Untangling “the Web” Tip #1: Special Needs Resources on Facebook

This week, I am sharing some tips to help parents and professionals make sense of the immense amount of resources on the internet to support children with special needs. I thought we would start untangling "the web" with an easy one. :)

Many of you (if not all of you) use Facebook to stay connected to family and friends. But, you might not have realized that you can also use Facebook to stay connected with information related to children with special needs. In addition to individual Facebook profiles (your “Friends” in Facebook terms), Facebook also offers organizations, businesses, and individuals the opportunity to create “Groups” and “Pages” around specific topics. Anyone can create a Group or Page on Facebook about anything they are interested in. Many companies, organizations, and grass-root support agencies have created Facebook Groups and/or Pages to reach out to parents and professionals on a wide variety of topics related to special needs (e.g., AAC, Cortical Visual Impairment, Autism). Here are some tips to help you connect with the Facebook Pages and Groups related to what you want to know:

  • First thing’s first: Sign-in to Facebook. :) If you don’t already have a Facebook account, sign-up for one to check it out. It’s free and widely accessible-you can even download special Apps on your phone that help you access Facebook wherever you are. 
  • Use the Facebook Search Box at the top of your Facebook Profile (or “Timeline” as it is now called) to search for organizations by name (e.g., “The Center for AAC and Autism”) or by keyword. A keyword is a word that describes the root of the information you are looking for. For example, if you want to connect with Pages or Groups related to Down Syndrome, you would type “Down Syndrome”. Likewise, if you want to connect with Pages or Groups that provide information related to AAC (augmentative and alternative communication), you could type “AAC” or “augmentative and alternative communication” in the search box. A list of Pages and Groups that are related to your search will start to appear below the search box. Click on them to open the Page or Group and explore further. 
  • Groups and Pages are slightly different. Groups are usually created by Facebook users (you or I, for example) around a topic of interest. In order to see the information shared within that Group, you need to be a member of the Group (i.e., you have to “Join”). Groups are not usually focused around a specific product or service, although products and services might be shared within a group if the members post these items on the Wall of the Group. Pages are usually created by businesses, organizations, and corporations. Everyone can view the information on a Page without having to “Join” like in a Group. Each Page will have a category listed underneath it so that you know the type of organization that is hosting the Page. For example, you might see “Product/Service” or “Education”. This will give you an idea of the types of information you can expect to see shared on that Page. Visit Facebook’s Help Center for more step-by-step instructions on how to join a Group and connect with a Page (i.e., by “Liking” the Page). 

  • Another way to connect with special needs information on Facebook is to see if the organizations you currently look to for help and information have a Facebook Page. Many organizations will advertise the Facebook icon (pictured above) on their printed media to help others connect with them. If you see this icon in print or other places not online, search for that organization by name in the Facebook Search Box (mentioned above). You will also see this icon on websites from time to time. If you come across the Facebook icon on a website that you like, click on it to follow that organization on Facebook. This is one way to get their valuable information to come to you so that you don’t have to keep going back to the website to check for updates. 
  • If you are a Google fan (aren’t we all? :), you can combine your search words to narrow your Google search to Facebook. For example, if you want to find information related to Autism but you only want to see results that are related to Facebook, type “Autism on Facebook” in the Google Search Box. Your search results will list sites that (for the most part) are Facebook Pages. Clicking on the links will take you to each Facebook Page/Group/Profile and you can “Like” the Page, Join the Group, or Send the person a Friend Request (see the Facebook Help Center for further information on these differences :) to connect with this information. 
  • One thing that makes Facebook an easy way to receive information is that it pulls everything into one place- the “News Feed”. Every Friend, Page, and Group that you subscribe to becomes part of your News Feed. When a Page or Group posts information on their Wall, it will show up in your News Feed. If you check your Feed often, you will get this information as it is shared. If you don’t, no worries-you can always go back in time on your Feed and read everything when you have a few minutes here and there. 
  • Once you join a few Groups and “like” a few Pages, you will be able to see the Groups and Pages that your friends and fellow Group members are connected to as well. These branches are a great way to find new sources of information on Facebook that you might find helpful. Many times, a Page related to a special topic (e.g., Cortical Visual Impairment) will be connected with other Pages that discuss the same or similar topics, and you can see these links on their Page and click on them to explore further (and even “Like” if you want). 
  • Facebook is certainly not the only way to receive news and information related to special needs, and it is by no means comprehensive. However, Facebook is a non-intimidating gateway into this new world of sharing information, resources, ideas, and more through social media. I have made connections to many helpful resources by discovering great organizations, professionals, and parents on Facebook who think, discuss, and share on the topics I am interested in. Not only does Facebook connect you with real-time information related to the special needs topics that you find most valuable, but it is also a great place to connect with People who are invested in these topics and experiencing similar struggles and triumphs. 
So now that you are on your way to exploring Facebook to its fullest, let’s discover another social media tool that can bring valuable information directly to you! Coming up in the next post in the Untangling "the Web" series: Blogs :)

What Facebook Groups and Pages do you recommend?

No comments:

Post a Comment