Acceptance Over Awareness – Autism Awareness Month
April 2 is the United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day, and this year the world celebrates its 15th anniversary. This day sparks a month-long effort by self-advocates and the autism community at large to provide education and foster understanding of autism to the public. We often hear the word awareness during this time of the month but many are expressing it’s time for a change. While spreading awareness of autism will be ongoing, many are urging the utilization of the word acceptance rather than awareness.
What has led to this change?
In 1972 the Autism Society of America founded National Autistic Children’s Week which was to occur every April and eventually become known as National Autism Awareness Month. This month became a time to promote change through education and awareness of autism. After years of spreading awareness, the Autism Society and other self-advocates knew it was time to shift the language. Fast forward to 2020, the Autism Society of America is embracing Autism Acceptance Month as a more appropriate fit for the message the community is looking to send. Acceptance is preferred to awareness because acceptance is a clear action that is not only spoken about but acted upon as well.
What is the difference between acceptance and awareness?
“Acceptance is about moving beyond this idea of awareness, which has been medicalized and has been used to spread ideas of autism that are stigmatizing,” says Zoe Gross, Director of Advocacy at ASAN. ( The Arc Westchester )
Acceptance is an action we can take every day. It is a word that has the power to resonate with someone beyond the month of April. It encourages us to see the strength in diversity and to meet people where they are at. Acceptance acknowledges different needs and creates a safe space where individuals with autism may share their own experiences without the fear of judgment. The shift in terminology from awareness to acceptance is profound in paving the way to a more inclusive society.
Here are some ways you can promote acceptance
- Read Welcome to the Autistic Community. This book is free to download online.. Autistic and non autistic people are invited to read this book. Learn about how you can make life better for those with autism.
- Individuals with autism may develop an intense interest and focus on a particular subject at a young age. Encourage these individuals to follow their interests by joining a club or finding a career which may help them build deep friendships.
- Support businesses owned by autistic individuals, or neurotypical employers that aim to create a neurodiverse workplace. Promote opportunities for autistic individuals in the workplace and learn how to create a supportive environment.
- Watch Steve Silberman’s, The forgotten history of autism, to further understand autism and the steep rise in diagnosis.
- Incorporate accessible and inclusive design in the workplace. Learn more about this from our blog on Enhancing Accessibility to Promote Inclusive Communities.
- Check out the works by well-known autistic people like Greta Thunberg who is an environmental activist or Clay Marzo, a swimming and surfing competitor.
Over the years, LSA has impacted the lives of hundreds as we have established ourselves as a strong provider and advocate for the I/DD community. Mark your calendars and join us for this year’s Home is Where the Heart, a fundraising event to expand capacity for adults with developmental disabilities in your community. Register for free at bit.ly/2023lsaheart4homeseb
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