It's April - meaning it's Autism Acceptance Month. That's right, ACCEPTANCE, not just AWARENESS.
Here is a quote by Paul Collins which I think perfectly describes what so many people misunderstand about autism:
“Think of it: a disability is usually defined in terms of what is missing. … But autism … is as much about what is abundant as what is missing, an over-expression of the very traits that make our species unique."
Here are 5 essential ways you can help to support the Autistic community in Autism acceptance.
1. Accept us
In the same way that our skin is a certain colour, our eyes are a certain shape or our sexual orientation is a certain way - Autism is a part of who we are. We cannot change this fact but it does not mean that we are broken or that we need to be fixed. Yes, Autism is a disability and a very severe one for certain people but acceptance doesn't mean ignoring this disability. It just means accepting us for who we are, as we are.
2. Respect us
We're human beings too - human beings with goals, individual personalities, dreams, life experiences and preferences. We deserve to be treated with the same respect as our non-Autistic peers. Respect begins with understanding that we are full and complete people, and that we deserve to live without fear of being manipulated, abused or hurt. We are not any less complete than you.
3. Support us
Supporting us starts with understanding that we are usually the people who can best define what type of support and services we need. Some of us need help throughout our education. Some of us need help with living independently or partially independently. Some of us need help with seeking and maintaining employment. Without the appropriate support, we won't have equal access and opportunity.
4. Include us
We deserve equal access and opportunity in the community and deserve to be included in it. As children, we may not yet be ready for full inclusion but full inclusion should be the end goal for every Autistic child. This means full integration into the community without institutional or segregated settings. We need to belong.
5. Listen to us
Listening begins with recognising that we have valid and legitimate things to say about our own lives and the issues that impact us collectively. Too many conversations surrounding us and issues that affect us take places without any of us present. We can speak for ourselves and it's time to listen - because decisions made by policy makers often impact our daily lives and future outlook.