We’re in the midst of a Communication Shutdown today.

I was alerted to this by a friend who wrote on Facebook over the weekend that she would be abstaining from Twitter and Facebook today in solidarity with those with autism. She also is using a special badge showing a big red slash, the universal “no” symbol as her social profile photo.

My next touch with the campaign was in my Reader this morning — a post from Beth Kanter about the campaign.

Now I was intrigued. By telling me they were not communicating today, I wanted to learn more about it. But I wasn’t willing to abstain from communicating. Besides I had already blown it by publishing a new post to my other blog, Grabbing the Gusto, and chatting on Facebook. Plus, maybe it’s my social nature, but it seemed to me that a campaign would be better off with people talking about it, not being silent.

The music in the one-minute campaign video tells us, “We can be heroes, just for one day.” I wondered about the hero bit and read further,

“If (people outside the autism community) 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.”

I’m not sure I buy that. I still think awareness is more likely than true understanding. But what if your job depends on you being active in social media? I wonder how long shutdown or boycott campaigns like this will work when our organizations become more and more social, and participating in social media becomes a daily function of most jobs.

autism cause awarenessI read further to learn that even before it started this campaign was not universally accepted in their community.

We are very happy to see that Communication Shutdown has prompted ‘Autistics Speaking Day’ and ‘Communicate to Educate and has been able to rally people in a productive way. Although our executions are paradoxical, we believe we have the same goal. We are talking to a number of people….who will be blogging on Nov 1 about their positive experiences and also their challenges. We believe that both events complement each other and will be promoting their blogs to give their voices extra reach, while at the same time giving our supporters a deeper understanding about autism.

Good recovery. I honestly don’t think someone like me can deeply understand autism by not tweeting all day, never mind the struggles of those with autism and their families. As I searched for more info on autism, I came across Stuart Duncan, a father of an autistic child, who wrote on his blog:

“The whole idea of Autism Awareness and Advocacy is that we speak out for those people/children that can not speak for themselves. As such, it makes very little sense to silence ourselves for them. I’m not even Autistic but even I feel it’s pretty insulting to think that not visiting a couple of websites could ever give you any insight into what it’s like to have Autism.”

I agree, but at least I am learning more about autism and sharing some facts with you, and that’s solely due to the Communication Shutdown. Score one for awareness. From Autism Speaks:

Did you know …

  • Autism now affects 1 in 110 children and 1 in 70 boys
  • Autism prevalence figures are growing
  • More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined
  • Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S.
  • Autism costs the nation over $35 billion per year, a figure expected to significantly increase in the next decade
  • Autism receives less than 5% of the research funding of many less prevalent childhood diseases
  • Boys are four times more likely than girls to have autism
  • There is no medical detection or cure for autism

Prevalence vs. Private Funding:

  • Leukemia: Affects 1 in 1,200 / Funding: $277 million
  • Muscular Dystrophy: Affects 1 in 100,000 / Funding: $162 million
  • Pediatric AIDS: Affects 1 in 300 / Funding: $394 million
  • Juvenile Diabetes: Affects 1 in 500 / Funding: $156 million
  • Autism: Affects 1 in 110 / Funding: $79 million — What the what? Let’s fix that.

There are always naysayers about social media causes, campaigns and memes. It will be interesting to read the take on this one. Or will it? I’m beginning to tire of social media ranting about campaigns that aren’t done the “right” way. Perhaps the ranting is a natural phase in the development of a new medium. We analyze and criticize as a way to figure out how to make something better if we were to do it ourselves. I’m especially guilty of this when it comes to the use of social media by associations.

Is this a rant? I hope not. My purpose in writing this was to do my small part to help raise awareness and inspire you to click a few links and learn more for yourself.