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Yesterday a lot of people on twitter and facebook vowed to be silent for 24 hours as part of Communication Shutdown, a global fundraiser for autism. I'm not entirely sure if the intent was to raise money (paying for people to shut up?) or to raise awareness (by someone's conspicuous absence?) but I do wonder what the results were. It certainly created a lot of controversy with people speaking out both for and against the effectiveness of the shutdown.

Personally, I see a lot more value in speaking up.

Rather than pretending that disabilities don't exist, I see value in helping people understand how to treat people with disabilities, in helping to ensure people with disabilities are not invisible, and in fighting to ensure that people with disabilities are given the resources and support that they need.

Rather than pretending that violence and harassment don't exist, I see value in speaking out. Violence Unsilenced is a powerful initiative aimed at giving people a voice. So many people have told their stories and received support. But it saddens me that despite having the medium, through our blogs, to tell our stories, that people still get criticized for doing so. When a woman speaks up about harassment she deserves to be supported. Blaming the victim for what happened or how or when she shared is a silencing technique. It is no wonder people still choose to be silent.

Choosing silence is...controversial. Being told to be silent is....wrong.

Speaking up is, after all, what blogging and social media is all about. Having a voice. Using that voice. Each voice is unique.

I am unsilent.

Thank you Ellen, Tanis, Maggie, Karen and so many others for being unsilent too. You are my heroes.

Image credit: fd on flickr
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Reader Comments (26)

Lovely point. Voices are more powerful when raised together. I'm thankful we parents, as a community, have women such as you to help us find a way for our voices to be heard.

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMandy @ Tempestbeauty.com

I don't know enough to comment on yesterday's silence campaign but generally silence is used as proof of an absence - of a crime or abuse, of support for a cause or, worse, as agreement with a behaviour that is objectionable. Speaking up is difficult but our job as adults is to do what is difficult when it is right.

Thanks for the post

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenter@OttMomGo

I agree. My initial reaction to the campaign was "great...more attention for autism - awesome". but then i was confused...spend the day being quiet? nope. not for me.

i have a son with a learning disability. we have been loud in our fight for proper services for years. being quiet gets you...ignored. and underserved. and makes you invisible.

we are also a family that is touched by autism. there has been quiet around that and that does no one any good. especially the children involved.

i applaud the intent, i donated...but then kept right on talking:). it is what i do best and where i find that i get the best results.

and now off to check the other links you have shared....

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterangela

Beautifully said. Speaking up about injustice or wrongs is our duty, to give a voice to those who CANNOT speak. I know that having my story on Violence Unsilenced lifted my life and spirit in ways that I could never have imagined.

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErin

"The squeaky wheel gets the oil." I agree with Angela's comment above that states that advocating out LOUD for services is the only way to get the attention and services you need for your child. Ditto for Autism, Bipolar, Tourettes, ADD, Learning Disabilities etc etc!

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaryn Climans

I agree. While I know people participating in silent days certainly mean well, I think they're ineffective. I didn't even know that autism event happened. I sure would've known if autism was trending on Twitter & there were bunches of mentions of it in my Facebook news feed!

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaman A Droit

My husband and I both have Asperger Syndrome, a form of Autism. I have ALWAYS found these "silence" things totally annoying. HOW is being "quiet" supposed to BRING ATTENTION? Well, OK, you might get "Why are you being so quiet" questions- but then you should say WHY so that people know. I'm with you- I'd much rather speak my mind. So, as someone from the Autism community I just want to say thanks :) And, just as a quick side note, I'd like to say that people with differences are NOT "broken". We don't need fixing. What we do want is UNDERSTANDING. OK, off my soapbox now :)

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGigi

I didn't understand the silence either Annie. And once again, you've written what I was thinking and made it sound a thousand times better. Thanks for another great post. Will spread the word.

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSuchada @ Mama Eve

I agree that there is tremendous value in speaking up. I know that people feel that there are different ways to make an impact, and I'm thankful for people who want to make an impact whether or not I agree with their methods all the time. I'm personally working on raising my own voice, but it's a hard change to make after so many years of being "quietly nice."

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCasey

Silence does nobody any good in the long run. Whether we are talking about abuse or disability, silence just covers things up. I am all for raising awareness, but my preferred method is to scream from the rooftops. Talk to anyone who will listen. I am so grateful to Maggie for starting VU, and to Tanis for sharing Jumby's story, as that gave me the courage to tell mine. Now, just try and shut me up. Which is exactly the way it should be, if you ask me.

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie in Toronto

Thank you for your voice, for you support in yesterday's #AutismShoutOUT and #ASDay and for refusing to allow anyone to silence you.

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSunday

I like how you contrasted choosing silence versus being told to be silent. Important distinction.

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulie @ The Mom Slant

Well said! In fact, I think that support for and awareness of autism is much greater than that of many other disabilities (like cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, etc.) because of how vocal individuals who have autism and their families have been about their cause (whether awareness, support, treatment, etc.) and how well they've been able to raise their voices together. I wonder how effective the campaign was... I wasn't aware of it until today... and I work with kids who have disabilities.

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

While I wasn't tuned into yesterday's campaign either (perhaps I didn't hear about it....sorry, couldn't resist. But it does prove a point.), I don't see how being silent is going to raise awareness for anything. For so long people have endured multiple sufferings in silence, which stemmed from fear or shame. From racism to sexual assault to living with myriad disabilities. Being silent by choice to raise awareness seems counter-intuitive to me. In order to turn the eyes towards oneself, one must SPEAK UP. Silence shrinks and recedes. The human voice is a powerful tool...use it.

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Coote

So wisely said, as always. Thank you for the shout out. I decided to not participate in this campaign for the very reasons you mention. Like many moms of kids with special needs, I started my blog to raise awareness for my child, and to be a voice for him because he cannot speak; staying silent is the opposite of what I seek to do. I treated yesterday like I treat every day: a day to celebrate my child.

And Annie, thank YOU for consistently being unsilent as well. You are a hero to many.

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Seidman

Julie @ The Mom Slant:

Thank you. I think it is an important distinction. There are times when I choose silence. I choose silence to protect people's privacy. I choose silence to avoid hurting others. I choose silence when I fear the consequences of speaking out. I don't think that choosing silence is an effective way to raise awareness, but I do think that in certain circumstances the benefits of being unsilent need to be weighed against the consequences. But that is a personal decision for each person to make and it is not up to others to dictate what, when or how they choose to share.

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Thank you Annie.

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Sugarpants

Though I fully understand what you are saying I also believe that their being 'silent' for a day may have been more of a symbolic gesture. To demonstrate in some way what someone with autism is going through. In this day and age, electronic communication is EVERYTHING! So, not communication and not being present on the net is somehow supposed to show that sense of disconnect and inability to communicate with others effectively that many people with autism may face. I may be wrong... but as far as symbolic gestures go, I find it touching and it did make me 'think' about the issue of autism. But I also agree with you, silence will only get you so far... then you must speak up and be heard, it's really the only way to change the world.

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAida

the main message i got from the choosing not to be on facebook or twitter for an entire 24 hours was the absence of communication. personally speaking, it was very frustrating to be 'unable' to talk back, communicate and join in - as i understand it (having worked with some young adults with autism) this is a major disability in being part of today's society.

while the planned silence was less of a vocal campaigning for a cause, it may have made many who took part actually think about what kind of world many people do inhabit if they are limited in one way or another. not being able to rattle off my thoughts and respond to friends online was a blow to my 24 hours - it was a personal journey, and it did bring home to me how disabling "not being the norm" is.

coincidentally, i also spent a lot of the 24 hours reflecting on how my own unilateral deafness and allied tinnitus 'excludes' me from some aspects of daily life and discourages me from reaching out within my community. i've written of the woes of my extremely small support network and complete crapness at making friends - though not completely the cause, the deafness precludes a lot of social interactions. it's minor compared with more severe forms of communication disability - more of a taster of what some people go through on a daily basis, without or without voluntary days of silence.

there are many different ways of advocating, a eliciting a personal response is one of them. the 24 hours communication black out was one of these and I think very powerful

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpomomama aka ebbandflo

I agree. Too often we are silent. Our strength is in our voices. Raised together.

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGwen

This was difficult for me. I support and appreciate any sort of activism which shines a light on people with disabilities, (the invisibles) but in my ten years as an advocate for children with disabilities I have found the very best way to advocate for these people is to USE MY VOICE.

My children can't speak up. I can. And I CHOOSE never to silence my voice for them, or for any cause I believe in because my VOICE is more powerful than silence could ever be for them.

That said, just because I didn't agree with the methods of this campaign, doesn't mean I don't support the cause. I just CHOOSE to communicate. For the invisibles.

Love you Annie.

And thank you.

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRedneck Mommy

What I would have liked to see was posts, from all the people who chose to be silent, about their experience with autism. As parents, caregivers, teachers, whatever their role may be. I want to learn about peoples experiences and what I can do. Because then I feel like I can lend my voice to a cause but only after I better understand it.

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSara

I know that SOME people with Autism are "nonverbal", but there are many more who are NOT- like my husband and I. So I do not find being silent symbolic of what we go through. Even those of us who are nonverbal still communicate- through music, writing, hand signals, the ways of communicating are endless- communication is key to getting awareness and getting understanding. Communicating absolutely nothing is kind of missing the point. I think they meant well but it is frustrating to me, as someone with it, to see people who want to help do something like this.

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGigi

And for many people with autism, technology is the only way (or the easiest way) they can communicate - it can enable them to connect with others without some of the stressors of face-to-face communication. I sort of get the symbolism of a day of tecnological silence but feel that the point was definitely lost.

November 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

Thanks for not being silent. As the wife of a man on the autism spectrum and mother to a son who is on it as well, I am not willing to silence myself for even one day. We raise the most awareness when we are vocal and present.

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarfMom

Annie, as someone with a 8 year-old autistic nephew, I agree - silence is NOT what's needed. If I think of the times my sister in law has been 'scolded' for her bad parenting or for not 'controlling her child' and so on, I find it heartbreaking. Not only is she an amazing mom, but Michael has come so far with the specialist treatment she's worked HARD to be able to give him. She has had to fight even his school who want to put him on drugs to make him more docile, but she refuses as she wants to help him develop and grow rather than just shut him 'off'. No, I don't think we need silence. As with so many other things I've said so many times, really, what we need is a little understanding and a lot of education. Thanks for not being silent.

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