All April long, people across the country have been celebrating Autism Acceptance Month (formerly called Autism Awareness Month). As the month comes to a close, we thought it would be an ideal time to remind ourselves why this commemoration is important — and how we can improve it for the Autistic people in our lives.
Small changes can make a big difference
In honor, celebration, and acceptance of the clients and families we serve, Stride’s Clinical Team wants to provide some additional information as you may plan celebrations this month.
- Acceptance vs. awareness — We now celebrate April as Autism Acceptance Month. Autistic individuals and advocates use this updated language because “awareness” puts the focus on non-autistic individuals and providing those individuals with information. “Acceptance,” on the other hand, focuses on tangible, actionable steps to promote inclusive and equitable environments. More information from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) can be found here.
- Autistic vs. with autism — Many individuals and families prefer the term Autistic (rather than “with autism”). It’s important to center ideas showing that individuals know what is best for them. This focuses on treating Autistic individuals with autonomy and respect, which is central to the neurodiversity movement: “nothing about us without us.” In the spirit of that movement, we encourage you to review Autistic writer Alaina Leary’s ideas and actionable steps here.
- Puzzle vs. other symbols — Symbols used to represent autism — especially during Autism Acceptance Month each April — often include puzzle pieces. This perpetuates the idea that Autistic individuals are “puzzling” and incomplete. If you want to use symbols, we encourage using those accepted by the Autistic community, including the infinity symbol in rainbow (to reflect the diversity of individuals) or gold (Au is the beginning of ‘Autism’ and the abbreviation for gold on the periodic table).
- Blue vs. red — Historically, blue was used as the color for autism. This has been harmful to the Autistic community for a number of reasons. In fact, it was first chosen because autism is more commonly diagnosed in boys. Autistic people have a movement #REDinstead. Currently, the Autistic community encourages using red, rainbow, and gold.
Getting involved in Autism Acceptance Month
If you want to support autism-focused organizations, we recommend local organizations or those run by Autistic individuals. One such national organization is the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN).
Finally, we at Stride recognize and acknowledge that some folks may have used some of the language and symbols above with very good intentions. We encourage everyone to explore information on what is being said by the Autistic community and reframe practices to emphasize Autism Acceptance, both in April and beyond.
If you want more information or you want to explore our program for Autistic kids ages 2–6, get in touch.