Online Communication #Shutdown for Autism Awareness Criticised by Autism Activists #TalkAboutAutism

A campaign encouraging people to stop using Facebook and Twitter today, November 1, to support autism awareness has been criticised by some people with autism.

The “Communication Shutdown” has been supported by people with autism-related conditions including Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University Dr Temple Grandin, and Australian counsellor Rachael Harris. Ms Harris is quoted on the Communications Shutdown website as saying “Electing to shutdown social communication mirrors autistic silence. But it also draws attention to the isolation and intense loneliness experienced by those who are impeded from connecting socially with others”. 

Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg, leader of the Vermont Chapter of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, has criticised the Shutdown on her blog, saying “it’s counterproductive to tell non-autistic people to stay away from online sites when so many autistic people overcome “isolation and intense loneliness” by connecting with one another online”. She also criticised Brisbane’s AEIOU Foundation, originators of the shutdown, for not having any autistic members on their Board of Directors.

Corina Becker, of the No Stereotypes Here blog, who has been diagnosed as autistic, has also criticised the shutdown, proposing instead that today be Autistics Speaking Day. Activist Kathryn Bjornstad has set up a Facebook event for Autistics Speaking Day.

ADDITIONAL: Ms Cohen-Rottenberg said she was unable to do a telephone interview with 4ZZZ News because, like many autistic people, she has difficulties with auditory processing.


Filed under Zedlines

8 responses to “Online Communication #Shutdown for Autism Awareness Criticised by Autism Activists #TalkAboutAutism

  1. Hi,

    My name is Marianne and I am part of the Communication Shutdown team. I wanted to thank you for your interest and also thought I could provide a little more info about the fundraiser.

    We realise that nothing can truly simulate what it is like for people with autism. We are simply trying to encourage a greater understanding from people outside the autism community. Social network users have become reliant and even addicted to platforms like Facebook and Twitter. And if they 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.

    Which is why we are in no way asking people with autism to give up their tools of communication.

    We are actually very happy to see that Communication Shutdown has prompted ‘Autistics Speaking Day’ 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 on the spectrum and parents of children with autism 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.

    Thank you for reading and if you want to support either event, it’s not too late to join in.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Online Communication #Shutdown for Autism Awareness Criticised by Autism Activists #TalkAboutAutism « 4ZzZFM NEWS --

  3. zusia

    People without autism are always trying to come up with these half-baked schemes to “help” people with autism. For most adults with autism, it is a difference cloaked in a veil of “normalcy” which means we are privy to countless conversations about us but, for the most part, are unable to respond without invoking anything but sideways glances or sympathetic head patting. Participating in such conversations would require us to take off the veil and that’s a risk few of us are able to take, except online.

    These types of fundraisers are mindless gestures that allow an ignorant generation of well-doers to feel cozy about themselves. Instead, they should put their energy into educating themselves and others about brain differences, including their own. They need to recognize that people with autism communicate very well with each other– gee, I wonder why? Also, they need to learn that autism and mental retardation are two separate conditions and perhaps focus on improving the lives of those with cognitive disabilities, with or without autism.

  4. If people want to educate themselves about autism, a good place to start might be “Autism: What Is It?” at

    Thanks very much to Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg for suggesting this site.

  5. As with everything else in the Autism community there is division as to what is best, perhaps the reason is in the diversity of the disorder itself. I am the founder of The Coffee Klatch and respect the opinions of all. There is validity to any attempt to raise awareness for Autism and I respect and welcome all and wish the “Shut Down” campaign much success. It is our position, based on the wishes of the many adults on the spectrum, advocates and parents who have reached out to us ,as well as our own personal opinions that shutting down communication is not the answer. I actually feel that the “Shut Down” effort is in large population doing quite the opposite, encouraging those with a voice in Autism to speak even louder. My goal is to encourage those who truly want to understand the challenges and struggles as well as the incredible brilliance and gifts of Autism to be educated by the the best advocates, experts, authors, therapy providers, parents and most importantly those on the spectrum, to come together in one place for an entire day to “Communicate” I am very proud of the overwhelming response to our invitations to those to be Guest Moderators. The line up is impressive. We have chosen to do the event totally on Twitter verses our Blog Talk Radio to ensure that everyone has a chance to interact. With education will come compassion and acceptance – It’s time. In the end we all have the same goal – to raise awareness. And on November 1st 2010 whether you shut down or shout out – we will all be working towards that goal. ~ Marianne

  6. zusia

    Marianne– I must disagree that there is “validity to any attempt” when it comes to raising awareness of autism. There have been many misguided attempts and to suggest that even misguided attempts are somehow helpful because they encourage discourse is shortsighted.

    These awkward attempts on our behalf are embarrassing– to us and they should be to you, as well.

    If you want to do some good then focus your campaigning on stopping all the horrible, sob story ads about autism that paint it as a death sentence. These ads and campaigns are insulting to both adults and children with autism who were just becoming comfortable with embracing their differences when all of a sudden, the world was pointing a finger.

  7. Just a quick clarification: I believe Marianne Russo of The Coffee Klatch is NOT the same Marianne who has posted from the Shutdown campaign.

  8. Pingback: The Success of Speaking « No Stereotypes Here

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