10 Ways Facebook Can Help the Mentally Disabled


Friends often urge me to write about CoCo. I do have many stories that make people laugh, or bring a tear to their eye.

CoCo has pseudohyoparathyroidism. That means her fingers and toes are a little gnarly; she has dimples where she should have knuckles. She is mildly mentally impaired. Over the 36 years with CoCo, I began to think of her brain functioning as a dimples where the rest of us have knuckles.

Sky Game I am cautious about writing my experiences with CoCo because she is more than pseudohypoparathyroidism; she is more than a disability. She is funny and frustrating; she is sensitive and manipulative. She is more than a diagnosis or a category. She is rippled and nuanced; she is simple and direct.  She is complex, just like the rest of us.

CoCo can read like a second grader; her handwriting is a puzzle to decipher. She can count and calculate with a calculator. These things are the dimples in her life. Still, she knows how to search for deals and coupons, and that a credit card can get a person in trouble. She cannot drive, but she can take buses and trains.

CoCo loves people. She loves, loves, loves to talk. Words are her strength. She uses more words than she can define. (This is the opposite of the majorit. Most of us use a fraction of the words we know.) Relationships and communication are the knuckles of CoCo’s life.

Facebook is a gift to CoCo. She and Loved-One got an account the same day. Before that, I updated them on what happened with family and friends. I decided to empower them both.  Okay, yes, I wanted to get that responsibility off my plate and onto theirs.

Of course I monitored CoCo and her account. Like a hawk at first,  less carefully as my confidence grew.

The top 10 ways Facebook strengthens CoCo’s life:

  1. She’s connected: Every one of her “friends” are real people that she knows. Some are family, some are friends from Special Olympics, friends from high school, or friends from work. She connects with old high school teachers and coaches, and some people from our old neighborhoods.
  1. She’s taking an interest in current events. She “Likes” a local news station to keep her ear to what’s going on. Sometimes she comes to me with a “did you know…” (That’s how I found out the latest snowstorm was on the way.)
  1. She reads more. A post is easy to process and understand. Overtime, she can decipher more words and understand more of the complexities of language.
  1. She writes more. She notices the little red squiggle and makes corrections, or she asks me or Loved-One to spell a word. Sometimes she asks Siri how to spell a word. (CoCo and the cell phone is a whole different post.)
  1. She’s engaged. She updates me on what’s going on in the family. “Did you see the picture of Alison’s new baby girl?” or “A toddler drowned in our old neighborhood.” Or “Kent got engaged.”
  1. She discerning. She notices when someone she doesn’t know asks to be her friend. She knows how to say no, or ignore a request. She recognizes “posts” that should be in a “chat,” or posts that are drumming up drama. She’s learning when it’s okay to “check-in” and when it’s better to keep her whereabouts private.
  1. She chats. Sometimes she has lengthy conversations with a cousin who lives across the country.
  1. She has a sense of purpose. CoCo scoured her list of friends for people who her friend, Allison. She let everyone know about the funeral details. So many people came to the funeral home. I am sure it was in part because of my daughter’s communication skills.
  1. She exercises restraint: She avoids over-sharing, she is mindful of other people’s feelings, and she is kind. She refrains from sharing other people’s news, like her sister’s pregnancy.
  1. People are engaging with her. This is my favorite part. CoCo’s FaceBook Friends overlook parsed sentences, and incorrect word choices. They “like” and “share” and respond to her comments. They are pleasant and kind and respectful.

I know many snarky, mean, and even nasty people access the internet. There are downright evil people, too. I still keep an eye on CoCo and her Facebook account.

I believe there are more good people in the world than evil. I am proud that CoCo is one of those good people. I am delighted to be one of her Facebook friends.