In the past decade, we have made considerable strides in talking about things we previously didn’t – be it social issues, mental illnesses, or neurodivergent conditions like autism.
Clearly, most of us now know what autism is. We are aware of the basic definition of what it means to have autism.
But an honest question, what would you do if you met someone who actually had an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)? How would you react or respond to the person?
Would you genuinely be as understanding, generous, and inclusive as you claim to be?
Most of us swear up and down about how aware, understanding, and compassionate we are, yet when the moment comes, we all fall behind.
We continue to make people with autism feel like completely different, outcasted individuals. The result?
An overwhelming number of people with autism live life feeling isolated, discriminated against, and misunderstood in almost all spheres of their life.
This is why awareness is just the first step of a long road ahead. It is important to translate autism awareness into autism acceptance. National Autism Acceptance Month is marked every year in April. It aims to promote acceptance and inclusion for people with autism.
This National Autism Acceptance Month, let us dive deeper into why we need to direct resources toward turning awareness into acceptance and action. We will also look into some practical and valuable tips on promoting acceptance for those with autism.
Why is National Autism Awareness Month important?
National Autism Awareness Month was first marked in 2008 by the Autism Society of America to make a potent shift from autism awareness to acceptance in society. The goal was to promote acceptance and inclusion for people with autism rather than just spreading awareness about the condition. The change in terms – from acceptance to awareness, is an acknowledgment of the worth and value that people with autism add to the world.
The shift was also crucial because autism societies worldwide slowly understood that just awareness would not be able to make the lives of people with autism easier. In fact, awareness drives can often lead to misinformation and stereotyping, making it further difficult for people. With almost no checks on the authenticity and factual correctness of the kind of information being spread in the name of awareness, most of the time, myths are perpetuated more than facts.
Therefore, the most radical and essential thing you can do for people with autism is to practice acceptance for precisely who they are. Acceptance can cause ripples – with the individual with autism being at the center. With each new ring of the wave, the acceptance spreads to families, communities, and societies.
Now that you know about the importance of National Autism Acceptance Month, let us move toward the practical aspect of the topic. Here are the best tips to practice acceptance of autism in your everyday life.
How to practice autism acceptance?
1. Educate yourself.
Education is the most important tool for promoting acceptance of autism. When you understand the spectrum of autism disorders, you can truly empathize with the people and understand their everyday challenges.
2. Focus on your language.
Use first-person language while addressing anyone with autism. Use terms like ‘people with autism’ instead of using ‘autistic people’ in your regular conversations. This method is called person-first. This way, you are acknowledging that autism is just a part of their identity and that people living with autism are much more than their diagnosis.
3. Listen to the experience of people with autism.
Listening to the experiences and stories of people with autism can give you a clear picture of the condition and how it affects people’s daily lives. These stories can help you shed misconceptions and stereotypes.
4. Be an inclusivity advocate.
Advocate for inclusive spaces for neurodivergent individuals in your community, school, and workplace. This will help create a supportive and sensitive environment for all people. An inclusive environment can include the following:
- sensory-friendly environments,
- flexible work arrangements,
- communication supports, etc.
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As we celebrate National Autism Acceptance Month this year, it is essential to translate our awareness about autism into acceptance and inclusivity actively. We hope this post will serve as starting point for greater advocacy, acceptance, and inclusion for people with autism.
Another important part of National Autism Acceptance Month is the ability to differentiate between myths and facts. Let us debunk the most common autism-related myths.
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