How Communities Can Shift From Awareness to Acceptance of Autism

April is quickly approaching and in addition to being known for its “showers that bring May flowers,” it’s also when there’s a national spotlight on autism. Autism Awareness Month in April is not without its controversies as many in the autism community feel it’s time to shift beyond the public’s awareness and emphasize acceptance. I mean, after decades of a nationwide effort in April, isn’t everyone “aware” of autism by now?

Contributor Jodi Murphy for Autism Awareness Month

What I like about a special month devoted to autism awareness is that the media will more likely cover topics related to autism, so we’ll have more of the mainstream’s attention. We have a window of opportunity to move the public past awareness into a greater understanding of autism. As a community, we can cause the shift and create the momentum that will bring about more compassionate, accepting communities in which we live.

When I saw a presentation by Holly Robinson Peete, Hollywood’s most notable autism advocate, she said something that continues to resonate with me:

“I urge any of you who have any kind of platform of any size to spread awareness about autism or special needs and how valuable our children are — it could be at a school function, a church meeting, a community event — do it so there’s always hope for them.”

I really wanted to do something actionable this coming month to make it easier for myself, other parents and educators to have conversations or lessons around autism. And then I had an idea. For the last couple of years, I’ve been collaborating with some amazing autistic adults who have expertise in filmmaking, writing and voice over. I’ve worked in partnership with clinical advisors and educational specialists — even a former Disney feature film’s illustrator.

Together we’ve created children’s stories and pop culture webisodes focused on the topics of autism. I pulled everything together — children’s comic e-books and apps, Bluebee TeeVee Autism Information Station webisodes and the curriculum, activity and episode guides — and added PowerPoint presentations, videos and student handouts into “Autism EDU,” a collection of educational tools for everyone who wants to spread autism awareness/acceptance in their own communities.

So share one of our Mighty League stories as an opener that leads into sharing your child’s story:

Or teachers, what about reading a story for language arts and include social and emotional learning, too?

Why not use one of the webisodes to help educate a family member so you can have a deeper discussion?

My hope is that this sparks some ideas for you. We don’t need to wait for big organizations to speak for us. We can cause the shift to happen. No action is too small or insignificant because together we can create a tidal wave of change.

My son and I will use these tools when we’re talking to students in a few classrooms and participating in Fullerton’s Mardi Gras for Autism on April 16. We’ll let you know how it goes! Likewise, we’d love to know about what you do this April to move your community from “awareness” to acceptance.

Find all the Autism EDU awareness/acceptance tools here.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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