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'Special Education Week' and 'Autism and ADHD Awareness Month' Messages

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Circulating social media messages claim that it is Special Education Week and Autism and ADHD awareness month and ask that users post the information and leave it as their status for one hour.

Education concept: computer keyboard with Special Education
© Kabakou

Brief Analysis

Any credible information about an officially designated, national US based "Special Education Week" is difficult to locate. And the messages circulate continually but contain no information about what particular week or month of the year the events described supposedly take place. There are Autism and ADHD months, but they do not generally occur at the same time. Posting this foolish and misleading message is counterproductive. It is certainly not an effective way of raising awareness of special education requirements or of the needs of children with Autism or ADHD



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Special Education Week

anyone willing to leave this on there status for an hour? It's special education week, Autism and ADHD awareness month – This is in honor of all children who struggle every day

Can I make a request? Is anyone willing to leave this on there status for an hour? It's special education week, Autism and ADHD awareness month., And this is in honor of all the children that struggle every day. I know 99% of you won't re-post and 1% that will!

Detailed Analysis

According to various messages that have circulated via social media for several years, this week is "Special Education Week". The messages also claim that it is Autism and ADHD month. Recipients are asked to post the message as their status for an hour as a means of honouring "all of the children who struggle every day".

Most people who share the messages are likely to do so in good faith, and with a desire to help.  However, there are significant problems with these messages.

Alas, any credible information about an officially designated, nationally recognized "Special Education Week" is scarce to say the least.

One article on claims that such a nationally recognized week takes place in the United States in March. However, the user-submitted article gives no references to support its claims and its author admits in the article's comment section that "This was an initiative by a support group to have a national week of recognition. It was forwarded to me."

And Lisa Belkin of the New York Times notes in a 2010 article:
I called the U.S. Department of Education, where an assistant in the Office of Special Education Programs told me he’d never heard of a Special Education Week, though he wouldn’t be surprised if there is “something like that.” He then put me on hold and went off to ask others in the office.

He came back after several minutes and told me, “We found National Disability Employment Month. That’s the closest we could come.”
Some states, local entities or groups in the US and elsewhere may occasionally run special education weeks or awareness campaigns and designate certain time frames for them. Some jurisdictions have "Education Weeks", which focus in part on special education.  But, given that there is no officially endorsed information about a nationally recognized "Special Education Week" - at least in the US where the messages appear to have originated - the claims that the event takes place "this week" is obviously spurious.

This brings us to another significant flaw in the message. It does not include any specific dates for the events it describes. Versions of the message circulate continually and have done so for several years. It is posted - somewhere online - every week.  Obviously, "Special Education Week" can't be every week. Otherwise, it would be better called "Special Education Year". Or perhaps, "Special Education Decade".

Nor, of course, is every month of the year Autism and ADHD Awareness month. There are official Autism and ADHD Awareness Months, but they do not normally take place at the same time. Autism Awareness Month takes place in April each year. ADHD Awareness Month usually takes place in October although it was set in September back in 2012.   

But the message misleadingly lumps these two awareness months together. It thus implies that Autism and ADHD are intrinsically linked and falsely suggests that their respective awareness months occur at the same time. 

Given that, as stated previously, these messages circulate continually throughout the year, such falsehoods potentially rob both genuine awareness months of potential impact.

Some commentators have argued that, even though the claims in the messages are spurious, they might still help to raise awareness. However, at least in this writer's opinion, this claim is fallacious. You do not effectively raise awareness of an issue by posting misleading and inaccurate nonsense on your networks.

In truth, such messages serve only to provide participants with a fleeting feel good moment in which they mistakenly believe that they have actually done something to help. Those who want to help would be much better to get involved in real and meaningful awareness campaigns rather than post a silly status message on their networks for an hour. Or any other length of time, for that matter.



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Last updated: October 18, 2016
First published: September 11, 2013
By Brett M. Christensen
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