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Autism Awareness? Autism Acceptance? Or Autism Appreciation? LISTEN

Image Description: Graphic from @morethanoneneurotype with a rainbow-paint-splashed brain drawing that says, "Accepting Autistics Means Listening To Them"

The month of April is Autism Awareness Month.

It’s a day and month fraught with controversy and emotion for actually autistic people. Many of these people received diagnoses and subsequent intervention in the 80s and 90s. Now, in their adulthood, they state that many of the interventions they received, especially Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, was traumatizing and hurtful to them.

Wouldn’t any human want people to LISTEN, when someone says another human’s actions are hurtful? When autistic people tell us that something we are doing hurts them, we must listen. It means we must change our approaches and shift our perspectives, be humble, and have beginner’s mind.

The language of the month itself is inappropriate. Given that 1 in 68 children get a diagnosis of autism, it seems that most people must be aware of autism.

Acceptance? Neurotypical people deign to accept autistic people? That’s wrong, too — the implication being that neurotypical people are somehow better humans than autistic people.

Recent research indicates that perhaps 6 out of 10 autistic people will show diagnosable levels of trauma from life events.

Autism Appreciation is more like it.

Autistic Pride is more like it.

Respect is more like it.

We need to LISTEN, adjust our approaches, and implement accommodations that impact positive change for autistic people.

“As autistic self-advocates have said from the beginning, we must move beyond acceptance — to representation, celebration, and liberation. Acceptance is not the end goal. It is the baseline, a call to do better, the starting line of the marathon. We can and must go beyond that starting point and run the race, even if we cannot even imagine the finish line. Only by continuing to move forward can we create the world our community deserves.” (Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, April 2, 2021)

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