It’s Time To Accept Autism: Awareness Just Isn’t Enough

Most people will know that April has been coined Autism Awareness Month, where social media is overwhelmed with people spreading facts about autism. However, in recent years, a lot of people have started to question whether raising awareness alone is enough. When you consider that 95.5% of people already know what autism is, it’s understandable that people view autism acceptance as the next hurdle for society to tackle.

The neurodiversity movement, specifically the autistic community, feel so passionately that they’ve decided to call this month by another name. While others may spend time spreading facts many already know, these people will be going one step further in a movement they’ve penned ‘Autism Acceptance Month’. To these people, April will be able sharing home truths about what autism really is in the hope of encouraging acceptance.

What exactly does autism acceptance mean? 

Like I mentioned above, accepting autism comes after learning that the condition exists at all. It should be the next step, an easy adjustment after people have become aware of the condition. However, rarely does it work in that way. Instead, people’s lack of understanding causes a culture of fear and hesitation towards including autistic people in wider society, and that needs to change.

Unlike awareness, which is becoming more and more popular in mainstream society throughout April, acceptance is a newer phenomenon. It isn’t something that can be forced upon you, either; it’s something you have to choose, a decision you need to make. You have to accept that there are differences, and be okay with them, embracing autistic people within society like they’re any less equal than you are.

It’s worth mentioning that treating somebody equally doesn’t mean treating the same. By accepting the condition, you also accept the extra accommodations disabled people have that need to be met. Be willing to implement ‘reasonable adjustments’ that help an autistic person to succeed, and be there to answer questions that may reassure an autistic person enough to put themselves out there in your environment.

But why is accepting autism so important?

Because Autistic People Are NOT Burdens

Autism acceptance is important because it’s about time we stopped treating autistic people like burdens. We need to get our heads out of the 1950’s, where autistic people were institutionalized or abused until we stopped the behaviours that made us who we are, and accept the differences in our society.

We need to accept that even though there might be differences, nobody else has the right to take someone’s right to contribute to society away from them. The last thing we need, after all the progress we’ve made, is to push people into social isolation for the ease of others. This will help to stop the stigma surrounding our condition once and for all.

Because autistic people have the same rights to high self-esteems as non-autistic people 

Without acceptance, society will continue to tell autistic people that they cannot be celebrated for being themselves. The adverse reactions towards people having meltdowns, or stimming to receive the sensory input they desire, will continue, and the message towards autistic people like myself are clear: You are not accepted, so you must change.

This is likely to have an impact on the autistic child, reducing their self-esteem levels as they start to view themselves as the problem. They might start trying to behave like other people to be accepted, which could make them feel like they’ve lost themselves, and confuse their own self-image. Effectively, we’re teaching people to hate themselves from a young age, simply because they have a disability which may change the way they experience life.

We need to teach autistic people to embrace their disability, and in turn, embrace themselves. Why force people to be ashamed just because they’re part of a societal minority?

Because children receiving abusive therapy’s labelled as something else should never be accepted

One popular kind of therapy for autistic children is Applied Behaviour Analysis. This uses the idea of conditioning from Pavlov’s psychological theory to change the way autistic people behave. Effectively, it makes them act against their normal instincts to avoid punishments, or having something they like withheld from them.

Some things that might be asked of the child include maintaining eye contact for several minutes, or engaging in unwanted physical contact. Now I don’t know about you, but I consider teaching someone autonomy over their own body far more important than making sure they’re accepted by Susan down the street. I’d deal with her tutting all day if it meant my own child felt confident enough to withdraw consent when they weren’t comfortable with something.

You might not think of this as abusive, per say, but many who have been through this themselves would disagree. You don’t have to look very far to find an autistic adult talking about the post-traumatic-stress disorder they suffer as a result of this ‘therapy’ they were forced into as a child. And, when even an ABA therapist has written a blog post admitting the abusive nature of this practice.

However, I think it’s important to add this doesn’t extend to therapy like speech therapy, which can be done in a positive way. This is something I received as a child and found extremely beneficial.

Because autistic people need tolerance, not a cure

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,

Goodbye.

PS: If you want to keep up with my latest posts, be sure to follow my Facebook Page, Twitter, or Instagram.

 

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34 thoughts on “It’s Time To Accept Autism: Awareness Just Isn’t Enough

  1. Hi Rebekah!
    You make some really compelling points about why acceptance is so important. I completely agree that it is a choice. It’s hard to understand autism if you’ve never been impacted by it, but even so we can all make a choice to practice tolerance. Very insightful, thank you for your post 🙂

    -Joanna

    1. Yeah, it definitely is difficult if you aren’t autistic yourself, but practicing tolerance is so important. Thanks for reading, Joanna.

    1. Like I mentioned in the disclaimer below that paragraph, I’m 100% in support of therapies which support people–as speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy do.
      I received speech therapy myself in 2004 when I was 6 years old. I thought it was for a lisp, but my mum recently correct me and told me it was because I didn’t talk very much. I wasn’t diagnosed at the time, but I think that autism could’ve been a factor. I’m not sure if it worked–my mum stopped me going because there were people ‘much worse off’ and she didn’t want to use up resources–but speech therapy definitely has major positives.
      I haven’t received input from physical or occupational therapy myself but I have looked into them as part of my college course, and they both support people to carry out everyday tasks/deal with pain/injury which can only be a positive thing.
      My major problem with ABA is the way they stop behaviours natural to autistic people by, in some cases, restraining hands and legs, or using phrases like ‘quiet hands’. My main stims at the moment are flapping and shaking my legs–people get frustrated by them, but I NEED to do it. The way people get autistic children to conform, if not by physical intervening, is by taking away their favourite things and only allowing them within sessions, when someone complies with instructions which cause an individual to go against what their brain naturally tells them to do.
      Sorry this comment is so long. I hope it helps to clear things up for you. I’m definitely in support of anything that helps an individual to live as the best version of themselves as long as it’s supportive and not abusive, and always in the best intention of the service user. 🙂

      EDIT: I realise you might have left this for the Q&A. If that was the case, sorry. It’s quite a long answer, though, so I hope you don’t mind. 🙂

  2. I loved reading this. I have people close to me that are autistic and I feel they are misunderstood. They are like the rest of us and deserve acceptance.

      1. Hi Becca,

        It’s amazing what autistic people can achieve with the right support system in place. Like you’ve pointed out, people know about it (sort of like in the way everyone knows about the major religions of the world) but it’s not real to them, there is no real understanding of the condition. In Africa, autism equals imbecility, how crude.

        1. Yeah, I definitely agree! I’ve watched a few documentaries about how autism and other disabilities are viewed in other parts of the world and it seems like some countries/continents still have some catching up to do. Hopefully the work of the autistic communities reaches these countries sooner rather than later so people don’t have to suffer in silence forever. Disabled people are different, not less. 🙂

    1. Thank you. There’s been a lot of conversation about it in the autistic community this month, and I know I couldn’t just ignore it, especially when it’s something I’m so passionate about. I’ve written several posts about autism in the last couple of years, which you can find by looking in the categories menu at the top, if you’re interested in reading anything else I’ve written. 🙂

  3. This hit a soft spot because my brother is autistic and growing up, people used to stare at him and it would set my heart ablaze. My mom is an autism advocate and she helped in the governments decisions on one of the cases for autism. I forgot what it was. She continues to fight for him and so do we!

    1. Yeah! I’ve definitely had a few stares in my lifetime, as has my brother, who is also autistic. That’s so great that your mum feels so passionate about autism that she’s willing to help and push the government into action! 🙂

  4. I’m still learning acceptance but I don’t think it comes over night. My twin brother was diagnosed at 22 just a few months ago, and it’s been a whirlwind journey. On the one had it explains so much about our childhood and why we were so different but on the other I feel like we are having to learn who he is all over again xx

    Sophia xx

    1. It definitely doesn’t come overnight–practicing tolerance is definitely the best thing to do when a diagnosis like this comes so late.
      Have you spoken to your brother about the way you feel? I can’t speak for him, but I know when I received my diagnosis I felt like my identity had been stripped from me and I had to learn who I was all over again too, so you might be feeling similar things about it. I was diagnosed in September 2015 so it’s been about a year and a half now, and things have definitely gotten easier–for me, and my family. It’s very much an adjustment period at first.
      I’ve written a guest post about late diagnosis’ which you might find helpful, which you can read here, and a blog post a year after my diagnosis, which you can read here. They might help you to understand the process more/realise it’s not going to be confusing forever. 🙂

  5. Another fantastic post, Rebekah! You are completely right, everyone’s brains are wired differently, everyone is unique, and in some people, this just happens to manifest in autism! It doesn’t mean that someone is a burden or a drain on others just because of how their brain works! Everyone is valuable – it’d be a pretty boring world if everybody worked in the same way!

    Abbey 😘 http://www.abbeylouisarose.co.uk

      1. Hey!
        Great article! Autism is such a touchy subject for those who are unaware of how it affects certain aspects of life. I’m a photographer and I photograph a few families that their children have autism. Nothing makes me happier than being able to work with these families to capture real honest moments in their lives that they will treasure forever. They say that they have problems with other photographers, but we strive to make it as accommodating as possible while still being all about fun!

        1. I completely agree with what you’ve said. People seem almost scared of the word. Trust me, it won’t hurt you. 😉
          That’s so cool that you’re willing to accommodate your services to meet the needs of others!

  6. Beautiful post and so true! I have had the opportunity to teach a couple kids now who are on the autism spectrum and have had to learn a lot about adapting to having them in my music class! I feel like I learned as much if not more from them than they could have ever learned from me!

    Britt | http://alternativelyspeaking.ca/

    1. Well you never know… us autistic people mimic others all the time! I’m sure they’re learning your kindness by being willing to adapt services to meet their needs, too. 🙂

      1. They are such amazing kids, love each and every one of them regardless of whether they are on the autism spectrum, have ADD (like me), have no learning disabilities, have behavioural issues (we have had a few of those, but its amazing how music can speak to them and help them to find themselves as well) etc 🙂 Music speaks to everyone!

        1. Yes, music is definitely a great tool at getting people out of their shell and getting them to open up in a more productive way. I used to love music (specifically instruments) when I was younger, but I haven’t played anything for a number of years now. It’s a shame, really. I’m glad you’ve found a way of adapting things, though!

          1. Music is my love – I have been blessed to get this job as an instructor with the group… While I don’t get to do music as my fulltime job, its still in my life.

  7. Thank you for this post! This is a must-read post, spreading awareness about autism is very important because people who hasn’t gone through it doesn’t know how it is like. I love your blog btw ❤

    1. I can definitely understand how that can happen. It can be frustrating, too, when people want you to do something and you can’t or it’s difficult for you and they don’t understand why. It’s something people definitely need to be more understanding about.

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