Do we need an Autism Awareness Month? Article… Include NYC…. Photo Jessica Semler
Each April, Autism Awareness Month is prominent on and offline. There are mentions on social media and email newsletters. Buildings are lit blue. News channels feature people on the spectrum. Retail stores display puzzle piece signs and ask patrons to donate.
Kim Stagliano, who has three daughters with autism and is managing editor of the Age of Autism blog, is not a fan of Autism Awareness Month. “What the autism community needs isn’t a party, but a sense of urgency and true crisis,” she explained. “They need advocates committed not only to getting them the acceptance they deserve, but also the critical help they require to survive, in the form of social programs, education, safety and employment opportunities.”
Jess Benham of the Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy, who is also on the spectrum noted, “I’m tired of politicians ‘lighting it up for blue’ for a day or for the month, then not listening when I’m in their offices advocating for the issues that impact our lives. Autistic people need seats at the table where decisions are being made about us, not a month in which public figures and autism organizations highlight negative stereotypes.”
Chris Bonnello, an autistic teacher, author and speaker, offers several suggestions for real autism awareness. “It means not talking about someone’s autism with undertones of ‘oh, poor thing.’ It means not apologising when asking for accommodations…Putting a rainbow jigsaw puzzle piece in your profile picture may remind your friends that autism exists, but seeing an autistic person in real life will do loads more to raise actual awareness.”
The Crippled Scholar also observes the performative aspect of the profile picture frame, “If you really want to support autistic people this April and hopefully beyond it, you can support organizations that are run by autistic people…You can read the work of actually autistic people. You can promote and amplify their voices and work.”
Jim Walter, who has a daughter on the spectrum, says that Autism Awareness Month can sometimes be a good thing. “I honestly am more than happy to put up with the well-meaning questions or suggestions, because it means that you actually care enough about my daughter or myself to have at least read an article, watched a video, or shared an infographic. The information might not mesh perfectly with my experiences, but it beats the hell out of angry stares and judgmental commentary in a crowded theater as your child melts down (yes, I’ve been there).”
Article Courtesy Include NYC