SapientNitro have devised a new social media campaign to raise awareness and money for autism globally.

The idea to promote a ‘Communication Shutdown’, where people are encouraged not to use Facebook and Twitter all day November 1st, began as a campaign for the AEIOU Foundation, a non-profit that provides therapy for children with autism, but quickly spread worldwide. Now, over 40 autism charities are involved and participants can donate in several currencies.

“We all take social communication for granted, but it is one of the biggest challenges for people with autism – this was the driving premise for the campaign,” says SapientNitro’s Australian co-executive creative director Nancy Hartley. “Rather than spend donations on advertising, the fundraiser is powered by the people and is ironically using social networks to shutdown social networks.”

“By choosing to shutdown their social networks for one day, users will have some idea of what it’s like for people with autism who face this challenge every day.”

Participants can sign up online at the communication shutdown website, where they must donate a minimum of five dollars to their national autism charity. They then receive a social media kit of blog buttons, email signatures and screen savers, as well as the Charity App (‘CHAPP’). The CHAPP places the participant’s profile photo onto the ‘Shutdown’ website mosaic of worldwide participants, and brands a cross onto the photo (example below), so people can spread the word about the cause and make it clear why they will not be active on Facebook or Twitter on November 1st.

Electing to shutdown social communication mirrors autistic silence,” says Rachael Harris, a counselor and supporter, who is on the autism spectrum. “But it also draws attention to the isolation and intense loneliness experienced by those who are impeded from connecting socially with others. The CHAPP is a powerful way to create a true sense of empathy towards those on the autism spectrum.”