It’s almost April, and that means life is about to get more dangerous for autistic people than it already is.
For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, let’s break this down.
What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a type of disability that affects how the brain develops. It affects how autistic people see the world and interact with it. The “spectrum” part comes from the fact that every autistic person is different. Some of us can speak, some of us need Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) to talk. Some of us struggle to empathize with people and need them to tell us how they feel, while some of us are highly tuned to others and can guess their feelings. Some of us are problem-solvers, but some of us struggle to make decisions. Actually, many autistic people don’t even consider Autism a disability because they see it as just how their brains work. All people are different, autistic people are people; therefore, all autistic people are different. So—
Why does Autism have a whole month?
I doubt it will surprise many of my readers that the world was not built by or for autistic people.
How would you feel if everyone with power over you called you damaged? If people thought of teaching you life skills as an “intervention,” but didn’t believe you could ever be independent? If your thoughts on important topics were dismissed or ignored, because nobody believed that you understood what was going on? Even when those issues affected you directly? If bullies, teachers, police and so-called caregivers alike could torment and torture you, even kill you, and then claim you deserved it?
Yeah. Terrible right? I thought so. And that’s just the beginning.
So, people become more aware of that in April. Isn’t that good?
Well, without context, “awareness” is a neutral word. It means that people are aware autism exists, just as they might be aware that tomatoes are fruits. Unfortunately, that vagueness left room for toxic narratives that perpetuate the ableist behavior listed above. By now, “Autism Awareness” and “light it up blue” don’t mean, “Hey, Autism exists!” They mean, “Hey, Autism exists, but it shouldn’t, because people who have it are broken!”
We don’t need awareness. We need acceptance. We need laws that protect our civil rights and liberties, we need people to understand our natural body movements instead of treating us as threats. We need access to better supports. And none of that is going to come without our communities treating us like whole, competent people who just need a little help sometimes, like everyone else.
This Autism Acceptance Month, instead of lighting it up blue, go for #RedInstead, or shine in gold! Listen to autistic people to see what we really need. If you can afford it, maybe donate to autism organizations lead by autistic people. And keep an eye out for Zeta Sigma’s Autism Acceptance Day event, coming soon to USG.