder that can delay development in certain social skills, mostly communication.
"Two to three years ago and I wasn't able to talk to people face to face. Like, this right now, I wouldn't have been able to explain anything. I would have been all shy and weird looking, sort of."

As a teenager, Kyle was introduced to the social network website MySpace, and then later, Facebook, and he credits both with helping him to be able to have friends and conversations today.

"It's basically just the fact that you don't have to have a person staring back at you with what you're saying."

It's not just social media that are helping those like Kyle, technology in general helps to keep 8-year-old Christopher from acting out. Which is something certified behavior analyst Elisha Munago said is a growing trend.

"We have individuals who can better express themselves in writing, so when I compare what I get with them face to face, if they have an opportunity to have time to collect themselves, it helps them to better express themselves and be better understood."

Christopher's mother April Yagecic has three children in all and two have severe autism. She said using pictures and a smart tablet helped Christopher to better communicate.

"It's difficult for him to talk," she said. "So, if he's able to scroll for a couple of places he wants to go and things he wants at those places, it's easier for him to communicate. "

Yagecic said in the future, she hopes her children will be able to use technology and social media to express themselves, just like Kyle.

"There are days where it's extremely difficult. But we never let their diagnoses stop them or let them stop us from going beyond what the doctor told us and just believing."

Munago said technology, especially social media, allows many with special needs to seek out others who have the same struggles they do and build a community, but it can also put them at risk.

For a list of personal internet safety tips, click here.

Click here for general safety tips.

And click here for helpful applications for smart phones and tablets used by behavior analysts for those with special needs.

You can find Erica Edwards on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter at @EricaEdwardsFCN.

First Coast News

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