November 1 was an interesting day in the Autism Community- it was simultaneously talking and silent- a rare feat, indeed. Communication Shutdown Day that asked “Can you get by without Facebook and Twitter, just for one day? It was a “Global Fundraiser for Autism” and was sponsored out of Australia. It was designed to raise money that would then go to autism organizations within the person’s country, including the National Autism Association and the Autism Society of Colorado here in the United States. The purpose was to:
Social network users have become reliant and even addicted to platforms like Facebook and Twitter. And if they shutdown for 1 day, they will feel a sense of disconnection and a sense of frustration. By creating a little empathy, we hope to encourage a wider understanding and acceptance of people with autism – an understanding we recognise those in the autism community already have.”
In contrast, and in response to the Communication Shutdown, the Coffee Klatch offered the Communicate to Educate program in which a number of autism advocates twittered and blogged about how important it is TO speak out, and how the:
Shut Down” effort is in large population doing quite the opposite, encouraging those with a voice in Autism to speak even louder. My goal is to encourage those who truly want to understand the challenges and struggles as well as the incredible brilliance and gifts of Autism to be educated by the the best advocates, experts, authors, therapy providers, parents and most importantly those on the spectrum, to come together in one place for an entire day to “Communicate”.
Quite a difference in volume. Quite a set of different views. Quite an example of how we’re all in the same boat, but perhaps we’re pulling in different directions.
There’s a lot that divides the autism community:
- What IS autism?
- What causes autism?
- How do you treat autism?
- Is it something you have or something you are?
But there are some strong commonalities:
- The need to raise awareness
- The need to increase acceptance
- The need for more research dollars
- The need for greater support of families and individuals who have autism
On these things, I believe that all of the various organizations, individuals and various blogs can agree. One of the things that impressed me the most is that while there was the possibility of impassioned disagreement- and there were plenty of impassioned blogs– go ahead, click on the link and read it… I’ll wait. It’s worth reading…, overall there was a tone of “respectful disagreement” that while the means were different, the purposes were the same- to inform, to educate, to raise awareness.
I myself chose the Silent route, for several reasons- none of them hard-line, all of them related to my own situation.
- I WAS curious about what I would experience if I intentionally disconnected from Facebook (I twitter, but I have no time to follow many others- so not really a fan). There are days that go by when I’m not on FB, but they’re incredibly busy days. Those are not intentional disconnections.
- I talk a decent amount about autism already. Not nearly as much as others, but as much as I am able. It’s a passion of mine to educate others and to ask questions. I was willing to let my silence speak for me- to vary the intensity with which I inform. By posting the symbol on FB, I hoped to raise more awareness
- I already used volume and focused education on World Autism Day on April 2- a day where I spoke in Louisville, informed my students and generally made a big deal about autism awareness. I liked the variation of approaches.
And the experience for me? I did miss Facebook- perhaps more from a junkie’s than an autism advocate’s perspective, since I found myself checking news reports numerous times. I found myself hovering over the “Blog” shortcut on my favorites. I did think about autism much more often during the day- not autism as we know it in our household, but “autism” from a research/ policy/ process/ organizational view.
I don’t know how many of my FB or blog friends questioned why I was gone, or even noticed I was gone. I’m not sure if they were so caught up with the detritus of Halloween that they were even aware of the debate playing out across the autism spectrum of organizations.
But if the purpose of the Communication Shutdown and the resultant Coffee Klatch was to increase reflection on the value and harm of silence, well, it did that for me…