Autism Advocates Tap Social Media Sites to Promote Awareness

With the meteoric rise of social media Web sites such as Facebook and
Twitter, many individuals and groups now have the opportunity to reach large
numbers of people to promote awareness, advocacy and attention for their causes.
Such is the case with autism, where a dramatic spike in prevalence over the last
10 years has prompted many people to the take to the Internet to help, support
and encourage others through the popular online social networks.

Stuart Duncan is the father of a five-year-old child with autism and one such
example of how Twitter can be effectively used for advocacy efforts. Operating
under the handle @autismfather, Duncan has amassed nearly 2,000 followers in the
last year and has since been interviewed by CNN and recently helped raise
thousands of dollars when Samsung offered $5 for every tweet that contained the
hashtag #TeamAutism.

Duncan has a loyal online following and is currently planning to use Twitter and
other Web sites as ways to implement an "upgrade" to Autism Awareness
Day this coming April 2nd.

"My goals are quite lofty," he said. "The world is already aware
of autism, but doesn’t truly know what it is. We feel the message of awareness
is not enough, so the plan is to implement something known as Autism
Understanding and Acceptance." 

Duncan says there are already twenty charities and companies on board to help
support the cause, with more to follow.

Duncan’s story is just one example that shows how the Internet has leveled
the playing field for normal, everyday people. In year’s past, awareness efforts
were typically reserved for the large multi-million dollar organizations such as
the American Red Cross or the Muscular Dystrophy Association, requiring lengthy
telethons and big budgets to raise funding and awareness. However, the Internet,
via Facebook and Twitter, has completely changed the landscape of how people are
reaching out to others.

Zoey Roberts is a British Columbia resident on the autism spectrum who has
taken to Facebook over the last 3 years to promote autism awareness and also
give others insight into her Asperger’s Syndrome. With social situations a
challenge, Roberts is able to use Facebook as a tool to connect with others to
both receive and offer support.

Roberts has over 3,000 friends (Facebook.com/AutismRights) and runs multiple
Facebook groups that allow her to share her experiences and unique perspectives.

"Through my online advocacy, I’m able to accomplish not only autism awareness,
but also give others the opportunity to see things from the point of view from someone on the
autism spectrum," said Roberts. "Using Facebook, my goal is to
eventually create autism awareness, peace, unity and hopefully acceptance as
well."

With more than 500 million active users on Facebook and over 200 million Twitter
users, social media has become the vehicle of choice to promote causes and
awareness. As recent events in Egypt and the Middle East have demonstrated, a
voice that was once drowned out can now be heard loud and clear through the use
of these types of sites.

And with autism rates continuing to climb at exponential levels, we can expect
to see many more emerging voices on behalf of autism in the near future.