April is Autism Acceptance Month so it’s a good time to share some resources from Autistic people themselves to follow throughout the year!
Please note: I’ll be using identity first language -”Autistic person”, instead of person first language -”person with Autism", throughout this post as it’s the preferred language of the Autistic community. Please defer to the person you are speaking with or about for their preference, of course. If you’d like to learn more, here is an article regarding this as well with several perspectives: https://autisticadvocacy.org/about-asan/identity-first-language/
You may have seen April designated as Autism Awareness Month previously. This phrase is often accompanied by the color blue, a puzzle piece logo, and promoted heavily by the organization Autism Speaks. While on the surface, this sounds like a fantastic campaign and organization, in recent years some troubling facts have surfaced about Autism Speaks, especially within the Autistic community.
The Autistic community does not believe (broadly speaking) that they need to be cured, instead would like to live in a world where differences are accepted and all people are valued. This includes people who are non-speaking and prefer to communicate via assistance technology like text to voice or spelling. The name itself for Autism Speaks is offensive to those non-speaking people, as it could be seen to be denying that their voice is important.
The color blue was chosen based on the outdated information/myth that “only boys get Autism.” Women with Autism tend to present differently, as they typically are taught masking skills via social bias earlier in life, which means that a lot of girls, women, and non-binary individuals may be overlooked for a diagnosis in the early stages of life.
The puzzle piece logo can also imply that Autistic people are not “whole people,” that there are pieces missing. This is not true! Autistic people need acceptance for who they are, not because they can fit into society at the risk of their own mental health. A more inclusive symbol would be the rainbow infinity sign which stands for neurodiversity, or a gold infinity symbol which represents Autistic Pride.
By changing our wording to Autism Acceptance Month, we are instead promoting the ideas of acceptance and accommodation. It can help us recognize that what might be easy for neurotypical people, may not be easy for neurodivergent individuals. It can help make the world a more interesting and inclusive place.
So what can we do as individuals to help promote Autism Acceptance? We can “Light It Up Red Instead,” listen to Autistic people, utilize education from the Autistic community, and boost Autistic voices to promote further understanding both for ourselves and others. We can follow Autistic people on social media to learn from them and do our own research before supporting organizations or individuals. We should also be examining our own internalized ableist beliefs and systems and work to recognize how and when to be allies.
We can also stop using symbols or logos that are offensive to this community, such as the puzzle piece, and utilize ones that are more inclusive, such as the rainbow infinity sign for Neurodiversity.
Some good people or organizations to follow would be:
Autistic Not Weird- They have a study posted on their webpage detailing 11,000 responses from Autistic and non- Autistic on all sorts of questions, concerns, and concepts. It’s a fascinating resource and they have other resources as well.
Learn from Autistics-They have an excellent article explaining Light It Up Red Instead. https://www.learnfromautistics.com/light-it-up-red-for-world-autism-awareness-acceptance-day/
Autism Level Up- An Australian organization that has a lot of resources and tools for helping explain Autism as well as learn more about it.
Neuroclastic- An Autistic-led community based on promoting resources and information for all. Their resource page has sections for Neurodivergent individuals, parents, educators, physicians, therapists, and employers as well.
Lived Experience Educator- Sonny Jane Wise is an Autistic individual who is also and ADHDer and broke down DBT skills into more manageable pieces in their book The Neurodivergent Friendly DBT Skills Workbook. They also have many resources to understand neurodiversity on their website. https://livedexperienceeducator.com/
Diary of a Mom- Jess has an Autistic young adult daughter and writes about daily life, advocacy, and family. She has an excellent, realistic perspective. She’s also really funny!
Autie-Biographical Comics is a comic drawn by an Autistic artist that details some of their daily life.
Giraffe Party hosts Daily Questions which are really helpful to follow if you want to know more about everything really.
Autball is an artist who creates easy to understand and accessible comics explaining different parts of Autism and other neurodivergent topics.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about these resources and how to care for and celebrate Autistic individuals both in April and throughout the year.