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Dear 50 cent, I hate what you said, but thank you

On Twitter, where these things always seem to happen, a follower lashed out at 50 Cent (kind of tongue in cheek-like), insisting that he release his album early. In an attempt to by funny, 50 Cent tweeted back something that put the entire autism community into battle stations.

And I say, thank you.

50 Cent

50 Cent

What he said

First, let me show you what he said. These tweets have been removed from his stream but he has yet, at the time of this writing, to apologize.

yeah i just saw your picture fool you look autistic”

i dont want no special ed kids on my time line follow some body else”

just kidding about da special ed kids man, i was in special ed day said i had anger issues lol”

My reaction

At first, I was a bit upset but mostly disappointed. I am not exactly his biggest fan although I do like his songs that I hear on the radio. Nor am I well versed in his life but I have heard that he’s more intelligent than most would give him credit for and that he is quite the philanthropist.

Both of these things greatly contradict his remarks and would have me questioning if what I had heard was true.

Still though, I took to Twitter myself and Facebook and Google+ and shared what he had said. I tacked on “Not cool man. Not cool.” to show my disapproval but reserved any emotional response for later… after I had time to think about it.

Holly Robinson PeeteHolly R. Peete

Probably the best response and the one that is making it’s rounds around the Hollywood and news media scene is the open letter from Holly R. Peete, the celebrity mother of an autistic child.

You can read her response here. I suggest you do now if you haven’t already: Dear 50 Cent…

Her letter made a lot of people rejoice, repost and even cry. It prompted a wave of tweets from parents, all sharing their child’s pictures with a single unified message: “This is what autistic looks like.”

Her tweet, with the link to her response, has over 1000 retweets and that’s not counting all of the other people that have tweeted the link. My own tweet to it has dozens of retweets as well.

I can honestly say that I’ve never seen that before. It is amazing!

Wait, why thank you?

So why is it that I am saying thank you to a guy that said something so hurtful? Why am I saying thank you when so many people are so mad that they wish they could meet him face to face to yell at him in person for what he said?

Well, for two reasons really.

Number 1 is that he, and others like him who do these things, are able to unite the autism community, even if for just a moment. All parents, experts, educators, autistics and everyone else associated with the community all felt the same thing at the same time. And as improbable as it seems sometimes, the entire community actually is all saying the same thing… shame on you 50 Cent.

We’re all mad. We’re all waiting for an apology. We’re all disgusted for the same reason.

Oh, it’s ugly, but it’s unity. I’d rather it could come under different circumstances but there it is.

Number 2 is that it shows us just how much work we really have left to do. If raising awareness was step 1, then we’re only now tipping our toes into step 2… and there’s still 8 more steps to go.

The world has become so familiar with autism that it’s now a commonplace enough word to sling around carelessly, just as the r-word has been in the past. And that’s being beaten back, thanks to a lot of hard work from a lot of great people. But it’s hard work all the same.

If celebrity philanthropists can sling around “autistic” as an insult, in an attempt to be funny, then hard work is quite the understatement. But it does mean that people are aware. Now we have to inform.

And despite the lack of apology… I think the backlash and recent media attention (thanks to Holly R. Peete’s great response) is a great step forward towards informing people.

A lot of people are reading and watching and listening to that media. People who knew less about autism than 50 Cent apparently did. And they’re getting an ear full.

Just to be clear

I don’t condone what he said. I don’t like what he said. But it was said and I was mad, for a moment.

Still though, it’s an eye opener. A rude one but an eye opener. And despite the very negative beginning, I think this little episode is actually doing a lot of good.

With a united community and with great people like Holly R. Peete standing up to those who make statements like that, we’re well on our way to ensuring that these little episodes don’t happen again. Or at the very least, rarely.

And I welcome that. A lot of people just found out how very wrong it is to try to use “autistic” as an insult… whether they’re just trying to be funny or not.

That makes me smile. The entire autism community, for a moment, makes me smile.

I really hope he apologizes. That would really put a great little wrap up on this whole ordeal.

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When raising Autism Awareness gets out of hand and becomes something else

I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend lately…. Autism Awareness.. run amok!

Autism awareness is a great thing, it’s a wonderful thing…. it’s a necessary thing.
But as we all know, too much of a good thing can be bad for you.

Here are just a few instances where well intentioned Autism Awareness becomes more of a nuisance than a good thing.

towerThe Share-o-holic

This happens all over the internet but the two most obvious places I see it played out is on Twitter and Facebook. This is what it looks like:

  • Twitter: Instead of tweeting a link or message, they mention every single person they can find on Twitter and tweet their link or message, over and over, to each person, until they get blocked by Twitter for spam. Often, these all come with a request to retweet it.
  • Facebook links: So excited about a blog post or someone writing about them, they race to every profile, fan page and group that they can find on Facebook to share that link. Thousands of shares later, they do it again the next day.
  • Facebook bios: Having written a cleverly worded bio about who they are, what they do or what they offer, they hit every profile, fan page and group that they can post to and repeat it again, word for word, weekly or more.

This constant repetition is frustrating enough but seeing it daily or weekly is enough to make me want to unlike those fan pages, remove myself from those groups and so forth… all because of one person. And I’m all for Autism Awareness! Imagine what others must think.

The News Source Replicator

Being aware of what is in the news is paramount to being aware of what’s happening in the Autism community but also in being aware of what may benefit you or your children. Some new information may shed some light on things close to home, some new therapy may be just what you need.

That’s great!

However, what we don’t need is for people to automate their Twitter account to just pull from a news source on Autism.

If their entire Facebook feed is news stories and never an actual conversation piece or anything, no one is reading.

If they login to Google+ once a day just to hit the share button on every single Spark available that day and then they’re gone after… people will remove them from their circles.

Listen to me carefully, if all you have is news… no one is reading. You’ve blown it. Autism Awareness is your goal but not your achievement.

Alienating Your Own Kind

Oh this one scares me… I just shake my head…. violently. I am just so dumbfounded.

Recently (late July to be exact), Temple Grandin created an actual Facebook profile. Not just a fan page, but a profile. So she could have friends and everything.

It was quite impressive to see how quickly she got to 5000 (the max). It’s a true testament to her and her work.


For the last 2 weeks, I’ve watched update after updating of Temple Grandin joining an Autism group on Facebook. Now, groups don’t work the way you might expect. Temple Grandin isn’t actually joining these groups. The groups are adding her.

The way groups work on Facebook is the group can just add anyone it wants and it’s up to those people to opt out.

Now, think about how frustrating this must be when it happens 10 or 20 times a day.

Granted, it’s mostly someone representing her and also, she’s a very kind woman and probably doesn’t really mind being in all those groups however at the same time, it’s really quite rude of so many people to do this to her. Her Facebook stream must be simply filled with group posts. Insanely filled.

Is this really how we treat someone we respect so much? We force hundreds of Facebook groups on her until she finally decides she’s had enough and leaves Facebook behind?

What exactly is it we’re doing?

Are we really raising awareness when we do this? Are we really “sharing our message” with others?

Or are we trying to ram our own need for attention down the throats of others?

Because sometimes, I have to wonder.

And if you know me, you know that I’m all for raising awareness. For doing more than that! But this is not the way to do that.

Making people want to block you, unfollow you, leave the places they used to enjoy… all just to get away from you.. what is it you’re really doing?


In the social media world, this is called broadcasting. This means that all you do is send message after message, link after link, story after story and you either don’t, or very seldom actually interact with anyone. You take nothing in.

If you treat social networks as your own personal radio station, you’re doing it wrong.

First of all, no one listens to a radio station that only has one song.
Secondly, people  looking for social interactions don’t turn on a radio for it.

I’ve often said that Autism Awareness is a passion for some people but the problem is that passion can be blinding sometimes. In an effort to share the message with the world, you become obnoxious and the world becomes annoyed and tunes you out.

When that happens, you don’t just hurt yourself, you hurt all of us for all of our messages become a little less powerful, a little less heard.

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My tips for using FollowFriday effectively on Twitter for Autism

FollowFriday is a Twitter tradition whereby, every Friday, people ‘recommend’ other Twitter members to follow. For example, if I put #FollowFriday (or #FF for short) and the name of a Twitter member, that means I recommend that you follow them too.

I put quotes around ‘recommend’ because it’s evolved to become more of a ‘shout out’ thing, where I’ve noticed many people just list celebrities/influential people, or friends/family.

If you are involved with Autism in some way, I want you to hear me out because from here on out, I refuse to give shout outs… and I really don’t want to offend anyone along the way.

Autism, like any other cause that we believe in, is very important and very serious and it’s for this reason that, even though I happen to be quite proud of my sense of humour and ‘go with the flow’ nature, I take some things quite seriously. This FollowFriday tradition is one that I’m going to take more seriously from here on out.

follow friday

#FollowFriday or #FF

The Real Value

There is a great site (FollowFriday.com) which actually ranks people based on the number of FollowFriday mentions they get. That’s not what is important. What is intriguing, to me, is that they do NOT count anyone’s mentions if they mention more than 50 people.

The reasoning for this is quite brilliant, in that, if you are recommending more than 50 people to follow, you don’t really mean it. You could have a million people in your list and you should still be able to narrow down real genuine serious recommendations for others to follow to less than 50.

This gives your recommendations value. REAL VALUE.

If someone recommends 3 people to follow, and they have a list of 20,000 people… those are 3 very special people! Wouldn’t you agree? They have a lot of value to be singled out and displayed to the other 19,997 people.

If they were just 3 people included amongst 50 other mentions, their value not only diminishes but disappears completely since not one single person on the entire Internet would sift through your 50 mentions and try to find the ones of real value.

In the case of Autism, or any cause, this is especially important and critical. If I go recommending 20 people that are funny and 5 people that are genuinely great information sources on Autism, the message will get lost and the value gone.

Making your choices mean something

It all comes down to building a stronger community, that doesn’t mean that I intend on excluding people. Don’t get me wrong. I would love to FollowFriday my entire list but I know full well that it will mean getting NO CLICKS instead of more. As I said before, not one person would spend the time weeding through the mess to find the value. And so, it would accomplish nothing.

Carefully selecting the truly worthy members of your list and recommending those few will ensure extra exposure, added value and more follows which will help to build a stronger and even larger community.

It is for this reason that I have decided to drastically cut down the number of FollowFriday mentions that I will make each Friday. I really do not wish to offend anyone by not mentioning them.

There are simply far too many people that I actually do want to mention. But I can’t or else I do more harm than good.

Some tips or guidelines, not rules

In summary, I have made this list of tips for effectively using the FollowFriday tradition in regards to the Autism community:

  1. Limit yourself to a finite number of people each week. Maybe 10? 20? Lower if possible. And stick to it. It forces you to be extra picky.
  2. Make lists, use them, one per week. Lists such as parents, charities, information, merchandise, etc… you can visit one list each week and pick the top members from them to FollowFriday. This way, each week you feature categories of members, allowing you to cover more people over time since you likely won’t repeat a mention for several weeks.
  3. Keep a notepad txt file on your desktop and keep tabs on someone you’ve noticed with really good information, especially inspiring, good blog posts, etc for that specific week. Give that person a mention that Friday. They’ve worked hard, they deserve it. Erase after and start it fresh on Saturday.
  4. Pick people that your followers would be genuinely interested in. Not just family or friends. They might be upset that they recommended you and you didn’t return it but if you want this to actually mean something more than giving a friendly shout out, they’ll understand.
  5. FollowFridays don’t have to be Friday exclusive. It’s nice to be included that one day, but it means even more to get a random “Wow, you really have to follow @twitter_member, they know a lot!”. It means more to that person, it means more to your followers.
  6. If you are making more than one tweet for your mentions, include a one-two word descriptor to tell people who or why you recommend them. Most of my FollowFriday mentions look like this: “#FF #Autism Charities: ” or “#FF #Autism Parents:”. This allows people the ability to sift through them and look for the people they’re most interested in.
  7. It’s not a competition! People put value on the # of followers that a person has but I’d gladly put my 1000 followers up against someone else’s 10,000 because almost all of mine discuss Autism. This gives my followers a lot of extra value to me. They mean everything to me since Autism is my world (at least on Twitter anyway).
  8. Since it’s not a competition, don’t use those #FollowFriday list building tools. Some are clever and try to find others that you’ve mentioned a lot or that have mentioned you a lot… but they can’t really judge true value. They can never replace your own ability to place a desire to share a follower with the world.

Think about it as a party and you’re making introductions. You don’t introduce random people to random people and you don’t introduce a person to other people when you know those other people won’t really want to meet them.

You introduce someone to people when you think they will have a mutual interest in each other.

So introduce me to someone that you think is someone that I’d want to follow and I’ll follow them. But don’t throw a ton of names at me because I won’t remember their names later.

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Make the most of the online Autism community, Part 1 – Twitter

The Autism community is global, there’s no race or group of people that Autism does not affect. The problem of the past was in bringing these people together to compare notes and support each other but these days we have a lot of ways to find each other. In the next few articles, I’d like to bring up a few of them but each one has it’s own distinct group of people and features to use. To begin with, I’d like to discuss the micro-blogging site Twitter.

TwitterIf you’re already familiar with Twitter, skip this paragraph, if not, then here’s the basic concept. Twitter is a ‘micro-blogging’ site in that all you get is a small box that accommodates 140 characters (numbers, letters, symbols) to share information with others that ‘follow’ you. You can follow anyone and anyone can follow you but you also have the choice of blocking people or making your entries (called Tweets) protected, so that only people you hand select can read them. That’s Twitter in a nutshell.

Twitter is a great place to help encourage each other and share small pieces of advice/wisdom with other like minded people, in this case, Autism. But first you have to accomplish two goals:

  1. Find people to follow, preferably people that you’re actually interested in.
  2. Get people to follow you, again, people that actually share your interests.

When you first join, this can seem like a very daunting task and for most, the numbers do not rise very quickly. I am going to share a few tips I’ve learned in getting your foot into the online Autism community.

1. Your bio – Settings

Far too often I find people following me that have a genuine interest in Autism, maybe even are Autistic themselves or having a family member who is Autistic but they do not put it in their bio. That’s great if they feel it’s not that important or not who they are but you know what? I feel no great need to follow them back as they do not fit my interest, which is raising Autism awareness.

If you’re reading this, I am assuming that being an Autism advocate and raising awareness is on your mind so add a little something to your bio. Doesn’t have to be a lot, you can write 3 lines on things you enjoy and tack on “Autism Advocate” to the very end and that will be enough to ensure that anyone involved in Autism will hit that follow button and include you into the community.

It’s a simple thing but often overlooked.

2. There’s more to you than your cause

It’s great that you feel passionately about something but you have to realize, we all do. It is the ‘Autism Community’ after all, and we all have our various issues we feel strongly about. That being said, we would love to hear about you and yours and support you as best we can however we also want to get to know you, and that means you’re going to have to tell us a little more than just what your cause is.

You don’t have to get personal, just share jokes, links to sites you find interesting, tell us something funny that just happened in your house. It’s a little unnerving at first sharing things with people you don’t know but if you want people to relate to you and feel for you… you’re going to have to let us in and not overwhelm us with your passion, or else it will just sound like a chant to us.

3. Conversations – Simple, but sometimes we forget

Twitter is a micro-blogging site and in that, sometimes we feel we should just be making a statement and leaving… but it is also a bunch of human beings on the other end of those tweets that you’re trying to reach. And those people are sharing things with you, what they’re eating, what they’re reading, the funny thing their kids just did… if you want those people to be interested in you, you’re going to have to be interested in them.

Most of the time when we read something funny, we chuckle to ourselves and then move away. In this case, don’t move away, actually hit that reply button and put “That’s funny, thanks for sharing” and before you know it, you’ll have a new follower, maybe even a new friend.

And the next time you share something funny, you’ll be getting responses as well… and that person that responded has their own followers and they’ll want to see what was so funny and then.. their followers will find you!

4. Retweet!

If you find that someone links to some brand new research just released, or some great advice or even just something generally interesting to most people, retweet it. It only takes 2 clicks… and you just know that you really want those people to retweet your stuff. So in this case, you’re going to have to give a little to get a little.

On top of that, you’ll be sharing stuff that others will find interesting and want to retweet themselves. Before long, they’ll think of you as an information source even though you didn’t go get that information yourself. Retweeting is a great way to show that you do your homework, that you care, that you share and that you’re someone valuable to follow.

That being said, there’s nothing wrong with retweeting something that you know very few will like besides you, because it shows who you are, but you have to realize that this won’t be something to entice new followers your way. Sometimes keeping things in your bookmarks is a better way to go.

5. Search + hashtags

Hashtags are keywords with a # in front of them. Basically, it’s just a way of flagging a word such that it becomes very easy to find in the search. For example, searching for #Autism in the search box will return a huge list of people that are sharing great information and advice right now! Find the ones that look to be sharing the best stuff and follow them. Chances are they’ll follow you back. If not, no big loss, they’re providing you with great information to retweet or use in your life.

Conversely, if you tweet about something important, such as Autism, put a # in front of it to ensure that others are finding it. It takes a little practice to know when to use it, what words to use them on… but if you have a few conversations and browse enough, you’ll get the hang of it pretty quick. Think ‘topics’ when you think of what to hashtag. Some examples: #Autsim, #ASD, #ADHD, #parenting

6. FollowFriday

Now that I’ve mentioned hashtags, one hashtag is extremely popular on Fridays called #FollowFriday. This tag is not really used for searching but for 2 other reasons. One is to give a shout out to people they follow that they enjoy reading and two is to recommend those people to the rest of their followers.

For example, if I find your tweets to be very informative and/or entertaining, I may put your name into a tweet with a #FollowFriday hashtag which tells others that you have something valuable to offer and that they should consider following you as well.

If you follow steps 1 – 5 (and throw in your own personal brand of personality), then people will be compelled to recommend you the next Friday that rolls around and gain you more followers.

But keep in mind, this also goes both ways. If you never recommend anyone, chances are you won’t be getting many mentions yourself. Most people won’t take it personally but they still won’t be as keen no recommending people to their followers that don’t share the kindness.

8. Remember, we’re all human.

Seems a little silly but often we forget that the weird names with weird tweets are real human beings out there, with real lives, with real issues of their own. Those people sharing their lives and issues are what draws you into reading about them and you sharing yours will be what draws them into yours.

Try not to offend, we all share something in common in the Autism community but we all also have our own view points on various things. Agree to disagree, try to keep an open mind and read what they have to say as something they believe. Right or wrong, your opinion or not, real people have their reasons for thinking how they do. And if you want them to respect you, you have to keep that in mind.


Twitter is a great way to become part of the community, get and share information, advice, knowledge, experiences and so much more. It can be slow going at first but keep in mind that when you get higher in numbers, the speed also picks up. If you treat people well and share (to and from), then before you know it, you’ll be struggling to keep up with it all and loving every minute of it.

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Social Media Could Not Have Come at a Better Time, Let’s Use it For Autism!

It’s sadly ironic that a disorder affecting 1 in 110 children (by current estimates) can leave you feeling so alone. How can a world of almost 7 billion people have around 63,000,000 Autistic people in it and still leave us feeling like we have no one to talk to and no one who will understand what we’re going through? Mathematically, it seems ridiculous.

But the truth of the matter is that we do feel alone, we do feel isolated and we do feel like no matter how hard we try, we just can’t get people to understand what it’s like. More so than that, we feel lost as there are far too few programs, organizations and professionals for us to talk to.

Luckily, for many of us, we have already had a fair amount of experience with the internet and have grown accustomed to seeking out information for ourselves, some are even adept at researching for more information, or keeping themselves up to date on current trends. But it’s only been in the last 3 or 4 years really that our greatest tool has been brought to us, social websites!

Now, more than ever, we can connect and share stories and information with each other one on one or in groups. Facebook and Twitter are my personal favorites and I have received an overwhelming amount of support from the wonderful people I’ve found there.

I highly recommend using these and many other social sites as tools in your quest to add more information to your arsenal, and even to help gain that extra support, motivation and inspiration you may need to get you through some of the tougher days.

I do have a couple words of warning however, from my own personal experiences.

  1. Beware the temptation to win the popular race. This is especially tempting on Twitter where you see that # next to your Followers indicator and you just want it to go up and up and up. The truth is, you’re seeking knowledge and information that is extremely important to you. What you need is a community of followers and those you follow that will give and take from you the strength and information that will keep you all going. It’s not a popularity contest, as many on these sites will have you believe.
  2. Don’t let anyone “TELL” you what to think. It’s very easy to see a Facebook fanpage with hundreds of thousands of fans, or a Twitter account with hundreds of thousands of followers and think that they must know what they’re talking about, so what they say is obviously right. I think, in most cases, they would never do that and would only do their best to advise or share information and let you make your own decisions. But there are some out there who try to make up your mind for you, and try to ‘convince’ you to think the things they think. Remember, no matter the ‘popularity’, these are just real people out there like you and I, and they have no right to tell us what to think.

Don’t tell yourself you’re a nobody and shouldn’t contribute, because all of the people in the community are created equal. Perhaps they have done more research than you have, perhaps not… but they’re real people. And as a community, I’ve never once felt like I wasn’t appreciated for giving my two cents. It’s been a truly remarkable experience actually, intimidating at first but as I started to receive welcomes, feedback, support… I found that these places aren’t so bad.

I always pictured them as prank places for kids, you know… where teenagers go and talk about the latest pop stars and share dumb jokes but in all reality, there are some very very intelligent people, extremely supportive people and an absolutely amazing community that you can be a part of.

I really do hope you take the plunge, it’s so worth it.. and when you do, visit my fan page: http://www.facebook.com/autismfather
Be sure to scroll down on the left hand side and view the “Favourite Pages” section to find some truly wonderful fan pages full of information, people and stories.

Also, visit my twitter lists as they are filled with people just like you who would love to hear about your experiences, and may have advice or may even learn some things from your story themselves:
http://twitter.com/autismfather/autism-parents – A list of people who have at least one Autistic child. These people know and understand what you are going through.
http://twitter.com/autismfather/autism-resources – A list of resources where you can get the latest news, research, events, charities and more stories.
http://twitter.com/autismfather/amazing – This list is called ‘amazing’ because that’s the only way to describe the people on it… they have Autism, and they share their experiences on Twitter.

1 in 110 is staggering… you are most certainly not alone, not any more. Join us and become an active part of the community. Every person that does makes it stronger.

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