You aughta know this week: a month recognizing autistic people has been renamed.
April is Autism Acceptance Month. It was born of self advocacy and lack of neurotypical awareness years ago. It is also known as Autism Awareness Month.
In thinking about the issue of acceptance, I thought back to last year at this time. It seems a world away. I had just been diagnosed with ADHD after half a lifetime with a complete lack of awareness. I had no idea the condition was an autism cousin, and didn’t know my son was months away from being diagnosed as autistic. While my awareness was lacking, it was soon to appear.
The last year has definitely been one of acceptance. Awareness came first, but awareness alone is not sufficient. I needed acceptance to be able to live in my newly shaped world.
This year, I found the Autism Acceptance Month website.
April is Autism Acceptance Month, part of a history of campaigns by autistic people and our allies to shift the month’s focus from autism awareness to autism acceptance. In support of this community-wide effort, ASAN has created a dedicated website for Autism Acceptance Month, and provides unique programming every April focused on promoting acceptance and inclusion and changing the dialogue about autism from fear, pity, and tragedy to support, acceptance, and empowerment.
This is a great list of resources, full of books and further reading.
From the website, I found AUTCOM:
AUTCOM is the only autism advocacy organization dedicated to “Social Justice for All Citizens with Autism” through a shared vision and a commitment to positive approaches. Our organization was founded in 1990 to protect and advance the human rights and civil rights of all persons with autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, and related differences of communication and behavior. In the face of social policies of devaluation, which are expressed in the practices of segregation, medicalization, and aversive conditioning, we assert that all individuals are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The Committee further believes that the principles of social justice can only be upheld through organizational methods which reflect those principles. Just as we envision communities based on the cultivation and support rather than the control of their members, the Committee encourages its individual members and organizational partners toward self-direction and self-empowerment. We welcome the participation of all family members, people with autism/PDD, caring professionals, and other friends who wish to implement, not debate, the right to self-determination by hearing and heeding the voices of people with autism. We have joined together to provide information, support, networking, advocacy, a strong voice in federal legislation and policy, a newsletter, conferences and trainings, a bookstore, a variety of unique publications, and an ongoing reappraisal of fundamental research and treatment issues in the light of what people with autism themselves find meaningful and respectful.
When I first heard people talk about the distinction between awareness and acceptance, it seemed almost like semantics. But if you consider the body of acceptance material on this website and compare to autism awareness, whose nadir is definitely these jerks in Britain, yes we definitely need to focus on acceptance. People are aware of autism, but they think it’s so awful they can’t even accept the risk of their dog having autism (not a thing). That article makes me weep for humanity.
We have a long, long way to go toward acceptance. This Washington Post article is about an autistic boy whose doctors refused him a heart transplant. And here is more information on discrimination from the Autism Research Institute:
Three fundamental areas in which much progress must be made are:
- Education – Students on the autism spectrum are entitled to appropriate instruction. Currently, most teachers do not receive adequate training on how best to teach these students, and many children with ASD are marginalized by school systems.
- Healthcare — The healthcare system and the often-adversarial insurance corporations present huge obstacles which nearly all parents of ASD individuals must fight to overcome. ARI implores the medical community to acknowledge the expanding body of scientific literature documenting the gastrointestinal and chronic immune problems that plague a great percentage of individuals with ASD. The insurance industry must end its financial discrimination against these families, by allowing GI and other medical treatment to be covered rather than excluded.
- Government Assistance Programs — Most communities offer few or no services as ASD children become ASD young adults. Those agencies that offer adult services typically don’t teach staff how to best handle the needs and behaviors of people with ASDs. ARI calls on governments and on major corporations to create programs aimed at helping young adults with job training, special living situations, and general help for the 1 in 150 (according to Centers for Disease Control estimates, 2007) soon to reach the edge of adulthood, so these individuals can become productive, independent members of society. Our concern is not only for these individuals and their families, but for the economy of the 21st century and the country as a whole.
May the fight for acceptance of neurodiversity grow and thrive in the months between this Autism Acceptance Month and the next.