AAAI Publications, Eighth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media

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Accessing Social Support and Overcoming Judgment on Social Media among Parents of Children with Special Needs
Tawfiq Ammari, Sarita Yardi Schoenebeck, Meredith Ringel Morris

Last modified: 2014-05-16


Over 10 million children are diagnosed with a special need in the United States each year. For their parents, the economic and emotional costs can be overwhelming. Using a mixed methods approach, we show that parents of children with special needs rely primarily on Facebook pages, Facebook groups, and Yahoo! groups for accessing information and social support. Specifically, these groups offer geographic communities for local needs (e.g. school services) and case-based communities for specific conditions (e.g. autism). Promisingly, parents perceive less judgment online than offline when talking about their children’s special needs; however, these perceptions are nuanced. In particular, posts containing humor, achievement, or treatment suggestions are perceived to be more socially appropriate than posts containing judgment, violence, or social comparisons. However, results show that social media generally fails at connecting special needs families over time and across the life span. We discuss implications for social media site design and for supporting special needs families.


social media;special needs; disability; Internet; parents; families

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