Joint disability study shines in national competition

(from left) Dr Lareen Newman, Dr Pammi Raghavendra and Ms Emma Grace

A Flinders University and Novita Children’s Services study exploring the benefits of learning to use social networking sites for young people with physical disabilities or acquired brain injury has received national recognition.

The paper, titled ‘They think I’m really cool and nice’: The impact of Internet support on the social networks and loneliness of young people with disabilities, was awarded a second place cash prize of $3000 in the annual Telstra-TJA Christopher Newell Prize competition.

Funded by the Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation, the three-year study explored the positive impacts of the Internet in building social networks and reducing loneliness for young people with disabilities.

“The study provided intense, one-on-one training to address goals around using the Internet for social networking and social media for the young person with a disability and their family, while also examining the impact on their social participation,” lead author Dr Pammi Raghavendra, a Flinders University senior lecturer in Disability and Community Inclusion, said.

“The results showed a significant increase in the number of online communication partners after the intervention, although the majority of these were immediate family and friends who knew the participants offline,” she said.

“There was also a slight decrease in the measure of loneliness.”

Overall, Dr Raghavendra said the study showed the benefit of Internet training and support for young people with disabilities.

“Some of the participants who had severe communication difficulties also showed positive changes, which tells us that everyone should be given the opportunity and support to be digitally independent.”

The paper – which also involved Flinders researcher Dr Lareen Newman, Emma Grace from Novita Children’s Services, Associate Professor Denise Wood from UniSA and Tim Connell from Disability Services SA – is available to view here.

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