April use to be known as Autism Awareness Month. Not anymore. Let's talk about why!
I posted this image 6 years ago almost to the day and almost everything about this image is not ok anymore. Let's break it down!
Now, before I break this post down from 2017, I don't know much about Stuart Duncan. A quick google search told me, he has two children with Autism and he identifies as a person with Aspergers (which is a diagnosis not used anymore either.. but we will get to that too). Stuart created a game called AutCraft which is a video game for children with Autism. You can read more about it here. Again, I really don't know much about him and this picture above was from at least 6 years ago. This blog post is not about him at all, I just want to focus on the changes for what use to be known as Autism Awareness month.
Tip #1 - It is Autism Acceptance Month
A lot of months are about awareness but April is all about acceptance, which honestly, shouldn't they all be?? We shouldn't just be aware of minority groups, we should be accepting them. It can be challenging on what organizations are actually accepting of disabilities and finding accommodations to continue independence and inclusion. Some organizations continue the biases that disabilities are bad and their organizations focus on finding a way to "fix the problem." Which is not inclusive. I found this blog post that talks about what organizations are good ones to pay attention to this month that you can read about here.
Photo from intheloopaboutneurodiversity (click image to be redirected)
Tip #2 - The Infinity Symbol
I know someone personally who got the puzzle piece tattooed on themselves to show her support for autistic people and how she is an ally. She reached out to me last year asking why the puzzle piece is negative to the autistic community today.
As someone who has a whole ability awareness activity that focuses on puzzle pieces (not for autism but to represent all of our differences), I loved the puzzle piece symbol. However, autistic people voiced that a puzzle piece makes them feel like they as people are "puzzling" or "a mystery" which is not how people want to be seen. The rainbow infinity symbol, which was created by neurodiversity advocates represents "diversity with infinite variations and infinite possibilities."
Another great article from intheloopaboutneurodiversity about the puzzle piece here.
"People are always looking for this single magic bullet that will totally change everything. There is no single magic bullet." -Temple Grandin
Tip #3 - Wear Red Not Blue
Another great article to read more about this topic is here. But bottom line, Autism Speaks (which is not an organization supported by Autistic people), started the light is up blue campaign and people who are actually autistic want you to wear red instead. I think this is also a good time to mention the hashtag ActuallyAutistic. This is a great hashtag to follow but DO NOT USE IT UNLESS YOU ARE ACTUALLY AUTISTIC!
Tip #4 - Educate yourself and your children or students
There are so many great books and tv shows and movies out there now with positive representation for autistic people. Let's go over a few!
I will forever recommend this book. Naoki is Autistic and wrote this book by pointing to letters with a pointer he wore around his head. He answered questions from people and answered truthfully and simply. Click the image to purchase the book.
This is a book that has been on my want to read book all year. To my knowledge, the book's main character is Autistic and I can't wait to read it.
Of course, Sesame Street has introduced Julia, a puppet with Autism and explain to their audience how people may communicate differently but of course want to be included. You can watch the quci YouTube video about it here!
And we got Daniel Tiger who introduced a friend with Autism too! You can watch the video here. It is so important to have representation and to educate our children and ourselves on how people communicate differently and that's ok! We all just want to be included.
Tip #5 - Language!
Lastly, let's talk about language.
Now this is a tricky one for me, as my college experience was during the phase of language that said "different ability" instead of "disability" or saying "person with Autism" instead of "Autistic person." As a person without a disability, I prefer to use person-first language (person with Autism), unless someone with Autism tells me not to. If you noticed, I changed it throughout this blog post. If I am talking about a specific person, I will mention the person first, if I am talking about a group of autistic advocates I respect what THEY want to be recognized as. It is not MY choice. My choice is to be an advocate and continue to learn how to best be an inclusive ally for everyone!
Saying different ability takes a way the fact that there is a disability. Disability is not a bad word!! Let's stop making it one.
Inclusion starts with you and I just want to help!
You reading this means that you are taking the steps to be an advocate or ally to people with disabilities and it is great! We all need to rally behind each other. Love is stronger than hate!!
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