April is Autism Acceptance Month
AWARENESS ACCEPTANCE APPRECIATION
Why Autism Acceptance?
In October of 2011, the Autism Society of Northern Virginia unanimously voted to officially celebrate April as Autism Acceptance Month rather than Autism Awareness Month. This decision was made on the advice of our autistic board member Samantha Bodwell, who expressed a desire for an unambiguously positive message about autism and autistic individuals.
Why? We believe that awareness is not enough. Awareness does not bring inclusion, support, or appreciation for neurodiversity. Some autism awareness campaigns focus attention on the problems and struggles of individuals and families affected by autism.
Acceptance is the first step to building true understanding and inclusion. It's a statement that individuals with autism are and should be recognized as valuable members of our families, schools, workplaces, faith communities, and neighborhoods. Acceptance builds community support. Acceptance encourages the public to hear the voices of self-advocates. Acceptance reinforces that not only do autistic individuals have equal rights, but they are equal in worth and have just as much value to society as any other member.
What does acceptance look like?
We believe that acceptance takes many different forms; the following are some examples of practicing acceptance. Autism acceptance can and should be practiced everywhere, from in your home to at your workplace.
• Not just tolerating, but appreciating and understanding autistic individuals for who they are,
• Purposefully including autistics at home, school, work, and the community,
• Providing, but not forcing, resources for therapies, mental health support, and skill-building so that everyone reaches their highest potential,
• Accepting autism-related 'quirks', including stims (hand flapping, tapping, etc) rather than discouraging or disallowing them,
• Creating sensory friendly spaces and experiences,
• Respecting an autistic individual's personal preference regarding language and communication, including his or her preference for how he or she wishes to be referred to (as a "person with autism" versus an "autistic person")
• Rejecting the idea that autistics need to be cured, fixed, or isolated,
• Rejecting messages and stereotypes of fear, hate, pity, exclusion, danger, disease, and misery of autism,
• Becoming aware of myths and misconceptions about autism - and then becoming educated about the facts.
The Importance of
A message from former ASNV Board Member & Autistic Self-Advocate Samantha Bodwell
Awareness is not the answer, it is not what is needed now, everyone is aware of Autism or soon will be, society as a whole needs to move past it to Acceptance.
Acceptance will benefit everyone. Autism Acceptance is so much more than you accepting your Autistic diagnosis or your child’s, it is about society as a whole accepting Autistics for who we are, verbal or nonverbal, stims and all. Autism Acceptance is not about seeking cures, it is anti-cure at its center, and it is all about Neurodiversity. Neurodiversity is the acceptance of all cognitions as normal parts of humanity. Autistics have a unique set of characteristics that provide us with many rewards and challenges. The desire for a “cure” means that we are broken somehow, we are not.
There is so much that the Neurotypical world can learn from us, we have much to share, our brains work differently than Neurotypical ones, but that does not mean that we are “flawed” or “broken” or “damaged”, it just means we are different and may have a unique way of looking at things.
The rights of Autistics are civil rights. We have rights too, but Autistics are still seen as second class citizens, we are continually discounted by society as not being “normal”, but what is “normal” anyway. We should be part of the conversation not excluded from it.
What we need is for society to welcome and embrace our Autistic differences and not shun us or try to “fix” or “cure” us.
Give us a chance to show you, you might just be surprised. Autism is not something that can be “cured”, it is not a disease! What we need is Acceptance, pure and simple. Verbal or nonverbal, we Autistics have much to offer society, from a smile to a brilliant discovery; all we need is a chance to do so.