30 March 2013

Autism Acceptance Month

April is known as "Autism Awareness Month", but historically the messages spread during April have been damaging to autistic people, so something different has popped up. Created by autistic people in response to the problems seen in the former, "Autism Acceptance Month" is a more positive way to celebrate those autistic people you know.

Will you take the pledge? (click to do it)
"I pledge to only attend, speak at or otherwise participate in autism panels, conferences and events that meaningfully involve Autistic people. I choose not to give my business or my time to settings that fail to include Autistic voices in conversations about autism."

Here are some of the reasons why awareness doesn't quite cut it:

Autism awareness - teaches people autism exists. I think we all know this.
Autism acceptance - teaches people autism is something worthwhile.

Autism awareness - seeks interventions to eradicate autism.
Autism acceptance- looks for ways to work with strengths. 

Autism awareness - wages war on autism. 
Autism acceptance - calls for a peace treaty and asks to work together.

Autism awareness - focuses on spreading messages of fear.
Autism acceptance - focuses on spreading messages of love. 

Autism awareness - falsely tells people that autism is an epidemic.
Autism acceptance - points out that autism is not new or out of control.

Autism awareness - says that families living with autism are miserable.
Autism acceptance - focuses on the joy of living with an autistic person.

Autism awareness - describes autism as a disease.
Autism acceptance - describes autism as a diversity issue.

Autism awareness - searches for a cure.
Autism acceptance - says autism is a good thing with no need for a cure.

Autism awareness - looks for a way to prevent autism before birth.
Autism acceptance - sees this as a hateful eugenics movement. 

Autism awareness - seeks donations/funding.
Autism acceptance - asks only for a welcoming smile and a supportive hand.

Autism awareness - aims to find ways to make the individual more "normal".
Autism acceptance - first embraces the strengths of the individual.

Autism awareness - shares hard parenting experiences to get its message across.
Autism acceptance - listens to autistic people.

This list could go on forever- feel free to leave more of these in the comments.

I have spent the last 15 years talking the talk, and walking the walk of autism acceptance, as a parent of an autistic boy who has raised him to be proud of his autism. Sadly, in all of those years, I don't think I have met any other parents who truly accept that autism is a positive part of their child. I would like to see that change. Sometimes I think parents see acceptance as being equivalent to giving up. But if acceptance is giving up, then it begs the question, what are they giving up on? It's an important point to consider.

I am thrilled that my son is proud of who he is, loves his autism and knows his strengths. I would like other parents to know that feeling too. I would like to see more parents embrace their child as a whole person and start working with autism instead of waging war on it. Because when you wage war on autism, no matter which way you look at it, you are waging war on your child.

So this April, when you think of autism awareness, try switching out the words and thinking about acceptance as a primary motivator instead.

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