Monday, November 1, 2010
Turning Off All Social Networking Sites for a Day: How Not to Relate to Autism
In the latest round of presumably well-intentioned neurotypicals trying to raise money and awareness for autism while completely not understanding us, today, November 1, has been designated Communication Shutdown day. The idea is that for one day people should not use their social networking sites such as twitter and facebook. This is supposed to help you understand what it is like to be autistic.
I have a hard time believing it, but I do not see Autism Speaks listed as one of the sponsors of this one. On the other hand, an organization such as the Autism Society, one that I thought had better sense, seems to be on board. To be fair, it is only the Colorado branch of the Autism Society. I assume there is some sort of political backstory here, but I would call upon the national office of the Autism Society to denounce this effort and remove the Colorado branch (or at least the individual culprits).
There is an irony to all of this. Internet communication is probably the closest thing we have yet to invent to approximate autistic communication. The internet does not allow for effective communication of emotion. As such, it forces people to communicate without focusing on emotions. For this reason, as it should be clear to anyone who has actually spent time listening to autistics and not simply preaching about them, autistics have been able to use the internet quite effectively. I would even go so far as to call the internet with its social networking sites the larynx of autism, giving us the voice that most autism organizations claim that we do not even have.
If you wish to understand autism, do not get off facebook or twitter for the day. On the contrary, go around with your computer and cell phone and communicate solely through text messages. Autistics are capable of communicating. They communicate differently and you just need to learn how to listen.
If you are looking for a sane perspective on autism I suggest you check out Rethinking Autism and their featuring celebrities actually talking alongside autistics.