17th May 2012
Netbuddy is an award-winning online community offering simple, yet ingenious solutions to everyday issues experienced by parents, carers and learning disability professionals.
From brushing teeth to managing challenging behaviour, Netbuddy provides 1,000s of practical tips and suggestions via its website and social media sites. All the tips are contributed by people with first-hand experience of special needs, and they’re updated daily.
Information on the Netbuddy website is organised under quick searches such as ‘Dressing & undressing’, ‘Out and about’, ‘Behaviour’ and ‘Routines.’ There are also practical information packs on subjects like financial help, and jobs & training.
A key feature of www.netbuddy.org.uk is the interactive forum where people can post specific practical problems they are experiencing. There are also ‘site experts’ on the forum answering questions in their own area of expertise – from occupational therapy to assistive technology.
Netbuddy Director Deborah Gundle, who’s son has learning disabilities, said: “The idea for Netbuddy came about when my son was small. I spent so much time and energy solving day-to-day problems, which I felt sure other people had overcome before me. Then, one day it came to me – I should start writing down my ideas for other people to use, and encourage them to share their own.”
Deborah’s original plan was to write a ‘Special Needs Handbook” but, as she started collecting tips, the idea evolved into an online community, where people could swap suggestions with each other and create a lasting resource. The idea was to capture the huge wealth of experience and knowledge that parents and carers have.
“If you have direct experience of learning disability, if you're living with it, you're not an academic or clinical expert – but you're the real expert," Deborah explained.
More than just a chat room, people can use Netbuddy to pick up practical, ideas; they can share their own tried and tested solutions; and they can talk about specific issues on the interactive forum.
“I think Netbuddy has hit a chord because there is nothing else quite like it,” said Deborah. “There are plenty of other online special needs communities, but Netbuddy is all about people supporting each other in a very real, practical way.”
In addition to the website, which attracts 6,000 new visitors a month, Netbuddy shares tips and information via its social media sites – Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and its own blog, ‘Netbuddy says’. Through word of mouth, Netbuddy has grown into a thriving online support network. It works, says Deborah, because people in the special needs community like to help each other.