April has been celebrated as Autism Awareness Month since the 1970’s. This, among other things, has made autism into a household word, and has brought into being much research and supports for those who experience autism. Many people are recognized as autistic who may not have even been considered for a diagnosis prior to this increased awareness. It has even caused autistic people to come together and find our own voice.
However, I believe that awareness only goes so far. It does little to ensure that the research being done is helpful to autistic people that currently need supports. It also does not ensure that the supports and therapies offered are actually helpful, nor that they do not cause harm to those they are intended to help. Awareness does nothing to reduce the stigma that comes along with autism, and it does little to make the voice of the autistic community heard.
In 2011, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) proposed simply changing one word to address these shortcomings. Change awareness to acceptance.
The core principle of acceptance, of course, is to reduce stigma. We in the neurodiversity movement wish for all autistic people to be able to celebrate themselves as the unique individuals they are. Only through acceptance and comfort with ourselves can we strive to achieve our full potential.
I believe acceptance has much farther reaching potential than just that, though. By listening to the wants and needs of the autistic community, research can be directed toward more useful goals. Supports and treatments can be improved with greater insight into the autistic mind. Communication between autistic adults and parent communities can and does promote a greater understanding of autistic children, as well as creating more effective parenting methods.
Please join me this April in celebrating Autism Acceptance Month. If you are autistic and willing to talk about it, talk to people about autism. If you are interested in autism, talk to an autistic person, and don't be afraid to ask as many questions as come to mind.
Share this wherever you can. Together, we can better understand each other and make a better world for us all.
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