The primary purpose of 2012 Pennsylvania Community On Transition Conference: Empowerment in an Environment of Change Conference, is to expand the capacity of local education agencies and communities, in partnership with youth, young adults and families, in promoting the successful transition of youth/young adults with disabilities to post-school outcomes of employment, post-secondary education and training, community participation and healthy lifestyles. Participants will learn how Digitability levels the playing field for students with Autism and other learning variations.

There are 200,000+ capable adolescents with Autism that enter high school each year, beginning their transition to independence, but without being formally introduced to today’s essential Digital Life Skills. This engaging workshop highlights some of the best practices of integrating digital media literacy in the Autistic Support Classroom setting as facilitated by Michele McKeone, M. Ed. Participants will learn how the acquisition of these new skills can empower, incite and engage students with Autism and other disabilities, while teaching them to self-advocate and position themselves for success as they pursue their post-secondary educational and vocational goals.

While Michele’s students with Autism present with characteristics of developmental impairments, they also present with a wide range of abilities and intelligence, and more specifically, an innate affinity with computers. Michele recognized that without social & vocational skills like email, social networks or navigating the web, our students with Autism are limited in their post‐secondary educational and vocational outcomes and therefore, often pigeonholed into low-wage paying jobs. With her unique background in Autism Education and Digital Media Literacy, Michele was able to design an award-winning curriculum that taught her students how to harness digital media for social, functional and vocational success.

Her work was first publicly recognized when Michele and her students were invited to present their award winning multimedia project, “Room 435,” at Philadelphia’s Autism Awareness Expo. Her continued work in this specialized field earned her the nomination for the Christian & Mary Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching and the Mona Cohen Excellence in Autism Education Award. The overwhelming response she received from parents, teachers, researchers, and school district personnel inspired her mission to provide all students with Autism the opportunity to develop the necessary Digital Life Skills to pursue their independence and autonomy.

This mission is what inspired the development of Digitability. An online learning system that teaches adolescents with Autism how to use digital and social media, Digitability lets students develop Digital Life Skills at their own pace. It is a highly synthesized learning system, designed to engage adolescents with Autism as well as students with other learning variations. Students establish a portfolio of technical skills while learning to express their ideas and abilities through Digital Age technologies. This portfolio and sense of empowerment provides students the opportunity for increased earning potential and productivity as they pursue post‐secondary educational/vocational goals and their transition to independence in today’s digital age work force.

Michele McKeone, M. Ed., will demonstrate technology’s best practices for supporting students with learning disabilities throughout their transition programming. Working to continually raise the bar on the educational landscape and level the playing field for students with Autism. In an effort to translate my methods, I developed an interactive curriculum that makes digital literacy accessible for students with autism and other developmental disabilities (as well as their teachers).

The goal is to serve as the catalyst of an innovative tool for cognitive and social development for this generation of adolescents with Autism and those who come thereafter. Michele continues to see that when students are able to express and share their knowledge and values through the current modes of social communication, they are not only developing marketable digital age skills but also sense of empowerment to advocate for themselves and others with Autism.