Autism awareness and acceptance mean different things to different people.
April is traditionally the month of Autism acceptance world wide. During the month of April positive, respectful and accurate information about autism is shared by many different organisations world wide.
But it is July I hear you saying! Why are you promoting Autism acceptance in the month of July?
Don't get me wrong, I think that it is wonderful that the month of April is when the majority of the Autism acceptance events are being held, but shouldn't Autism acceptance be a year round event?
One month, or even a week a year, shouldn't have to be set aside for the awareness of any disability. Disability awareness should be something that is occurring every day of the year.
So what is Autism awareness and acceptance and why do we need it I now hear you ask!
Well, what can I say......
In my mind, Autism awareness is all about raising the communities awareness of the needs and the accomplishments of both children and adults who are on the autism spectrum. Individuals with autism are capable of achieving great things but quite often there is a stigma that is attached to an autism diagnosis.
Autism awareness is about breaking this stigma.
In superhero headquarters we are very autism aware, especially at the ungodly hours of the morning when L decides that we ALL need to be awake! My autism awareness increases ten fold when O starts telling me about how she thinks or how she creates files in her brain to store new information or when I watch as L leaps over yet another obstacle.
Autism awareness is about educating the community that there are many different forms in which autism can present. Autism isn't just Rain Man or an individual sitting in the corner of a room rocking back and forth.
Autism awareness is increasing the communities understanding of how autism can present among individuals on the spectrum. Autism awareness is truly understanding the difficulties that individuals with autism experience on a daily basis as they try to navigate a world that can appear completely foreign to them.
When we raise the level of Autism awareness in the community, we can then raise the level of Autism acceptance.
Simply put Autism acceptance means the inclusion of individuals who are on the Autism Spectrum.
Deep down, we all just want to be accepted for who we are. We all have things about us that are unique, different, possibly annoying even to those around us. We all have different perspectives on what goes on around us. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. And we shouldn't have to change who we are just to be accepted.
Individuals with autism are no different.
Individuals with autism should not be left out simply because they have autism. Individuals with autism have just as much of a right to live their lives, participate in experiences and have the same opportunities as the rest of us.
Generally speaking, when people are aware that an individual has autism the response is usually "oh Sam has autism so he/she can't/shouldn't do that."
No, Sam probably can do/participate in the experience, they may just need a little help or some modifications may need to be made.
There's a quote that goes along the lines of "if a child is unable to learn a particular way, shouldn't we change the way that we teach.?
The way the child is learning is not the problem. The way that we teach is the problem.
Every individual is capable of learning new skills and knowledge, sometimes we just need to come at it from a different angle. We need to think outside of the box.
If we accept that autism is just a neurological difference, that it is a natural variation of the human form, and we accept that individuals with autism can do most things that the rest of the population can do, that is when we reach true autism acceptance and inclusion.
Acceptance of any individual, autism or not, is about being respectful and listening to what they have to say about themselves and accepting them for who they are. Acceptance is celebrating their achievements and acknowledging their strengths.
Individuals with autism aren't going anywhere so instead of exclusion, let's all work together to create a world in which difference is celebrated and accepted.
After all, this world is big enough for us all and as Dr. Temple Grandin has said "This world needs different kinds of minds to work together!"