A blog post popped up on my Facebook today that changed my blog post topic for tonight and how my entire day will go tomorrow. The Communication Shutdown will help raise funds for and awareness of autism worldwide. Jess’s post, which was followed a bit later by its twin post on Luau’s blog, invited us to join her in shutting down Facebook and Twitter communication for one day, in “a symbolic gesture of solidarity and support for those who struggle every day to communicate.”
Why does it matter to me? I do not have a child with autism. I have zero right to claim to have any idea of what it feels like to be part of a family with a member who has autism. BUT, for some reason God has given me a couple of opportunities to have a glimpse into what people facing HUGE challenges feel. One was when I had a “suspicious area in my breast” ten years ago, waited 30 days for the needle biopsy, then arrived for the biopsy and watched the surgeon scratch his head as he performed 11 mammograms to try to find something that wasn’t there anymore (thank God for that valium!). The second was when Wayne “failed” his screening through the First Words Project at the age of 12 months. The screening involves a “pre screen” that is a form filled out by the parent (I completed his when his first birthday picture was taken at the Tallahassee Democrat). It asks questions like, “does your child point to demonstrate something he wants?” For the period between the initial results of the screening (which stated he was below normal for his age) until he was released from the First Words project at the age of two with the status of “must have been just a slow talker; all caught up,” I was on an emotional seesaw teetering between trying to determine how we would pay for years of special therapies, wondering how our family would adapt to deal with a child with a communication disorder, and rejoicing disproportionately with every single tiny advance (like pointing to a desired object).
No, I don’t know what it feels like to be the parent of a child with autism, but I have had a fleeting taste of what it feels like to wonder if autism is going to touch my family, and that has raised my empathy level for parents of kids with autism by about 500%.
Now, about the “no Facebook, no Twitter” part of this. I described my personal social media approach in this post. Short version: although it has its drawbacks, I love it! Although I don’t feel the need for an extended social media hiatus like many blog about, I have been curious to see if my ability to focus would improve if my social media “stuff” were not at the tip of my fingers on my smart phone.
In addition, it alarmed me a bit when Tenley, whose math text is on cd and who has to request a “real” book and provide a reason for the request, told her teacher that I use our home computer to freelance a lot (true), but then told me that she said it that way “because I didn’t want to tell my teacher you’re on Facebook all the time.” Ouch.
That said, here are some things I won’t be able to do tomorrow:
- Say “happy birthday” to any FB friends who have November 1 birthdays
- Click “like” to indicate that I am amused by, supportive of, or in some other way feeling positive about someone else’s post
- Promote this blog via Facebook and Twitter (so please feel free to share it if you liked it!)
- Check on my daughter’s profile to see who her friends are and what she’s up to
Here are some things I will be able to do tomorrow:
- Focus more effectively at work without the siren call of social media
- Get out the door in the morning without being “hair on fire” stressed because I spent so much time on social media that I don’t have time to iron, blow dry, or dress
- Let any good or bad news sit until Tuesday – and give myself something to look forward to
- Remind people who see that I am participating in the Communications Shutdown that the world can be frightening and overwhelming to a person with autism (and their family)
See you Tuesday!