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Read Beyond the Headline

In today’s digital world, it is easy to take headlines at face value. We have so much information coming at us all of the time that we might see a headline or skim an article without reading the full piece. Sharing an article as fact without digging deeper to check sources or compare findings can lead to misinterpretation or misinformation.

What is digital literacy and why is it important?

Digital literacy describes “the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies.” This informs how we interact with and understand the information we consume. We activate our digital literacy skills each time we see headlines that are designed to draw in the reader. For example, news came out last week that there has been an increase in the number of school-aged children identified as having autism. This finding sparked interesting conversations, reflections and sharing of research among our colleagues. We are not here to comment on the finding but to remind you of some digital literacy tips to keep in mind to ensure you are a wise consumer of online information.

It is our job to read critically, ask questions, and consider other perspectives.

Seeing the first headline about increased autism diagnoses, I wondered what factors might have contributed to this new statistic, such as an increase in the number of evaluations or delayed identification of students who had fallen through the cracks. As we shared articles back and forth within the Exceptional Lives team, some other factors came to light. Disability Scoop noted that some differences might be attributed to distinctions in record keeping systems. A piece from Spectrum News reminded readers that individuals who have autism often have several other co-occurring diagnoses which might affect the timing of that autism diagnosis. In yet another piece, self-advocate Ari Ne’eman dives into the numbers and attributes this change to “improved diagnosis and services, more inclusive diagnostic criteria and reduced stigma rather than a change in the actual number of autistic people.” These different perspectives provided a more well-rounded lens through which I could understand what I was reading.

Exceptional Lives is an organization that aims to ensure families have access to information.

We encourage you to keep these tips in mind while browsing or researching:

  1. Read multiple articles on the same topic to get different points of view.
  2. Go to the original sources or studies mentioned in an article to learn more about the topic or to learn about how they collected data.
  3. Exchange ideas and thoughts with others in your community.
  4. Read beyond the headline!

Source: Cornell University Digital Resource Library

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