April Is Autism ‘Acceptance’ Month

(Autism ‘Acceptance’ v. ‘Awareness’)

Attendees of an Autism Acceptance event Monday on the town green. (Norwalk Director of Communications Michelle Woods Matthews)
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April has widely been known as “Autism Awareness Month” in the United States. This was seen as a way to empower autistic individuals and their families. This was used as a method of highlighting what “autism” is and how people with it are impacted (in other words, how they are “different”). In fact, the diagnosis of “autism” is technically known as “Autism Spectrum Disorder.

We prefer to think of this way of being as a “difference” – rather than a “disorder.” While we recognize the challenges that a person with autism might face, we do not wish to see this as a condition that needs to be “cured.” We prefer to see the person first – and as someone who can make positive contributions to us personally and to our community.

It is believed that the public is generally “aware” of autism and of those with autism. Too often, though, in making those “aware” of autism the negative qualities or challenges faced are highlighted (e.g. problems with socialization, repetitive behavior, etc.). Some believe that highlighting “awareness” presents those on the Spectrum as a problem to be solved.

Recently members of the Autism Community have called on media outlets to shift their language to match the growing need for “acceptance.” 

The shift in the use of terminology is aimed to foster acceptance in order to ignite change through improved support and opportunities in education, employment, accessible housing, affordable health care and comprehensive long-term services. 

The aim now is to ensure that those in the autism community are accepted into the greater community and are provided with the means and opportunities to be fully integrated. Acceptance comes from a place of understanding.  Acceptance looks at commonalities that are shared and at the strength inherent in diversity. While it recognizes personal challenges, it also celebrates personal strengths.

This year’s campaign theme is “From autism awareness to acceptance and inclusion.” It reminds people to move beyond awareness, to advocate for others and to facilitate real change and dialogue.

Acceptance says “you are you, and that’s pretty awesome. I am me, and that’s pretty awesome.” Acceptance recognizes, AND ACCEPTS, the existence of neuro-diversity – and that’s a good thing.

M. Jeffry Spahr


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