Today is International Autism Awareness Day, but I have to say, if you’re not aware of autism yet, friend, where have you been?
My friends in the autism community find this day pretty excruciating, because the message about autism is so bleak and panicky — on this day, people mistake a disorder for a disease and a community of real, live human beings for an epidemic. This manipulative and dehumanizing talk is a pretty good way to get people to go on walks and light things up blue and give money to giant research organizations, but it can have a very negative effect on the real lives of real, living autistic people.
My autistic friends are wonderful individuals with meaningful lives and extensive empathy. But I never would have known that if I had stayed in the cold, harsh, blue light of mere awareness. (see Empaths on the Autism Spectrum)
So why in the world would you be blue if you could instead see the whole spectrum?
Why would you hold up a puzzle piece, as if autistic human beings were a mystery? They’re not — if you just talk to them, and listen to them, and learn how to empathize with them, and focus on organizations that have autistic people — real, living, human beings — at the forefront of their mission.
My autistic friends have taken over this day — and this entire month, and I’d like to invite you to explore a community of autistic self-advocates who can communicate for themselves (even if they can’t speak), and who are working to provide a rich network of support for autistic youth and adults, parents and families of autistic people, and anyone who wants to understand the entire spectrum of human diversity.
We can change the world for autistic people, but first, we have to change the light in which we view them. There’s no need to stand under a harsh, cold, blue light filled with messages of disease and despair. There’s another way — and a better way — to view our friends on the Autism Spectrum.
Autism Acceptance Month
Acceptance is an Action: From the site:
“Autism Acceptance Month is about challenging ignorance, prejudice, fear, and hysteria about autism and autistic people. Autism Acceptance Month spreads the word that autism is both a neurological disability and a natural part of human diversity, and centers the voices of autistic people in the conversation about us.
Autism Acceptance Month promotes acceptance of autistic people as family members, sons, daughters, spouses, friends, classmates, co-workers, community members, and fellow-citizens making valuable contributions to our world and communities.
Autism Acceptance Month is about treating autistic people with respect, listening to what we have to say about ourselves, and making us welcome in the world.
You probably know an autistic person already. Get to know us a little bit better.”
Find out more at.
Autism can be a complex condition that affects people in many different ways — but it’s not a tragedy, nor an epidemic, nor a puzzle — and the real autism experts are (surprise!) autistic people themselves — and they’re working to make the world better for everyone with every kind of neurology.
If you want to become more aware of the issues in the autism community, the documentary Loving Lampposts is a wonderful entree into new ways of viewing autism in a more humane, loving, and workable way (and you can watch it for free on Hulu).
So don’t be blue: have a great Autism Acceptance Month basking in the light of the full spectrum of human neurological diversity!