by Debra Hosseini
April has been designated as the month to contemplate autism. There is a growing movement among people who are knowledgeable about autism who wants to see the word awareness change to acceptance. in 2011, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) proposed we change the designation from Autism Awareness Month to Autism Acceptance Month. The Art of Autism would love to see April designated officially as Autism Acceptance Month.
Acceptance requires heart-felt action. Awareness is passive and can even be harmful. Especially if the messages are negative as we’ve observed in many media campaigns. Our children internalize the messages they receive. How many times have I heard non-verbal Autistic adults relate detailed reports of conversations they overheard as children. Never assume those who aren’t verbal don’t understand!
At the Fred Conference last week, Areva Martin shared a story which touched many in the audience. She observed a family with foster children who had various disabilities sit in the back of her church. The children were sensitive to the noise in the church and made sounds and acted in strange ways. This was uncomfortable for many in the congregation and soon the family became isolated in the back pews.
Areva noticed this and made a conscious choice to sit next to this family in quiet support. She encouraged friends to do the same. Soon this family was fully included and felt a sense of belonging in that church.
When Areva moved her seat to sit next to the family she moved the congregation from awareness to acceptance. Sometimes a small action such as a simple smile or hello can make a huge difference in a person’s day.
With more and more children being diagnosed with autism, it’s no longer good enough to be aware. “Aware” is a word that may even have hostile implications, such as “I’m aware you have autism, and am going to exclude you because of it.” We’ve witnessed this in our own community with my son Kevin. Earlier this year, a “friend” emailed me she was praying for Kevin. Later I discovered she was creating hostility in the community behind our backs. Prayers without right intent and action are meaningless and can even cause harm.
April is a month to celebrate people who may be wired differently than the rest of us. They may talk to themselves, flap their arms (self-stimulation), like to spin, repeat sounds or phrases (echolalia) or not talk at all. When overwhelmed they may have tantrums. They may have dual diagnoses.
They may also have profound insights and gifts to share.
This year the Art of Autism supports The Kate Winslet Golden Hat Foundation to infuse twitter messaging throughout the month of April taking the focus away from the negativity and fear (blue) and replacing it with imagery around strength, determination and enlightenment (the color gold). The Golden Rule is apropos. If we practiced this daily, our world would change in an instant.
Please like @Goldenhat on twitter and share their twitter feeds using these hashtags #autistic #autism #GoldenRuleofAutism and read their blog for Autism Acceptance Month.
Last weekend The Art of Autism participated in the Second annual Ventura Autism Society Aut2Run event at Channel Islands. We support organizations who keep dollars raised in their own local communities to help children and adults on the spectrum. Only a small percentage of dollars from national autism nonprofits go back to local communities. People who walk, run, and donate need to raise their consciousness about the money trail.
Join us and Golden Hat and become friends with other autism friendly twitter feeds @celebrateautism @autismhwy @squagdotcom @giftsofautism @Autism_Miracles @autismmovementtherapy are a few!
We’re on twitter too! @artautism