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Tips for teaching students with Autism about digital citizenship

Experts detail some of the most effective ways to foster online social skills needed for the 21st-century for students with Autism.

Instructional Technology Specialist at Cumberland Academy of Georgia, Jennifer Liang, knows all about digital citizenship. But teaching the fundamentals of digital citizenship to students with High Functioning Autism is all the more important, especially as they prepare to enter college or the workforce.

In “Teaching Students with Autism about Digital Citizenship,” a webinar hosted by and Common Sense Education, and sponsored by Symantec, Liang discussed her teaching strategies for incorporating digital citizenship at Cumberland Academy of Georgia—all which can apply to any student, and not just students with Autism.

1. Build a Culture of Responsibility

Digital citizenship at Cumberland Academy began when the school started thinking about 21st century social skills. “A lot of our kids are attracted to online spaces. The social interactions are relatively structured, you know when it’s your turn to talk…you have time to pause and reflect before you respond to a question,” said Liang, referring to texting or talking over social media. When the school introduced Chromebooks a couple years ago, they knew it was important to build a culture of responsibility around technology and teach the fundamentals of digital citizenship.

2. Understand Nuances

Liang explained the components of digital citizenship, noting how they apply to the students with Autism. For example, autistic students may struggle with self-image and identity online. “Because of social media, a lot of our students are more aware of the social deficit they have,” she explained.

She emphasized that it’s important to remind students to stay realistic when comparing themselves to others, because people often post only the “perfect” version of themselves online. She also encourages students to unplug from social media, find role models offline, and be proud of their individual accomplishments.

(Next page: Digital footprints and privacy for students with Autism)

Meris Stansbury

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