Post by Jordan Stephenson, Autistic Assistant Behavior Consultant at Hummingbird ABA Therapy.
April is known around the world as Autism Awareness Month, but those who are on the Spectrum like to refer to it as Autism Acceptance Month. While awareness for the condition is important, respect, kindness, and understanding towards those who are on the Autism Spectrum is vital as well. There are a variety of steps that can be taken to improve Autism Acceptance in your local community such as reading material written by Autistic individuals, appropriately representing individuals with Autism through symbolism, and providing opportunities for individuals with Autism to advocate for themselves and make their own choices.
One of the biggest things we can do as a society to improve the quality of lives of individuals affected by Autism is to listen to or reading material written by those who have the condition themselves. While Autism was originally a condition marked by difficulties with social skills, communication challenges, and restrictive and repetitive behaviors, the condition has changed to include individuals with a wide variety of unique strengths, weaknesses, struggles, and talents. If you have met one person with Autism, you have met one person with Autism, meaning that no two individuals are alike.
Another way we can support individuals with Autism during the month of April is by understanding the importance of symbols and colors used to promote Autism
Awareness/Acceptance Month. Many individuals like to wear blue or use puzzle pieces in support of individuals with Autism throughout the month of April, but a lot of people with
Autism find this demeaning prefer other symbols. Alternatives colors that are supported by individuals who have Autism include the colors red and gold. An alternative symbol that is supported by individuals who have Autism the rainbow infinity symbol which supports the neurodivergent community as a whole.
The most important thing that we can do to support Autistic individuals is to provide them with autonomy, decision making skills, and their right to advocate for their own wants and needs. People with Autism do not want to change or mold to society, but they want to be their own individual. Neurotypical individuals can support these individuals by providing them with the opportunity to engage in preferred activities or interests whether they are age-appropriate or not, providing individuals with Autism the ability to make choices, and listening to the wants and needs of the individual. Although treatments are available to Autistic individuals, these treatments should empower, habilitate, and improve the quality of life of individuals with Autism instead of trying to cure or fix them. I highly recommend reading Balancing the Right to Habilitation With the Right to Personal Liberties: the Rights of People With Developmental Disabilities to Eat Too Many Donuts and Take a Nap which delves into the gray line of acceptable vs unacceptable expectations of our neurodiverse friends.
During Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month 2022, I encourage you to delve into what it really means to be Autistic; the good and the bad. For further information on the joys and challenges of Autism, I highly recommend reading The Obsessive Joys of Autism at https://juststimming.wordpress.com/2011/04/05/the-obsessive-joy-of-autism/.
About the Author:
Jordan Stephenson is a young woman who just so happens to be living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. She currently works for Hummingbird ABA as an Assistant Behavior Consult (ABC) where she plans to further her career as a BCBA. Jordan plans on graduating from Drexel University in the fall of 2022 with a Master's in Applied Behavior Analysis. In her free time she enjoys working on jigsaw puzzles, getting outdoors, and writing about and advocating for those on the Autism Spectrum. She is also an avid lover of all things Disney.