Talisman Programs for Children with Special Needs Launches Webinar Series to Help Parents Keep Kids Safe Online

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Talisman sponsors a series of Internet seminars to help parents of children with Asperger's, ADHD, high-functioning autism and similar conditions understand the risks and benefits of online social networks.

Dr. Kowalski is a recognized expert in this field, and we believe that her input and assistance will help to get our webinar series off to a great start

One of the nation's leading providers of educational opportunities for special-needs students is launching a series of interactive online seminars to help parents navigate the murky waters of Internet social networking sites.

The first of these online webinars, "Facebook, My Space, My Child, Oh My," is set for Wednesday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Enrollment is limited to 25 participants per session, and registration is already underway.

The webinar series is sponsored by Talisman Programs, which provides summer camp and semester-length programs for young people (ages 8 to 21) who have learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Asperger's Syndrome, and high-functioning autism.

According to Aaron McGinley, who is leading Talisman's online outreach effort, the Internet forums will explain how social networking sites work, and will provide parents with insights into the risks and benefits of popular sites such as Facebook and MySpace. They will also allow parents to ask questions and discuss issues related to raising special-needs children in an increasingly networked world.

"A lot of parents have been calling us with two questions about their kids and the Internet," McGinley said. "They want to know how they can keep their kids safe online, and they also want to learn how to make online social networking a positive experience for their children. These webinars will help answer both of those questions."


For many young people with ADHD, Asperger's, and related conditions, social networking sites can present both a world of possibilities and a range of potential problems. The Talisman webinars, McGinley said, are designed to help parents maximize the potential of the online world while minimizing the risks that their children may encounter there.

"A lot of our students struggle with skills such as reading social cues and interpreting nonverbal body language, so it's natural for them to be attracted to some of these online social networking sites," McGinley said. "It can be a bit easier for them to communicate online, and also it's a big part of mainstream youth culture. It's something that almost every kid is doing these days."

But the enticements and opportunities that are offered by the online world are accompanied by many of the same challenges that special-needs children face in many of their daily interactions. "Our kids typically have trouble understanding social rules," McGinley said. "Well, there are a separate set of social rules on the Internet, and failing to understand them can lead to some serious problems."

For example, McGinley noted, children who are prone to taking risks and making poor choices about who they associate with offline are apt to behave in a similar fashion online. But because users are often unable to control or remove images or information once they have uploaded it, the consequences of posting an embarrassing photo or sending an inappropriate message can be exponentially worse than making a social mistake in a real-world environment.


The first Talisman webinar will focus on the following five topics:

  •     Social Networking 101: Learning the "ins and outs" of social networking sites
  •     Keeping your child safe on the Internet
  •     Preventing cyber-bullying and other types of online harassment
  •     Developing strategies to support your child's online social experience
  •     Discussing specific issues related to special-needs children and online environments

"These are going be live, interactive discussions, where parents can get hands-on instruction in exactly how the technology works," McGinley said. "They'll see me log onto a sample Facebook profile, we'll give them advice on what to do and what to watch out for, and they'll be able to ask questions and get immediate feedback."

With cyber-bullying and other types of inappropriate online behavior making frequent appearances in the headlines recently, McGinley said that Talisman's online forums are a timely opportunity for parents to determine what risks their children may be facing, and learn how they can protect them in an effective, non-overbearing manner.

"Our webinars will give parents the opportunity to interact with experts, figure out what they need to be concerned about, and find ways to overcome the challenges that they're facing," McGinley said. "We're going to help parents set limits and guide their children in a way that minimizes conflict and maximizes the kids' ability to have a positive online experience."


McGinley, who has been working with special-needs children in residential treatment facilities, group homes, and hospitals for more than a decade, will be co-hosting the Feb. 25 webinar with Dr. Robin Kowalski, a professor of psychology at Clemson University and one of the nation's leading experts in online social media and cyber-bullying.

"Dr. Kowalski is a recognized expert in this field, and we believe that her input and assistance will help to get our webinar series off to a great start," McGinley said. "The people who participate in the Feb. 25 webinar will be able to learn from one of the leading voices in the field of social networking and cyber-bullying."

Following the Feb. 25 webinar, Talisman plans to host four online forums each month. For more information or to register for the Feb. 25 session, call (888) 458-8226 or e-mail amcginley (at) talismancamps (dot) com.


Talisman Programs has been offering educational programs for young people (ages 8 to 21) who have learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Asperger's Syndrome, and high-functioning autism for more than 25 years.

Talisman camps feature experiential wilderness learning opportunities that help children develop physical and social competence in an atmosphere that encourages and supports self-regulation and self-direction. Emphasizing personal accountability, the creation and maintenance of positive relationships, and the recognition of accomplishments, Talisman's highly structured and expertly supervised learning opportunities are designed to enhance students' self-concepts, improve their decision-making skills, and ultimately allow them to pursue more successful and satisfying lives.

Talisman Programs is a proud member of CRC Health Group, which offers the most comprehensive network of specialized behavioral healthcare services in the nation. With the largest array of personalized treatment options, individuals, families, and professionals can choose the most appropriate setting for their behavioral, addiction, weight management, and therapeutic education needs. CRC Health Group is deeply committed to making its services widely and easily available to those in need, while maintaining a passion for delivering the most advanced treatment available.

For more information about Talisman Programs, call (888) 458-8226 or visit http://www.talismancamps.com. For more information about CRC Health Group, call (877) 637-6237 or visit http://www.crchealth.com.

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