Sunday, October 31, 2010

Spreading the word by shutting up...?

OK, so an organization called Communication Shutdown is trying to make a statement about autism by saying nothing.  They're asking people to skip using Facebook, Twitter and the like on Monday, November 1 to get people to see how hard it is for autistics to communicate.

This makes as much sense as advertising hot dogs by giving away fish sticks.

Their argument is that social communication is one of the biggest challenges for people with autism. The idea is, if you skip using them for a day, you'll get an idea of how hard it is for autistics to use them.

How, exactly?  All it'll do is give you several hours of your day back.  Sounds more like national turn your TV off day than anything that's going to help autism.

You can more easily understand what autism feels like by logging on.  You know how hard it is to detect sarcasm online?  How without the inflection of voice and all the verbal cues we hear and see every day, you simply can't tell if a person is kidding or not? And how we have to resort on acronyms like HHOK (Ha ha only kidding) and NSAIRMI (No shit, asshole, I really meant it)?  You know how embarrassing it feels to ask "Um, sorry, but are you making a joke?"

Imagine what it's like standing in front of a person and not being able to tell if they're kidding. THAT'S what it's like being autistic, or someone with Aspergers or any of the other syndromes in what's known as the Autism Spectrum. 

High functioning Aspies and autistics are PERFECTLY good at communication.  It's the "Social" bit they don't get.  They don't have the wiring in their head that allows them to have empathy or grasp a joke.  It comes off as naivete or callousness just plain being weird.  It's as infuriating as being in a foreign country, barely being able to understand the language, the idioms and the humor, and constantly choosing the wrong word, and getting weird looks or outright laughed at.

Here's a slogan - "When you're autistic, you just don't get it".

The key to education is communication.  Greg Grunberg, late of Heroes and Group Sex and soon of Love Bites is spearheading an organization about epilepsy literally called "Talk about it".  All these recent "It gets better" videos are all about making sure kids understand that bullying will end, and things will improve.  And somehow this group thinks that NOT talking about autism for a day will help, save for the money they collect for all the people pledging to log off for a day? 

Now don't get me wrong.  I'd love it if other advocacy groups tried this publicity gimmick.  Like if Peta chose not to talk to meat-eaters, to show them how much less exciting their day would be without vegans in it.  They could call it "shut out the meat-eaters day" And I could call it "Second Christmas". 

And I'd LOVE to see Jenny McCarthy shut up for a day.  I don't see HER name in the mosaic of well-meaning people promising to skip a day tomorrow.


  1. Vin, you made excellent points here. I for one am proud and happy to be among the Moms Blogging for Autism tomorrow, November 1st, 2010, and I prefer the idea of uniting bloggers to show solidarity for families whose members include those in the autism spectrum (like ours) over a Communication Shutdown. It's better to give a voice to this issue than silence it, however good one's intentions are. Also, on the practical side, I work from home, and my duties include spreading news about our company using Twitter and Facebook, so a Communication Shutdown simply isn't practical for our household. Nevertheless, I look forward to doing my bit by participating in Moms Blogging for Autism. It was also heartening to hear from Marianne of the Communication Shutdown Team, expressing support for the blogging idea and eagerness to share our experiences with each other's. Good to know that different approaches needn't prevent us from achieving our mutual positive goals!

  2. This may get something nasty tossed at me, but frankly I fully approve any initiative which brings the crawling mass of Facetwit to a screeching halt. To have such a move in support of raising awareness for something like Autism only sweetens the deal. I understand that there are those for whom the mecha-Mouth of social networking provides needed assistance to work. And, as Brother Vincent has pointed out, showing solidarity in the struggle against Autism by Turning Something Off sounds rather like taking that ol' shortcut down the road paved with Good Intentions.

    ("Say, Honey, can you turn up the air conditioning a bit?")

    I've often felt that, if someone truly wanted to Do Something to improve the plight of those with Autism . . . or fight against Breast Cancer, or Illiteracy, or the Disappearance of the Muddy Mudskipper, or the Disappearance of Flight 412, or the Preservation of the Tin Marital Aid Museum . . . then there's much more that could be done rather than engage in some sort of water-cooler styled activity (or wearing a trendy little lapel pin, or t-shirt, or running in a marathon and attending some apres-event Do afterwards). There are doubtless numerous organizations in this country that work with Autistic people, and are probably in need of money. Try something like making a donation, and then perhaps you'd have the right to feel as if you've accomplished something.

  3. Awesome, Dorian. And, I will ignore Michael, because he clearly doesn't understand. I'm glad you are speaking out, Vinnie. Shutting down Twitter and Facebook for a day means a day that you are not reaching people and educating them about autism.

  4. Many thanks for your support, Tammy, but don't be too hard on Michael. While he's not a Facebook fan, we've known him for many years, and trust us, "he's good people," as my dear old dad used to say. :-)