Tech Teens Teaches Young Adults with Special Needs Graphic Design, Creative Expression

If you want to know what age group is the most technologically advanced, you should look no further than teenagers. When it comes to technology, teenagers are often the trendsetters on how technology is used and is a much coveted demographic for big technologies.

While a majority of teens can develop their technology skills with ease, there are many who sadly never get the opportunity. Challenged with the lack of opportunity, teenagers with special needs wish they had the same opportunities as typical teens to use technology and develop tech skills.

For this reason, Friendship Circle created Tech Teens, a comfortable and relaxed environment where they can develop skills and create some pretty cool content and materials.

What Tech Teens Offers

Tech Teens gives the opportunity for teens to come work and learn at their own pace and gives them a place to express themselves and hone creative skills.

The program was designed for teens aged 13 and older to have the opportunity to get creative in a digital format while under the instruction of Lawrence Tech University professor Mike Haley and artist Brian Kavanaugh.

During the seven-week session, teens are able to learn the basics of graphic design while working on one large, multi-step project that will expose students to the different aspects of the acquired skill set, including sketching, visual brainstorming and then production techniques and final products.

Instructor Mike Haley working with a teen on his final product.

Instructor Mike Haley working with a teen on his final product.

In the most recent session (which finished on Tuesday, December 15), the final project included designing graphics for shirts and booklets and posters containing graphics designed or favored by the teens.

New Skills

Annette Liike, mother of Johnny (a participant in the program) said that he has “loved this experience.”

Johnny’s father, Tom Liike, went on to say the program is “creative and something different in terms of learning a new skill and makes learning fun and creative with technology while the kids get to create a finished product. [Johnny] was so proud to show us what he’s made and he really enjoys the people, the love and support of the Friendship Circle team and the Tech Teens program.”

liike parents with son johnny

The Liike family at the Tech Teens finale event on December 15, 2015.

Johnny’s produced a shirt with graphics that included a logo of Michigan State’s Sparty mascot paired with the Batman logo.

My Favorite Things

Jenna Rosen was another participant in the program. Jenna put her portfolio on display containing graphics of her favorite items, including the golden ticket from Charlie & The Chocolate Factory and the Netflix logo.

Jenna told us that she “liked making her own shirt because she could choose her favorite logos and designs to put [on the products] and get to take them home afterward.”

jenna rosen

Jenna Rosen and her father, Mark Rosen, showing off her final product before taking it home after the finale event.

The program included seven teens that participated every Tuesday night and were given the chance to hone their skills using Mac computers at the Soul Center Mini location in Commerce, Michigan.

A Collaborative Effort

The program offers social skills as well as the basics of graphic design, and instructor Brian Kavanaugh has designed a space that provides opportunity and encourages collaboration.


Instructor Brian Kavanaugh meeting with teens during the program to discuss their latest projects.

When it comes to finding the artist in each teen, Brian said, “the moment where they, the artists, start to contemplate what the next move should be instead of other people telling them what to do, when they make the next decision. It’s so empowering for them.”

To learn more about Tech Teens or one of Friendship Circle’s 30 weekly and monthly programs visit

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