For the last several decades, April has been Autism Awareness month. A time to “light it up blue” and show off the puzzle piece. This year, I encourage you to consider something else, acceptance not awareness. This April, you will find me wearing red instead. I will wear red for Autism Acceptance month. I will wear red to support the autistic community. Moreover, I will wear red to spark conversations about doing more.
According to the CDC, autism affects about 1 in 54 individuals and, while there are many different therapies for autism, there is no cure. It affects everyone differently, from language and communication or executive functioning to cognition or many other skills and functions. It is often overwhelming deciding what to do once a diagnosis is made.
Finding a provider is a very personal experience and should be met with many questions. What are the outcomes you are hoping to accomplish? How will you ensure my loved one and I agree with the goals and methods used? What happens if we want to stop treatment or are showing distress? How will you help advocate for us? I would want these questions answered, and I offer them to you in hopes we can all support those impacted.
But how do we show our support when society has a set of norms everyone is supposed to follow? It has not been very forgiving or accommodating to those who don’t fit the mold of “normal.” We want everyone to look and act the same way, but that is not autism. It is time we start accepting the individuality of autism and proactively work to get impacted individuals integrated into our society so we can stop relying on “awareness.” Here is a list of things you can start doing now to make positive changes for acceptance. It's not an exhaustive list, but it is somewhere to start.
You can make positive change today…conduct your own research and become involved in advocacy and acceptance efforts. Listen and learn from autistic individuals, they have a lot to say if you take the time to truly listen.