April has increasingly been known as Autism Awareness Month in the U.S. as an approach to empower those with autism and spread cognizance about resources the public can use to advocate.
Yet, simply a month ago, many in the autism community have collectively championed to shift the language "away from stigmatizing “autism awareness” language that presents autism as a threat to be countered with vigilance," as indicated by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN).
ASAN said, "Autism acceptance means respecting the rights and humanity of all autistic people. It means centering the perspectives and needs of autistic people with intellectual disabilities, nonspeaking autistic people, and autistic people with the highest support needs — not by speaking over them, but by listening and looking to them as leaders. It means fighting to ensure that the universal human rights of all autistic people are respected, including and especially the rights of those autistic people with the most significant disabilities."
The slight shift in wording cultivates advocacy for positive change through employment, comprehensive long-term services, accessible housing, and improved support for those on the autistic spectrum. ASAN supports these new developments and expresses that accepting autism as a natural condition that is “necessary for real dialogue to occur.” With no official national recognition, ASAN is also advocating for the federal government to designate April as “Autism Acceptance Month” formally.
The journey towards a more equal and equitable journey for those on the autism spectrum does not end in the U.S. The United Nations has designated April 2nd as the World Autism Awareness Day that is recognized globally. This year, the UN facilitated a virtual panel, “Inclusion in the Workplace: Challenges and Opportunities in a Post-Pandemic World,” with guest speakers on the autism spectrum who have faced challenges in the employment market light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Acceptance and inclusion is an ever-evolving and continuous battle, but through listening to others’ stories, engaging in conversation, and educating ourselves, we can individually become more accepting and spread love. We must encourage each other to be welcoming and aware of the autism community and all of its intersections as we lift each other up to a more inclusive society.