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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Parents, Facebook, and Community

The Connecticut tragedy has prompted members of the community to join together and push back on the speculation that autism had anything to do with it.

At The Connor Chronicles, Flannery Sullivan writes:
After the horrific events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary, news reports and articles were seen everywhere, and a great many, in their haste to report something, indicated that the shooter was autistic, specifically, a person with Asperger’s. That reporting set off a nightmarish chain of events in which ill-informed people, believing that autism could be attributed to planned violence, made hateful comments and put up Facebook pages calling for extermination of autistics.

Others started sharing pictures of their loved ones, with meaningful descriptions. Someone had an idea to put all the pictures in one place. Tim Tucker, from Both Hands and a Flashlight, had a FB page that was empty, waiting to be used. He offered up the page, as well as worked to create a website, and Autism Shines was born.
We couldn’t believe how quickly it grew. Although it was created just a couple of days before Christmas, the FB page acquired 2,000 fans in less than 48 hours, and amassed a few hundred photos. The website is now operational, and is gaining in popularity as well.
At Parents, a post by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs over at AutismWonderland.
Last Saturday when I woke up and checked my Facebook, I noticed my feed was full of friends (mostly autism parents) sharing all these beautiful photos of kids, teenagers, adults. All the photos had some kind of personal message about the person in the photo. All the photos were shared from a page called Autism Shines - a page created by autism parents.
In reading the messages, I was so moved. Not only by the messages on the photos but by the amount of shares, likes and comments of support. One mother showed the page to her son and he said, “I used to think I was the only autistic kid on earth. Then I realized there were others like me. I think there are some kids who don’t know they aren’t alone, but now they will know.”
In their effort to “show the world all the positive attributes of autism,” The Autism Shines Facebook Page welcomes anyone to “upload your photo of someone you love with autism, or yourself, and caption it with something great about them.”
When I uploaded my photo of Norrin, the page had about 200 ‘likes.’ By the end of the same day – it had a little more than 1500 and the number keeps growing (it’s close to 3000 now). This is the power of community. This is autism awareness at its best.