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Analysis of E-mail Produced by Middle School Students with Disabilities Using Accessible Interfaces: An Exploratory Study

Sohlberg, McKay Moore; Todis, Bonnie; Fickas, Stephen; Ehlhardt, Laurie

doi: 10.1097/TLD.0b013e318236e051
Original Articles

The goal of this exploratory study was to investigate electronic communication as a potential method to enhance social communication in a range of students with disabilities. This study investigated the usability of an adapted e-mail interface, TeenMail, for 11 middle school students with significant learning and communication impairments who received special education services in a resource room. It sought to provide an initial sampling of the writing and communicative exchange characteristics for this population when using the modality of electronic communication. All of the students learned to use the program and independently initiated exchanging e-mails with classroom peers and teachers. The most notable finding was the unanticipated high number of e-mails that were sent over the 12-week project. Students sent 1,323 e-mails. E-mails were coded for writing and communicative exchange elements and provide a sample of electronic communication for this population. Results encourage future exploration of e-mail to promote social communication and as a possible communication intervention tool for students with learning challenges.

Departments of Communication Disorders & Sciences (Dr Sohlberg) and Computer & Information Sciences (Dr Fickas), University of Oregon, Eugene; and Teaching Research Institute-Eugene, Western Oregon University, Monmouth (Drs Todis and Ehlhardt).

Corresponding Author: McKay Moore Sohlberg, PhD, Department of Communication Disorders & Sciences, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403 (e-mail:

This research was funded by the US Department of Education Program on Special Education Technology and Media Services for Individuals with Disabilities CFDA 84.237A.

The authors have disclosed that they have no significant relationships with, or financial interest in, any commercial companies pertaining to this article.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins