Throughout the month we will be re-printing some of our members’ blogs about April, autism “awareness” and autistic pride. This post is by Mandy Klein, from her blog Tales from an Autistic Family:
Autism Acceptance Day/Month 2018
“Many people know that April is Autism ‘Awareness’ Month (or Bewareness month as some autistic people call it). The specific day set aside by the United Nations for World Autism Awareness Day is April 2. Most people who follow autistic bloggers and/or are friends with autistic people know that most of us don’t like Autism Awareness Month. Side note- I don’t presume to talk for every autistic person. My opinions are mine and based on what I see in the communities.
Autism ‘Awareness’ Month is a time where organizations and groups, especially the big one A$, fund raise. A big part of the way that they fund raise is by scaring people; telling the public that we are an epidemic; turning us into a list of symptoms; by saying how hard it is for our families and caregivers to take care of us.
In 2011, Paula Durbin Westby started Autism Acceptance Month (Click here for some background) as a response to Autism ‘Awareness’ Month. It is a day/month about us as opposed to non-autistic caregivers and parents. We can talk about our autism, both the good and the bad parts, and celebrate it and each other. It is a way of respecting autistic people and our contributions as humans.
The past couple of years, I’ve noticed that organizations and groups are starting to refer to the day/month as Autism Awareness and Acceptance Day or Month, or even World Autism Acceptance Day. They are starting to throw around words like neurodiversity, neurodivergent, and acceptance but they are just empty, meaningless words in these cases.
There is no action or follow through on their part. I still see the same things coming out of these organizations and groups. They have just taken our words and are using them to make it appear that they support and respect us. Nothing has changed, except for the new words on banners and pages. They still talk about us as symptoms and how we need to be fixed with therapies, like ABA. We are still excluded. They hold conferences and presentations which do not include us even though they are about us. Just before I wrote this post, I saw this come up on my Facebook Newsfeed:
‘Join us tonight at 7:00 pm for our free first responders webinar. Hear perspectives of parents, police officers, and Autism Ontario professionals, with information and resources along with examples of what is working across our province to support people with autism and an opportunity to ask questions and hold a discussion.’
It says nothing about actually autistic people, just everyone else. We are not included in discussing supports for us!
If we do get included, it is only autistic people who see things exactly the way the organization does (mainly because they don’t know that there is a whole autistic community out there and they can just be themselves instead of having to mask who they really are. That is how they were brought up and the message in the media). Also, if we are included, we are talked over and not listened to anyway. I don’t see acceptance in that. Where is our input? If it is about us, then our input is the most important piece.
If non-autistic people were listening to autistic people, then they would not just take our words to use. They would not need their ‘awareness’ campaigns to know we exist. They already know we exist, so do they really need to remind each other every year? If they were truly listening, there would be action. There would be change in how we are treated. We would be listened to. We would be respected and treated as human. We would be accepted.”