Tomorrow, November 1, has been set as "Global Communication Shutdown Day."† We are encouraged to cease twittering and facebooking for the day in order to raise awareness of and funds for autism - and, to some degree, to simulate the communications challenges faced by people on the autism spectrum. The non-communication is supposed to mirror autistic isolation; the fundraising will take place when you pay for a "charity app" you place on your computer which "spreads the word, gives a shutdown badge to wear online and adds your picture to a global mosaic of supporters, next to the celebs."† Information about recipients of you donations can be found on the Global Shutdown Day website.
Not surprisingly, there is significant controversy within the autism community about whether or not a Global Communication Shutdown Day is a good idea.† According to the Communication Shutdown website:
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.
Stuart Duncan, an autism dad and blogger who occasionally comments on this site, is taking part in a coordinated "Shout Out" event on Twitter and will (with others) host an online chat on The Coffee Klatch website to counter the day of silence.† Here, in part, are his reasons:
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.
Also, 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. That's like saying that because you were in chess club, you know what it's like for children in bad neighbourhoods to get mixed up in violent gangs.
Marianne, a member of the Communication Shutdown team, has responded to Duncan's blog post, saying "...yes, it is one day of silence, but we are certainly making sure this silence will be noticed. There will be plenty of communication before and after the day. Also, through the application, a mass message of support will be sent out by all participants on the morning of Nov 1 to make a highly-visible statement all at once."
I personally don't intend to take part in the "Communication Shutdown." I'm not passionately against the idea, but I do have some questions about donating to a suddenly-there non-profit; I'm not at all sure that the event will help to improve understanding of a very complex and diverse group of people; and I truly think we're better served by communicating than by ceasing to communicate (even if it's for a cause). I will, however, dedicate this week's newsletter and tomorrow's blog to the topic of communication and autism.
Will you take part in the Communication Shutdown? What are your reasons pro or con? Share your thoughts and vote in the poll!