Leading the Fight for Autism Acceptance
As many of you know, April is Autism Awareness Month. It’s a time in which much is dedicated to topics regarding autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and how to spread awareness. However, in recent years there has been a change.
A little history first. In the past, much of this month solely focused on how being on the spectrum was seen as somewhat of a curse. We’ve all seen the ads from organizations, especially one organization in particular (not naming names), where autism was seen as a disease and tragedy — how families and futures were ruined by this. All these ads needed was a Sarah McLaughlin song and they were dead-on tearjerkers. This was all we’d seen. We’ve barely seen any of the success stories of those on the spectrum. Rarely did we hear of those on the spectrum who have went on to make a name for themselves. Nor did we ever hear of how the interests of those on the spectrum have led them to become leaders and role models.
Now don’t get me wrong; as someone on the spectrum myself, there have been many things I had to struggle with. However, with rigor and ambition I have been able to navigate through many obstacles. Others on the spectrum, no matter which part of it, have done the same. It seems our voices have been ignored or, even worse, silenced. This needs to change.
We need to show the world that those on the spectrum are not a tragedy. We must show them we are human beings with careers, that we can take accountability for our actions and can make decisions. That although we need help or support on certain aspects, we can go above and beyond. We must become advocates of ourselves so our community can thrive.
For those who are not on the spectrum but have supported us, I thank you, and we do accept your assistance. However, make sure that when those of the spectrum are ready, you give them the chance to advocate for themselves. We must show the world we are human beings too. This isn’t an easy fight, but to better ourselves, we must take a stance to advocate what we need to better our lives. Whether it be employment, education, healthcare, behavioral health or social skills, we must have our voices heard.
I know there has been some division in the autism community, but we must put that aside so we unite as one for us to succeed. Divided we are weak, but united we are strong.
In conclusion, I leave you with this. Instead of only awareness being the focus of this month, let us make this a month of autism acceptance. It is only through acceptance that progress can be made.
Getty image by LisaAlisa_ill