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Social Network Connects Kids, Teens With Special Needs

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LONG BEACH (CBSLA.com) — Children and teenagers with special needs have a quick and easy way to connect with each other, thanks to a social networking website.

High school senior Lindsay Kerr, 17, has cerebral palsy, is legally blind, and suffers from the medical condition hydrocephalus.

“Which is a brain disorder where my brain will fill up with water and I have a shunt that drains it, but sometimes the shunts break, and I’m in the hospital for sometimes up to a month,” she said.

Despite her disabilities, Kerr is a proud user of Starbright World, a social chat room dedicated to chronically ill children and their families.

“(My condition) makes it harder to use a computer and go on Starbright World, but I found ways to do that. I’ve shown people in the community that (they) can still do this,” she said.

Jacqueline Hart-Ibrahim is the CEO for the Starlight Children’s Foundation, which started and operated the private social network in 1995.

She said it’s the first closed network that’s fully moderated all year round.

“When you’re out of school, when you’re lonely, when you wake up in the middle of the night and need to talk to a friend, we’re a moderated room,” she said.

Steven Spielberg, the co-founder of Starbright World, helped launch the first use of the program with a young girl in the hospital.

Kerr said the website gave her the inspiration to run for her school’s homecoming queen.

“I realized I do have these issues, but I can show the community that you can still do this even if you have the disabilities. They’ve given me the confidence to do it,” she said.

Kerr’s father, Sam, was proud to watch his daughter named homecoming court.

“She came out of a little egg shell and blossomed ….and doesn’t let many things step in her way. If she needs it, she goes after it,” he said.

Visit Starbright World for more information on the chat room.

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