Help is just a click away: Social Network Sites and Support for Parents of Children with Special Needs

by I-Jung Grace Lu (University of Manchester, UK)

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Feeling alone, searching for help, searching for a sense of belonging and identity: parents of children with special needs face various difficulties in their daily lives. But help and support can be extremely hard to obtain for these parents since they are limited by resources, location and time. However, things started to change when the World Wide Web began to connect people together.

We now live in an era when networks of power can be achieved and maintained through virtual connections on the internet, where instant communication can be a form of power. This book hopes to shed light on how the simple act of “clicking” can empower (and, contrariwise, in some cases, disempower) parents to locate help and support. This book also discusses the shifting role of these parents from those seeking help to those who provide help for other parents through the virtual networks they have built on various social networking sites. When examining these issues, this book takes into consideration the Asian concept of Face, in which identity is an image agreed by society.

This book will offer insights for parents, researchers and social workers, as well as for anyone else who hopes to understand what is taking place on the ‘net’ and how to be involved in the networking process of providing support for people around you. It allows the readers to see how support nowadays can really be just a click away.

Short Introduction
Foreword: Parental involvement, parental support: some questions
by Alan Dyson

Chapter 1 Introduction
1.1 Parents in the virtual world
1.2 Support for parents

Chapter 2 Virtual communities and parent support
2.1 Some literature review
2.2 Accessing information in virtual communities
2.2.1 Searching for information together
2.2.2 Online professional support services
2.2.3 The limitations of searching for information through the internet
2.3 Emotional support in virtual communities
2.3.1 Overcoming isolation
2.3.2 Building self-esteem
2.3.3 The limitations of online emotional support
2.4 Advocating through virtual communities
2.4.1 The limitations of advocating through the internet
2.5 Summary

Chapter 3 The case study and background information
3.1 About the case study
3.2 The three cases
3.3 The Taiwanese culture of Face
3.3.1 The Confucian influence on the concept of Face
3.3.2 The Buddhist influence on the concept of Face
3.3.3 The influence of Westernisation and capitalism
3.3.4 Culture and the experience of being a Taiwanese parent
3.4 The support services for parents in Taiwan
3.4.1 Healthcare
3.4.2 Education
3.4.3 Other support services and local organisations
3.4.4 Parents’ experiences with support services
3.4.5 Using the internet for support

Chapter 4 The critical incident
4.1 The news
4.1.1 Content of the news articles
4.1.2 The cultural influence on the reporting style
4.2 The response to the news from each virtual community
4.2.1 The response of Little Star
4.2.2 The response of Love Parents
4.2.3 The response of Speak Out
4.3 Summary

Chapter 5 Developing parenting skills
5.1 Information
5.1.1 Child development
5.1.2 Parenting skills related to raising children with special needs
5.1.3 Formal parenting instruction
5.1.4 Raising the siblings of children with special needs
5.2 Emotional support
5.2.1 Encouragement and affirmation through positive parenting experience
5.2.2 Solidarity through sharing the experience of hardship as parents
5.3 Advocacy
5.3.1 Sharing about their children’s daily life to raise awareness
5.4 Summary

Chapter 6 Online medical resources
6.1 Information
6.1.1 Formal medical information
6.1.2 Information about medication
6.1.3 The accuracy of online medical information
6.1.4 Informal medical information
6.2 Emotional support
6.2.1 Seeking comfort
6.3 Advocacy: Direct contact with professionals
6.4 Summary

Chapter 7 Educational provision, welfare, and leisure
7.1 Educational provision
7.1.1 Information: Educational placement
7.1.2 Information: School activities and school life
7.1.3 Information: Communication with teachers in school
7.1.4 Advocacy: raising the awareness of the issue of bullying in school
7.2 Welfare
7.2.1 Welfare information
7.3 Leisure
7.3.1 Social gathering Parent’s social gatherings and events
7.3.2 Entertaining information not related to parenting or special needs
7.4 Summary

Chapter 8 Discussion
8.1 How do virtual communities provide support for parents of children with special needs?
8.1.1 Information
8.1.2 Emotional support
8.1.3 Advocacy
8.2 What motivates parents of children with special needs to search for support through virtual communities?
8.2.1 Finding Face: Public self-image and identity
8.2.2 Searching for and sharing information for different purposes
8.3 How does support provided through virtual communities impact the relationship between parents of children with special needs and professionals?
8.3.1 Becoming Friends with professionals through Facebook
8.3.2 The influence of marketisation on the parent-professional relationship

Chapter 9 The case study: contributions and what’s next?
9.1 What’s next? Potential future studies


Dr I-Jung Grace Lu graduated from the University of Manchester in 2018 with a PhD degree in Education. She has conducted research focusing on inclusive education, parent support for families with children with special needs, and social networking. She is also a member of Enabling Education Network (EENet), a global information sharing and learning network focusing on encouraging and supporting innovation and critical thinking on inclusion, equity and rights in education.

She is now an Assistant Research Fellow of Higher Education Evaluation and Accreditation Council of Taiwan (HEEACT). She was also elected as a board member of Asia Pacific Quality Network (APQN). She is involved with several research projects, such as the analytical study on the development of the Taiwan Qualifications Framework (TWQF) and the research on the assessment of learning outcomes and internal quality assurance building in higher education in Japan and Taiwan.

Social inclusion, Support network, Face, Parents of Children with Special Needs

Bibliographic Information

Book Title

Help is just a click away: Social Network Sites and Support for Parents of Children with Special Needs





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Publication date

July 2019