Autism Acceptance Month
by Jaime Friedman
April 17, 2023
How to Promote Autism Acceptance
Autism Awareness Month became Autism Acceptance Month in 2021. Many people are already aware of the existence of the disability, so people with autism and their advocates are asking the public to take the next step. Acknowledging an issue is only the first step to solving it. You may already understand how certain sensory experiences or social situations can be difficult for someone with autism, but in order to create a more accepting environment, some reflection or action may be required.
Self-reflection is important, especially if you are already familiar with the general challenges someone diagnosed with autism is faced with in social situations. You can try to empathize with people diagnosed with autism and adhere to some general guidelines, but sometimes it is best to ask the individual. ASD affects everyone differently, ask questions and try to learn about the individual’s strengths and needs, rather than how their symptoms fit within the autism spectrum. Stay polite and patient in your questioning, and we can all make sure that the wants and needs of the autism community are heard this month.
Aside from interacting with and including individuals with autism, April is also a perfect time to chip away at the stigmatic barrier surrounding autism and other related disorders. Even those who have individuals with autism in their lives may feel uncomfortable speaking about the subject. Like anxiety, depression and other forms of mental illness, autism is often considered too intimidating to discuss openly. Instead of treating autism like any other medical condition, people tend to offer sympathy or avoid the subject altogether.
A common misconception about autism is that someone with ASD cannot experience empathy. They may experience empathy differently, but they still feel it. Someone with autism might appreciate an explanation of your feelings at a given time or some patience to ensure they are accommodated appropriately. By avoiding interactions with someone who has autism, even if your aim is to be polite, you may be sending out some of the wrong messages. Someone with good intentions, for example, may avoid someone with autism out of fear of a negative interaction. This person means well, but someone with autism may sense their discomfort. Without an explanation, someone with autism could assume they were being avoided, and they may even suspect that their diagnosis is preventing them from having social interactions.
Stigma is an indirect consequence of a social problem, but it can have significant influence on our society’s problems. The only way to remove stigma is to talk through the issues.
Highlighting Greta Thunberg
A surprising amount of famous figures throughout history have either been diagnosed with autism or were suspected to have been on the spectrum. In recent years, a young woman from Sweden by the name of Greta Thunberg has become an important figure in climate activism, but she is also very open about being diagnosed with autism.
While her main passion is fighting climate change, Greta has become a role model for so many people with autism struggling to find their place in society. She does not blame any of her life’s hardships on autism; Greta actually attributes some of her success educating the planet on climate change to her neuroatypical thinking and her lack of awareness of societal norms that impede progress. In an interview with a columnist for The Guardian, Greta stated, “Being different is a gift.” She believes thinking differently helps her understand climate change better, or at least from a new perspective. She also feels unbound by certain societal norms that may slow progress in other cases.
April is undoubtedly an important month for Greta Thunberg. All month, we try to highlight and promote autistic voices, and on April 22nd, we celebrate our planet for Earth Day. This April, try to leave stigma behind and ask a friend or family member with ASD about their worries, passions and emotions.
Aspire Child & Family Services specializes in the treatment of children with Autism and related disabilities by providing high quality IBHS-ABA. Contact our office to learn more: https://aspirecfs.com/contact/