Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Autism Acceptance Month

This April is officially Autism Acceptance Month, according to many autism organizations by and for autistic people. This differs from previous years in that they were "Autism Awareness" months. You'll probably still see the "Awareness" term in a lot of places but much of the autistic community has decided to move beyond awareness and wants to focus on acceptance, because awareness alone appears to be actively harming them.

The idea of Autism Acceptance Month actually dates back to 2011, when it was started by Paula Durbin Westby in order to switch the focus from "autistic people exist" and get people away from "autism is a problem" to "autistic people are great the way they are."

Many people still think of autism as a disease that needs to be cured, but the autistic community largely does not want to be "cured." They think of themselves as different from the majority, not broken. The only that's broken is the way that those of us who are not autistic treat autistic people and our society at large, which leaves autistic people out. It's still largely considered to be a developmental disability because for some it can seriously impair their ability to function in society, depending on how autistic they are on the spectrum. But is that autism's fault or a failure of society to accommodate those who are different from the majority?

The idea of autism as a disease or a problem like it's cancer or sexual assault (it's also Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month because that is a real problem that needs to be stopped) is actively harmful to real human beings with autism. It contributes to domestic and medical abuse as autistic individuals are viewed as burdens rather than as people, and many caretakers and educators try to force them to act like non-autistic people ("allistic") in the mistaken belief that this will help them function or be better. It's so bad that parents who murder their autistic children get sympathy from the public rather than horror and widespread condemnation.

If you want to learn more, there's a website devoted to Autism Awareness Month that includes a ton of information for people who don't know much about autism but want to do ally work for this community. Autistic people are very diverse and have a range of different abilities, talents, and struggles, but they're all people. If you're having a hard time understanding and are a nerd, think X-Men.

I'm going to try and share as much work by autistic people as I can this month. I know multiple people on the spectrum and they're all beautiful and amazing and unique and have made my life better in a hundred different little ways. I wouldn't want them to be "cured" if they don't want to be, and neither should you.

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