April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. In general, I think this is a great thing, although I fail to see how "lighting up the world blue" is really helpful for autism education, and don't even get me started on the problematic use of a puzzle piece as a symbol for autism, or the deeply flawed charity Autism Speaks (if you don't know about the issues with Autism Speaks, I urge you to educate yourself and read about them here - there are many helpful links on this page).
What the world really needs is Autism Acceptance. I look forward to a day when a teenager with Autism getting a job as a Starbucks barista is an everyday occurrence and does not warrant a special segment on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. I love someone with Autism, and my life is richer for it. Statistically, you either have Autism or know someone with Autism.
Here are some ways to celebrate Autism Awareness Day and Month.
1. Be a friend. I recently read something that said, "if you don't know how to treat someone with Autism, treat them as their siblings do." My boys are brothers, friends, enemies, and playmates, as siblings should be. Autism doesn't impact their relationships and there is complete acceptance between them for all their differences and similarities.
2. Realize that everyone with Autism is different. It's nice that you know someone with Autism, but realize that Autism is a spectrum, and every person on that spectrum is very different. If you've met one person with Autism, you've met one person with Autism. Some Autistic people are extremely verbal, some are non verbal, some use augmented communication devices, some need extra supports, some can live independently, some cannot, some are sensory avoiders, some are sensory seekers... the list goes on and on.
3. Don't read or believe disproven information. Please check your sources! Autism is a neurological difference, not something to be cured. We all process information differently, and we can all learn to make our differences work for us in the world. If everyone is more aware, accommodating, and patient of differences in general, this makes the world better for us all!
4. Read books and blogs written by Autistic people! You will learn so much. One thing I have learned is that many people dislike "person first" language as it separates Autism from who they are as a person. Educate yourself, don't expect others to do this for you. I always think of, "nothing about us, without us." Reading too many books written by Autism parents or medical professionals can be damaging. These resources are not going to give you the entire picture, you will be missing out on the most important view point.
5. Talk about Autism! It is amazing. This morning I was chatting to Mr. K about his Autism, we talk about it all the time. When I asked him, "What do you think about Autism? Do you have Autism?" he had the biggest smile and gave me a high-five, because it's that awesome!