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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