It’s World Autism Awareness Day, and it’s also the second day of Autism Awareness Month. While autism is something people need to be aware of year round, April presents a unique opportunity to spread greater awareness of this neurological disorder for the simple fact that countless people are working all month long to bring attention to autism spectrum disorders. I’m no different. For the second year in a row, I’m dedicating my blog to raising awareness of autism and the reality of how it affects the daily lives of those blessed with it. Check back every Tuesday throughout April for a new post about topics common to many autistics, both children and adults!
One of the biggest things that people need to be aware of, and it’s something I noticed a lack of when scanning a list of events celebrating World Autism Awareness Day, is that autism is not exclusive to children. For years, autistic children have been the focus of efforts to raise awareness about autism. While this is great because it enables these kids to lead more normal lives as more people understand their challenges, it leaves out a vital piece of information. The autistic children will grow up to be autistic adults who face challenges related to autism every single day.
I am one of those autistic adults. No, life with autism isn’t easy. It can be downright hard. But I wouldn’t trade my autism for anything. It has given me a unique perspective on the world and I have no doubt it helps with my creative process. Without that creative process, I wouldn’t be an author, and I love writing with the goal of sharing my stories with others. I know some autistics and even more parents may not see autism as a blessing, but it’s just one more thing that adds to the uniqueness of the human race.
That said, there are many challenges associated with autism. It’s fairly well known at this point that autism affects a person’s social and communication abilities. There can also be sensory issues that add another set of challenges (I wrote an article for KnowABit on sensory integration issues a few months ago, if you want to learn more). While these challenges can be overcome to a certain extent by many autistics, they do continue into adulthood and can make it difficult for an autistic to find and keep a job, live on his or her own, develop friendships, and myriad other small things that neurotyipcals (those with no neurological difficulties, generally meaning non-autistics) take for granted every day.
Of course, there are many examples of successful autistics out there. Temple Grandin is one of the most well known successful autistics. While she has done great things and has overcome her challenges admirably, it’s unrealistic to expect every autistic child to grow up and earn a doctoral degree. Success is as individual as autism—it varies by the person. I’ll discuss success in more depth later in the month, so be sure to check back!
To bring this post back to World Autism Awareness Day, it’s important to note that before the UN resolution made April 2 an official awareness day, this awareness day was started by Autism Speaks, an organization I do not support. There are many organizations out there that do much more for autistics than Autism Speaks, and if you wish to make a charitable donation to assist those living with autism, I’d recommend donating to the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN), Autism Society of America, or The National Autistic Society in England. There are many other organizations who do wonderful work for those on the autism spectrum and their families, but Autism Speaks is not an organization favorably looked upon by autistics for many reasons I’m not going to go into today.
For today, take a moment to learn about the realities of autism and learn how you can help those living with it. As much as April is about raising awareness of autism, it’s also a time to raise awareness of autism acceptance. This means not trying to find the child or adult behind the autism, it’s about accepting the autistic child or adult as they are. Whether high functioning, low functioning, or anywhere in between, autistics are people who experience the world in a different way from the majority of the population. You cannot separate the autism from the person because the autistic brain is wired differently from the neurotypical brain. You can, however, love and respect an autistic person and show them they’re just as important and special as a non-autistic person.
That is acceptance. That is the goal of autism awareness, at least in my mind and the minds of many other autistic adults. So, take advantage of the opportunities in the month of April to learn more about autism and help us create a world where autism is accepted as just another difference in the human race.