Acceptance Over Awareness
While ‘autism awareness’ is seemingly well-meaning, certian ‘awareness’ is actually harmful. Generally speaking as a society, when we want to bring awareness to something it’s for preventive reasons, or in hopes of finding a cure, like we so commonly do with various cancers and suicide. The majority of information that is distributed about autism is predominantly misleading, invokes fear, and demands a need a for a ‘cure’. Autism is not a disease or some epidemic that requires a ‘call to action’, as Autism Speaks has reported. Campaigns like Autism Speak’s include dialog that claims people with autism are a burden, that autism should be feared, and mostly focus on the deficits of autism.
Nothing about awareness actually helps autistics.
It merely lets people know they exist. Awareness without action leaves room for misconceptions, false stereotypes, and ableism. Even in film and the media autism is portrayed as a person being severely disabled, or painted as some genius with a special talent. These stereotypes reinforce harmful labels like ‘low functioning’ and ‘high functioning’. Labels like these either undermine a person’s abilities or minimize a person’s autism.
This is why the move to acceptance is so important. Acceptance is inclusive, accommodating, and understanding. It’s the difference between pitying a person verse seeing them as an equal. It’s understanding that being different or requiring a certain level of support doesn’t diminish a person’s worth. Acceptance is listening to actually autistic people, and respecting their voice. It’s changing the narrative from ‘prevention and cures’ to ‘inclusion and acceptance’. People with autism don’t want to be cured, they want to be heard and most of accepted for who they are. While these differences may appear subtile for some, please understand it makes a world of a difference.
Awareness: Focuses mainly on deficits.
Acceptance: Focuses on abilities and strengths, and understanding that everyone has something to offer.
Awareness: Knowing a person has a disability.
Acceptance: Including that person regardless of their disability.
Awareness: Pitying a person because of their disability.
Acceptance: Seeing a person as equal and worthy regardless of their disability.
Awareness: Assumptions about a person because of their disability.
Acceptance: Taking the time to understand an individual and not stereotype a group of people because of their disability.
Awareness: Aims to correct or change a person’s autistic behaviors in order to appear normal or neurotypical.
Acceptance: Understanding and accepting these behaviors are apart of being autistics and makes the person who they are.