Teaching Students with Autism about Digital Citizenship Presented by Jennifer Liang, Instructional Technology Specialist, Cumberland Academy of Georgia

EdWeb.com presented a live webinar on Monday, January 16, 2017 by an IT teacher from a small independent private school which educates students with autism spectrum. The presenter was Jennifer Liang who is a Common Sense Digital Citizenship Ambassador. The overview for this webinar, stated that the presenter would cover these issues around teaching digital citizenship to students with autism: (1) What are the unique challenges for students with autism as it relates to media and technology use? (2) How can educators draw on the abilities of these students – such as attention to detail, appreciation for rules, and a strong sense of fairness – and draw on those strengths to make connections to digital citizenship? (3) What can educators do to support parents and caregivers of students with autism and make a strong home-school connection with them?

Emoticons can help with giving insight to emotions in text.

Student Challenges

  • 1. Students have deficits with social skills and difficulty reading tone and nuances through text. Use of emoticons can help
  • 2. Students have rigid thinking (black or white) and have a strong desire to punish transgressions.
  • 3. Students have a hard time understanding satire and motivation.
  • 4. Students struggle with recalling user names and passwords for computers.
  • 5. Students can be impulsive about clicking on sites.
  • 6. Students struggle with understanding copyright and plagiarism.

Focus on Student Strengths

Encourage research on computer for unusual interests as well as work on coding, digital art, video projects and writing stories. Provide high interest assignments and permit students to choose from a variety of topics or create their own topic.

Adapting Materials and Activities

  • Modify lesson plans to suit intellectual and social/emotional level - pull lessons from lower grade level
  • Allow verbal responses instead of written
  • Use activities that correspond to the student's level not age
  • Allow puppet shows or other presentations to show concepts learned
Student can present information verbally.

Teaching Strategies

  1. Model appropriate computer use and monitor students on computers.
  2. Teach online relationships are real . . . so are the consequences. Use real examples.
  3. Teach the importance of privacy and respecting privacy of others.
  4. Role play situations with students.
  5. Allow students to demonstrate their mastery instead of providing a written report.
  6. Encourage students to report troubling interactions.
  7. Provide trusted sources of information and news such as Newsela.
  8. Teach how to determine veracity of articles online.
  9. Monitor what students are doing on the computer.
  10. Use online products with robust privacy policies.
  11. Use password managers.
  12. Use Easybib or Cite This for Me and accept "in the spirit" when evaluating student citations.
  13. Use performance based assessments instead of traditional exams and essays.
  14. Emphasize computers are tools for school work.
  15. Model appropriate use by taking pictures and asking if it's o.k. to post online for class webpage even though a media release is on file with the school.
  16. Build relationships with students by collecting pokemon or knowing what a minecraft game is to facilitate discussions with students. Be aware what interests and topics students pursue to be able to make connections with students.
  17. Demonstrate boundaries between students and teacher by not following students on social media sites or allowing them to follow your personal sites.

Parental Support

Parent tip sheet should be sent home at least once a year with information about digital citizenship - the norms of acceptable, responsible behavior regarding the use of computers. Send home listing of reliable, trusted web sites for student research.


Created with images by vancouverfilmschool - "VFS Classical Animation: Digital Ink & Paint" • Alexas_Fotos - "cube smilies one against all" • Noam, Jemima & Lila - "Puppet show"

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