Communication shutdown for autism a bad idea

I saw this “Communication Shutdown” event through a critical article highlighted on FWD/Forward — a scheme to raise awareness of autism by “shutting down” social networks for a day (1st November):

WHAT IS COMMUNICATION SHUTDOWN? It’s a global initiative to raise much-needed funds for autism groups in over 40 countries. By shutting down social networks for one day on November 1, we hope to encourage a greater understanding of people with autism who find social communication a challenge.

To join, simply make a donation to receive a CHAPP (charity app). The CHAPP spreads the word, gives a shutdown badge to wear online and adds your picture to a global mosaic of supporters, next to the celebs.

As Corina Becker, the autistic author of the critical article, pointed out on her blog, people who already have autism don’t need to be told about their difficulties in communicating as they deal with them every day. Some of them use computers and social networks as their main means of communicating, while those without autism might be much more able to communicate face-to-face than they are. (Of course, not everyone with autism cannot speak, particularly the Asperger’s end of the scale, but they might well find it easier to conduct friendships mostly online than in person.) She proposes the same day as Autistics Speaking Day:

At the end of my last post, I stated that on November 1st, Autistic people should speak up and be heard. That in the absence of NT [neurotypical] voices, Autistics should reclaim the Autism community by communicating in our own ways on our life experiences.

Yet, I must also add caution, to be mindful of the subject matters, as some subjects are triggers for people. I would hate to hear that a person had a panic attack, flashback or meltdown and suffered due to something in the information shared.

I would like the day to acknowledge our difficulties, yes, but also share our strengths, our passions, our interests, our “obsessions”.

I don’t know whether I’ll participate. But I’m certainly not participating in “communication shutdown”. You see, there are other people, besides autistics, who rely on the Internet for their social interaction, namely those who are bed-bound or housebound. Some of them are sick, in pain, and lonely, and the last thing they need is their friends cutting them off for a day, perhaps the very day they most need them, even if it is supposedly in aid of another group of disabled people. So, I’d like to say to people out there who’ve got friends in this condition not to cut them off by participating in this ill-conceived event, and if you do, perhaps you could visit a friend who was in need, or talk to them on the phone. Make it “open up day” rather than shut-down day.

(More here, here, here and here.)

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  • http://iridescentmusings.blogspot.com umm Abdillah

    Tomorrow is National Down’s Syndrome Awareness Day in South Africa. Please support by wearing a green ribbon and jeans and donating towards creating greater awareness. http://www.downsyndrome.org.za/main.aspx?artid=54

  • http://www.journeyswithautism.com Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg

    Well said!

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  • Robin Nemeth

    Now, there’s one more thing you have to do. And before I say this I want to make it absolutely clear that I’m not saying or implying that people on the spectrum smell bad. But they ARE shunned. And I can think of only one easy way to make it so that you, too, will be shunned all day long. Spray yourself with something that stinks to high heaven. Like maybe that deer repellent that smells like rotten eggs.

    Now, go out and face your day. Watch as darn near every last person you encounter makes it plain as the nose on their face that the most important thing is to just GET AWAY FROM YOU. As fast as is humanly possible. It’s not going to be quite the same, because they will no doubt say something to you about why they are so anxious to get away. This would of course never be the case for the person on the autism spectrum.

    You, of course, cannot respond in any way to them about why you’re so stinky. You have to pretend that nothing was ever said.

    Now you have to understand also that this is the experience of the average high functioning individual with autism. The aspie, if you will. I cannot claim to understand what it must be like for those with more severe autism. I cannot claim to understand what it must be like for them – for those people unable to communicate at all except to yell when they’re obviously in pain. But I imagine that the difference between the high functioning end of the autism spectrum and the lowest functioning end is very much like the difference between being near sighted and being totally blind.

    Silly idea, this staying off of Facebook. But if people should happen to raise some money, I will support what they do on one condition. No hidden agendas. Not on what is said, not on how the money gets spent.