April is known as Autism Awareness Month, but for some people, it goes by another name—‘Autism Acceptance Month’. Some people believe April is about much more than making people aware of what autism is.
When 95.5% of people in England are already aware of autism, it’s easy to see why acceptance is the next hurdle. I was able to explain autism in one blog post last year, but acceptance is a much bigger commitment. It’s one thing to acknowledge the existence of a disability, but it’s a completely different thing to accept it.
So…What Does Acceptance Mean?
Acceptance is the step that comes after learning that a condition exists. At least, that’s how it should work. It takes far more effort to accept something than just becoming aware of it, and some people struggle to make that step. Overall, though, it’s about taking what you know and accepting the condition as it comes as part of the wider society.
Unlike awareness, which is raised more and more through mainstream media in recent years, acceptance is a choice. It involves embracing differences without trying to change the person to conform to an individual’s own view of normality.
Why Is Acceptance Important?
Acceptance is important because autistic people were historically viewed as burdens. For a long time, we were institutionalised away from the wider society, our behaviours punished through unthinkable means. Acceptance means visibility and breaking down the stigma associated with autism once and for all.
Acceptance is important in raising the self-esteem of autistic children. Why should they be told their behaviours are wrong, or unnatural because their condition means they are a minority? By accepting autism, we are telling them they can be proud of their disability from a young age. They don’t need to be ashamed because they aren’t neurotypical, and others should not put this upon them.
Acceptance is important because putting children through abusive therapy’s should never be okay. Autistic adults have come out in recent years to reveal the devastating consequences that ABA has had on their mental health. Even people who previously worked as ABA therapists have admitted it was abuse. You can read one woman’s story here.
(Disclaimer: This does not apply to therapy like speech therapy, which I myself received as a child.)
Acceptance is important because autistic people don’t need a cure. We need tolerance, an understanding that we are different, not less. The inventor of ABA claims he can cure autism, but how is that possible when the cause of this condition is still unknown?
The truth is, autistic people aren’t puzzle pieces. Our brains do not have something missing from them; they are simply wired differently. Autistic people do not exist for neurotypical people to experiment on.
We need acceptance because autistic people should not be scared of doing things neurotypical people do without a second thought. Autistic people should not worry about being pulled off of planes for our behaviour, or told to leave shopping centres. I’ve seen so many worries from autistic people in the communities I am a part of about them being worried of being excluded because of behaviour their body naturally tells them to do.
Autism Acceptance Has Started!
In recent years, businesses have listened more and more to suggestions made by autistic people and those close to us. There is so much more than needs to be done, but this is a step in the right direction.
Some supermarkets have quiet hours so autistic people can avoid sensory overload from bright lights and loud music. This is inclusion, as we are able to carry out the same activities as non-autistic people without suffering.
An Irish airport recently opened a sensory room for people with special needs, and has encouraged other airports to do the same. I’ve never been in an airport myself, but I’ve heard from others that this can be a very overwhelming environment.
Thanks for reading my latest blog post, and until next Saturday,