The Shift from Autism “Awareness” to Autism “Acceptance” Month
Autism Acceptance Month is celebrated every April. This awareness month promotes the acceptance and inclusion of people on the autism spectrum in all aspects of daily and communal life.
The Shift from “Awareness” to “Acceptance” Explained
The Autism Society held the first National Autism Awareness month in 1970 with a focus on spreading information about the signs and symptoms of autism, and the realities of living with an autism diagnosis. Since then, April was widely known with the “Awareness” title and often associated with Autism Speaks and their “Light It Up Blue” campaign— which has been the topic of controversy within the autistic community.
In recent years, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network – (ASAN) has called for a shift away from the awareness label by stating that awareness is not enough. As a society, we have moved beyond the act of informing about autism and highlighting differences between people. It is more important than ever to focus on the understanding and inclusion of diverse individuals within our communities.
It is more important than ever to focus on the understanding and inclusion of diverse individuals within our communities.
Acceptance is often one of the biggest barriers to finding and developing a strong support system. Starting in 2021, the Autism Society has shifted to Autism Acceptance language to focus perspective on “creat[ing] connections, empowering everyone in the Autism community to live fully.” More and more organizations in the disability services field are shifting toward Acceptance language that embraces a philosophy that promotes love and understanding over awareness.
From Acceptance to Action
Thomas Iland, a prominent Autistic self-advocate and motivational speaker, stresses the need for acceptance. Tom sums up his personal perspective by pointing pout that “rather than be seen as ‘ill,’ ‘less,’ or ‘victims,’ [autistic individuals] strived to be seen as equals amongst their peers and fought for autism Acceptance.”
“rather than be seen as ‘ill,’ ‘less,’ or ‘victims,’ [autistic individuals] strived to be seen as equals amongst their peers and fought for autism Acceptance.” – Thomas Iland
Ultimately, what we need is Action. All people, both inside and outside the autistic community, should take a “genuine interest in and taking action toward the success and well-being of people on the autism spectrum.” (Read more: Thomas Iland: From Acceptance to Action)
Jay Nolan Community Services Celebrates Autism Acceptance Month
At JNCS, we believe that every individual has the right to be a valued and contributing member of their community with whatever supports necessary for success. Every April, and throughout the entire year, we recognize our friends with autism for their strengths as well as their challenges and accept neurodiversity as another way of improving our society as a whole.
This year, we invite the people we serve, their friends and families, and support staff to a picnic and walk for Autism Acceptance Month. This event brings us closer together as a community and helps spread the message of inclusion to a broader audience.
What Can I do for Autism Acceptance Month?
1. Join the conversation online
Share this page or your thoughts on social media using the hashtags #AutismAcceptance or #AutismAcceptanceMonth. Acceptance continues to be a challenge within our communities. Starting conversation, learning about other perspectives, and educating yourself and others is an important step to fighting bias and discrimination.
2. Support local service organizations
Instead of donating to large research-oriented organizations like Autism Speaks, donate to local service providers like Jay Nolan Community Services (JNCS). Agencies like JNCS provide day to day support that makes a real impact in the quality of life for people with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities. As little as $10 per month assists people with high support needs to live and work independently within their community.
Our society has moved beyond the need for awareness because awareness is not enough. #Acceptance is what we need for a truly #inclusive society. If you agree, take the JNCS Pledge by re-posting!#AutismAcceptance #InclusionMatters #BeTheChange pic.twitter.com/EI8MVoVsNK
— Jay Nolan Community Services. Inc. (@JayNolanOrg) April 1, 2022