I Used to Feel Negative About Autism Awareness Month. Not Anymore.

Forty years ago, I never saw people with autism in the community. Autism was a taboo topic, and people with it were often institutionalized. Today, people with autism are living in our communities — which are also their communities — and teaching us exactly what they have to share with the world. That’s progress.

I’m a believer in awareness that leads to education and acceptance. When my son, who has autism, was younger, I harbored some negativity about the public jumping on board for one day/month every year and then disappearing the rest of the year. I thought acknowledging Autism Awareness Month was a way of making themselves feel good. Now I see there’s nothing wrong with that. If acceptance starts with one day of them feeling better about themselves so they want to continue to raise awareness, then so be it. That’s progress.

My son is now 20 and still non-verbal. If the world can look at him when he’s jumping and flapping in a grocery store line and realize he has autism and that through his flapping he may be expressing he’s happy or overstimulated, then he may be able to navigate his community and forge relationships more easily. That’s progress.

It’s not a perfect world. People with autism and other disabilities continue to be excluded, bullied and sidelined. Wearing blue and displaying blue lights won’t solve everything, but it’s the beginning of our world moving toward acceptance. My wish for my son and for those who are on this journey with us all over the world, is that we continue along this path. In the past half-century, we’ve gone from hiding people with disabilities because we believed they had nothing to offer, to celebrating their existence. That’s progress, my friends. Progress.

This post originally appeared on Mother Autism.

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