Today (April 2nd, 2023) is the 16th Annual World Autism Day. It is my 6th World Autism Day, knowing that I am Autistic.
This day started as “World Autism Awareness Day” in 2007 by the United Nations and was still primarily known as such by many when I first learned of my Autistic brain over six and a half years ago.
Historically, April has been a month for non-autistics to sell ABA and other Autism related items and services (often using fear propaganda that stigmatizes Autistics People).
After much begging and pleading from Autistic People over the years to move beyond “being AWARE of Autism” (or the “Autism Be-Wareness Campaigns,” as I like to call them), in 2023, we face a different landscape (where many organizations have dropped the word “Awareness” in favor of “Autism Month”).
Some have gone the extra mile, moving to Autistic Acceptance Month (I’ve even seen a few Autistic Appreciation Months).
So why are many Autistic People asking our allies to move beyond “being aware of Autism”?
Many of us feel as if Awareness isn’t enough.
Being AWARE of something is not the same as taking action.
Autism Awareness is minimal in that it doesn’t move further into taking steps as to what’s needed to include, empower, and accept Autistic People.
Awareness can be an excellent first step in overcoming obstacles (like the obstacles that prevent equitable inclusion of Autistic & NeuroDivergent people in NeuroTypical society).
Awareness can be helpful because it can point us at problems, helping to gain sympathy for causes that may be underserved.
However, Autism and Autistic people ARE NOT a problem.
Autistic People are human beings, and “Autism Awareness” campaigns paint us as a problem that needs fixing, even though we don’t need fixing.
These campaigns don’t help Autistic people. They help make money for companies in the medical industry that serve to profit off of the stigmatization of Autistic people (the autism industrial complex).
Most people are aware of Autism now and know Autistic people exist. However, many people still fail to understand what it means to be Autistic (and don’t see Autistic People as fully human).
I want more!
Where’s the Acceptance? Where’s, where’s the Love? Where’s the Appreciation? Where’s the Autistic Pride?
It’s time to start thinking about the human side of things, what Autistic People need, and how we can fix society’s systems so that Autistic People can be fully included and empowered.
It’s time to move beyond Awareness.
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