Autistics Speaking Day – Taking Back Autism Awareness

This is a repost from 2014 written by current student Corina Lynn Becker.

The words Sometime in the middle of October, 2010

It was a fairly regular day, I was simply browsing the Internet, casually refreshing Twitter, when something in the #Autism tag caught my eye.  Especially when random strangers were throwing me invites.  An awareness campaign, called Communication Shutdown.

The name alone did not bode well. Finally, I was curious, and clicked to read more about it, and I became outright insulted.  All the campaign was a pledge for participants to sign out of FaceBook and Twitter for November 1st, and donate five dollars for an app that would advertise on their social media sites that they were participating in Communication Shutdown! The money raised from the campaign itself went to various autism “charities” around the world, many which, as I asked my fellow Autistics online, had dubious reputations.

At first, I simply declined the requests to participate, explaining to people that as an Autistic person, I didn’t need to “shutdown” from the internet to understand my own difficulties in communicating and socializing.  Why, it’s the opposite! Through Twitter and FaceBook, I am connected to a rich community and culture of Autistic people who engage and converse, discuss, network and rally online.  To “shutdown” would be turning off my lifeline! It’s the lifeline of the autistic community; so many autistic people I know use the internet to connect and participate, to communicate, to express themselves, as well as tools for community, supporting each other, and for activism. Instead of shutting down, why not listen to the Autistic people online?

But the people online didn’t seem to be very interested in what I was saying, convinced that they were doing good.  Hearing more from others online, I started writing Real Communication Shutdown on my blog No Stereotypes Here (15 Oct, 2015).  What happened then was pure impulse, just a spark of an idea. I purposed that if non-Autistic people were going to fall silent on November 1st, that Autistic people should do the opposite.

  •                         Let us use this day to flood every social networking site we know with our  accounts, our experiences, what it feels like to Autistic.
  •                         Every sensory pain, every communication frustration, every account of being bullied, every wondrous moment, every peaceful calm, every instant of understanding and joy.
  •                         Let them hear our voices and take back the Autism community.
  •                         Let us speak.
  •                         Let us tell you want it’s like to be us.

By October 18th, I had received feedback online supporting the idea of a counter-event, and so named my event “Autistics Speaking Day” and somewhat aggressively sending out the call over Twitter.

At first, I thought that it would just end up being myself, and maybe a few of my friends, doing this thing over Twitter.  I was fine with that, cause even that might reach someone and it’s worth the effort.  But it felt good to be doing something.

And then I got a comment on my blog, saying that a FaceBook group had been started up, and all these people, way more than I know or ever expected, were planning to participate.

I was stunned.  I couldn’t think, couldn’t begin to process it.  But I got in touch with Kathryn Bjørnstad, the organizer of the FaceBook group.  Together we ran the first Autistics Speaking Day.

That first year, it was a rush, it was disorganized, everything was everywhere, but we had such a great response from people.  From what we can tell, forty articles in that first year, about seventy-three the year after.  This November 1st will be our 6th year running, while Communication Shutdown has yet  to return after its only year.  We no longer run as a counter-event, though we keep our origin in mind; we are a celebration of Autistic perspectives and stories.  A celebration with a mission, to broadcast Autistic “voices” and battle negative stereotypes in the name of awareness and acceptance, but a celebration all the same.

We have always been online, across social media websites, as that is where our community exists, and that is how we spread the word of Autistics Speaking Day, or ASDay.

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