Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Speaking Out Not Shutting Down

Though it seemed like business as usual here at The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism on Monday, November 1, our editors were participating in The Coffee Klatch's Communicate to Educate 24 hour tweetchat instead of the same-day "Shut Down" autism fundraising campaign.

We'll let some of our favorite activists and advocates explain why we spoke out instead of shutting down:

Steve Silberman at NeuroTribes:
The idea that going virtually mute is an appropriate way to honor autistic people — for whom the Net has opened new avenues of communication and community building — does not sit well with some autistic self-advocates.
TPGA Contributor Corina Becker:
I was recently asked by a person on Twitter to participate, and I responded that there wasn't much of a point, since I am Autistic, and do not require to learn about difficulties that I myself face in communicating. I pointed out to this person that Twitter and Facebook are two of the sites that actually allow Autistics to communicate and connect with others in the community, so I will not be disappearing from the Internet, as it is my lifeline. I also remarked that this is a flawed simulation, since a non-Autistic person still have the capability to text on their phones, and speak verbally, and so would not be totally comprehending the true reality of Autistic disability.
TPGA Science Editor Emily Willingham:
I don't think that shutting down tweeting and facebooking in any way reflects the social challenges my son experiences on a given day, and I suspect that it doesn't reflect the nonverbal experience, either. I don't know what "autistic silence" is, unless it indicates an absence of spoken communication, but I know that autistic people -- verbal and nonverbal --  all the time and are certainly not silent. The empathy doesn't need to be about their lack of a typical route of communication but about understanding the routes they do use.
Ari Ne'eman at ASAN:
...common sense might demand that the best way to have “some idea of what it’s like” for Autistic people and to learn about the challenges, strengths, hopes, disappointments, losses, and opportunities we face every day would be to actually communicate with us, rather than express some token silence.
And we recommend reading ASDMommy's entire post: I Will Not Be Silent.

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Speaking out is the kind of activism we're good at. Educating and sharing information is why we're here. It's the choice that worked for us. If you chose differently, that's a good example of how The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism represents a variety of perspectives from our community -- we'd be grateful to hear from you, too.