Autism, Culture, and Representation

Today, November 1st, marks the second annual Autistics Speaking Day. And I am honored to be a part of it.

Autistics Speaking Day began in response to Communication Shutdown, a global fundraiser for autism. The idea behind it was that everyone should give up their facebooks and twitters for just one day, which supposedly simulates the social communication challenges that many autistics face. While this program silences neurotypical people around the world, members of the autistic community are speaking up and protesting against it.

This fundraiser has upset many people who question the accuracy of this simulation of autism. Especially considering how the internet plays a huge role in connecting members of the autistic community. There’s also the question of whether surviving without these things for one day really does anything to reach a “greater understanding.” Does internet abstinence create “a sense of disconnection and a sense of frustration” that actually allows people to empathize with autistics?

For me, Autistics Speaking Day is going to be my chance to reflect on just how much more aware of autism I have become. With the semester half-way over, it is absolutely incredible how much I have learned through this English class. Just two months ago, all I really knew about autism was that a lot of kids have it and more and more people are being diagnosed with it. And studying something like autism from a literary perspective sounded really interesting to me.

But I had never thought about how many adults have autism. I didn’t know that an autistic community even existed online. I was unaware of the numerous controversies around autism and the various perspectives that people have. Neurodiversity was a concept that I had never even heard of.

The best part about it is that everything I have learned has come straight from blogs written by members of the autism community. That’s why Autistics Speaking Day is such a great way to truly increase awareness. On November 1st, instead of staying off the internet, neurotypical individuals should be reading blog posts written by autistic community members. Because hearing about autism from people who have it is the best way to somewhat understand.

The internet has broken down a lot of the barriers of social communication that many autistics face. It has opened up an entire autistic community, and people should be exploring these blogs to learn more about autism. Autistics Speaking Day recognizes how the internet has introduced new opportunities for communication like blogging by overcoming physical distances and eliminating social interaction barriers.

On Autistics Speaking Day, the internet will explode with the voices of autistic people. The autistic community has a lot to say, and the internet gives many people the gift of speech. I hope that instead of staying away from their computers, people will be perusing autism blogs and opening their eyes to the autistic community.

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