Gleeson’s book display in honor of Autism Acceptance Month is up at the Circulation Desk the week of April 10.
Some may refer to April as Autism Awareness Month, but many argue what we need most in terms of autism is acceptance. After all, the majority of Americans already have some basic understanding of what autism is, so we are already aware of it. Most even know autistic people in their life, even if they are not aware of them.
Currently there is a lot of negative rhetoric around autism, because, as a whole, we do not fully understand it. Tons of money each year goes towards cure efforts, or towards making autistic people seem as neurotypical (non-autistic or having what is considered “normal” brain wiring) as they can be. Autism Acceptance Month was coined by the autism community, as “awareness” can come with negative associations.
With an emphasis solely on awareness, it is conveyed that there is something about autism that needs to be fixed. However, many studies suggest that autism is genetic rather than caused by something external, and autistic strengths are often sought after in some aspects of life. This is especially true in the tech world of San Francisco where it is beneficial to have a scrutinous eye for detail and less interest in socializing with colleagues.
Also, the traditional “Autism Awareness Month” has roots with Autism Speaks, a charity that is often despised in the autism community. One of the reasons that Autism Speaks is so controversial is, historically, they have been very pro-cure. Despite the challenges many autistic people face on a daily basis, many find that a cure is not only improbable, but would not be desirable, as their autism is a core part of their identity. Instead, many autistics advocate for tolerance and acceptance from neurotypical society.
The hashtag #REDinstead was created in opposition to Autism Speaks’ Light it Up Blue campaign to give autistic individuals a voice over those who try to speak over them. As autistic adults and adolescents it is hard to find resources on autism that are not ableist or geared towards the parents or educators of autistic children. Because of this, Autism Acceptance Month is crucial to let society know that autistic people exist outside of special education. It helps to normalize autistic culture and emphasize autistic strengths. Honor Autism Acceptance Month by listening to autistic voices and celebrating neurodiversity!