It’s that time of year again, ya’ll! April and Autism are practically synonymous at this point with the month’s activities geared towards boosting Autism research, support, and-of course- awareness. However, with incidence estimates now sitting at 2.76% (approximately 1 in 36 children)* along with heavily marketed campaigns like “Light It Up Blue”, I think it’s safe to say that “awareness” in its loosest form is no longer an issue. We would be hard-pressed to find an individual in today’s culture who has not met, worked with, or had a family or friendship connection to an Autistic person .
I think it’s also safe to say that while a plethora of organizations and movements exist to which we could pledge our support (most of which are probably well-intended), the overwhelming majority feature primarily neurotypical people in their leadership. When we have a month dedicated to discussing a vastly complicated neurological difference and all possible ways to “manage” or “support” it-including controversial topics like finding a cure, or the use of shock treatments-we create bias by focusing on these topics from only an Allistic perspective. We lose what should comprise the core of our learning: the insights, opinions, desires, and knowledge of those who are actually Autistic. Without this, attempts to understand and support people with Autism may at best be misguided and at worst, harmful.
For this month’s post, then, we turn our focus to some of the Autistic pioneers who push for change in the discussion. If you’re like us and want to hear more from them, follow the links to their blogs included below.
On hurtful stereotypes:
“I am autistic and I want to dare to change ideas about us. I am reaching out to the world by a lot of ways. One way is through blogging. I decided to understand autism best over all experts. I am autistic and not seeking treatment. I am tired of seeking ways to eradicate autism. It each day hurts one autistic too many. Daring to steer away from torment of talking negatively about autism is the solution. I assume to stop irresponsible ideas about autism. “ -Philip of Faith, Love and Hope…with Autism.
On learning and education:
“If you work with autism, be prepared to accept that a degree in psychology or sociology or speech pathology or occupational therapy isn’t giving an insight into more than symptoms. My brain and how it’s impaired is a guessing game, even for neurologists, so I think the certainty that many practitioners have when it comes to autism is really puzzling. Being open-minded and admitting that the brain is vast and mysterious is required, in my opinion, by anyone who works with severely autistic people.”-Ido Kedar of Ido in Autismland
“The most important thing that I would like to stress is that I want and deserve access to the same things as you. I want the education I deserve. I want to be a legitimate member of my community. I want to have great relationships. I want to be able to go places. I want to make the most of my life. I want to make a name for myself.”-Graciela of Dare to Listen
On the meaning of awareness, and the importance of action:
“Take a moment and be captivated by the awesomeness of someone you are connected to that is on the spectrum. You see, the best action you can take to be more aware is to have a one-on-one conversation with someone on the spectrum, and really get in their world.”- Jordan of Jordan’s Rocky Journey
Thank you to those Autistic individuals who so graciously allowed us to share their words in this post: you are among the many leaders forging the road towards authentic acceptance, inclusion, and education for people with ASD. And thank you to those of you who read their words: each new set of eyes and change of heart adds another paver to that path.