Acceptance Over Awareness
With April fast approaching, I want to talk about autism acceptance. Let me start by saying that I’m not trying to say we don’t need awareness, just that this sort of awareness does not always later breed acceptance. We need awareness of autism. But after awareness, we need acceptance. The general public may know about autism, but how much do they know, really? Autism Speaks shares many things during April that lend to fear of autism. Fear of autism equals fear of autistic people. You can’t accept somebody if you are afraid of them, or see them as less than.
Autism acceptance means that people can learn and know about autism and respect and accept Autistic people as whole and worthy people. Autism acceptance means that Autistic people can speaks out and be listened to, can have their needs met, and accommodations commonplace. Acceptance means that if somebody is having a meltdown or sensory overload or stimming in public, that instead of thinking “what a poorly behaved person,” you think “oh, well maybe they are autistic, and I shouldn’t judge people when I don’t know the whole story.” Acceptance means realizing that language is important, and listening to autistic people’s own communications of their wants and needs.
Awareness itself is not going to immediately lend itself to acceptance, especially when the awareness is misinformative, not informative enough, or spreading fear. Most people have heard of autism but few actually understand and accept it. Awareness campaigns need to be more than just knowing that autism exists. They need to include in depth explanations of what autism is and can mean, how every autistic person is different, how we feel things differently or see things differently, how we are just as important as non-autistic people, and not puzzles to be solved.
Acceptance takes awareness and makes it better. It turns the knowledge that autism exists into understanding of autism and autistic people, which, in turn, will make life easier for autistic people and their families. We need awareness, but most importantly, we need understanding and acceptance.