This post is part of a series for Autism Acceptance Month in which I will be exploring various ideas and subjects relating to autism and being autistic.
It’s April again. A month during which places all around the country will be lighting up blue for Autism Awareness Month in conjunction with Autism Speaks. Yet many of us will be going red instead for Autism Acceptance Month as a counter campaign. If you’re not already familiar with why not to support Autism Speaks, check out this post for more information. So why acceptance? Why do we push for acceptance rather than awareness?
Awareness campaigns are typically for diseases, things to be cured, things to obliterated. We have awareness campaigns for cancer, for ALS, for heart disease and more. These awareness campaigns are good as they bring attention to the signs and symptoms of these diseases and can genuinely save lives. Yet when it comes to autism, awareness becomes problematic.
Autism is not a disease to be cured nor is it a death sentence. While there are negative aspects to autism, there are also many good things about being autistic as well, and, as such, many of us do not want a cure. Yes, even many nonverbal autistics who are so often used as a prop by the other side. Autism affects every aspect of who we are. It is a fundamental difference in brain development that affects how we see and process the world which in turn affects who we are and who we will be. A cure wouldn’t get rid of the bad aspects and leave the rest, rather it would fundamentally change who we are as people and we don’t want that. Further, as autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is present from birth, it is likely that any “cure” that is created will simply be eugenics much in the way that Down Syndrome has been treated since the genetic marker was found.
We don’t need awareness of the bad parts of autism. We don’t need our meltdowns shown across social media. We don’t need non-autistics talking about our self-injurious behaviors. We don’t need to be talked about as burdens or tragedies. We don’t need non-autistics talking about how to “fix” us. Why? Because we’re not broken.
We, autistic people, are not broken versions of non-autistic people. We are wonderful, unique autistic people. We function differently than non-autistics but that doesn’t make us wrong or broken.
We call for acceptance because autism is not something to be feared or destroyed but rather something to be accepted and accommodated. We experience the world differently and sometimes that causes us pain, but so much of our pain is caused by a world that doesn’t accept us. A world that expects us to behave like non-autistics. A world that expects us to change every aspect of who we are. So many of our difficulties come down to a world that was not built for us rather than issues inherent to being autistic.
We don’t need to change. We just need the world to be more accessible to us. We need others to recognize that there is more than one way to communicate and that all forms of communication are valid. We need the world to accept that a lack of eye contact does not make someone untrustworthy or shady or any other bad thing. We need others to accept that we will interact differently and that’s ok. We need our stimming to be normalized rather than bullied or abused out of us. We need the use of sensory items like ear defenders and sunglasses indoors and stim toys and other sensory objects to be normalized.
So much of our torment is caused by the mockery and disdain put upon us by non-autistic people. This can change. We can change this by working towards autism acceptance.
So I ask that you go #RedInstead this month instead of aligning with Autism Speaks, a hate group. Don’t raise awareness of autism but rather acceptance for that is what will truly make life better for autistics.