Happy April and Autism Acceptance Month! If you are unfamiliar with autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), as defined by the Autism Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), is “a developmental disability that affects how we experience the world around us. Autistic people are an important part of the world. Autism is a normal part of life, and makes us who we are”. Most likely, you have met an autistic person; 1 in 88 children are autistic, but no two autistic individuals have the same experience. Autism is referred to as a spectrum, with there being as many kinds of autism as people who have it (Armstrong, 71-72).
Autism Acceptance Month especially presents a perfect chance to learn about the many ways to support our autistic friends and peers. First:
- Since every individual has a unique autistic experience, it is always recommended to ask if an individual would like to be identified as person-first (person with autism) or identity-first (autistic person). This article uses identity-first language, such as “autistic person.” Additionally, ask your autistic peer about their experience; don’t assume you know, or “talk over” while an autistic person is advocating for themselves.
- Like ASAN’s definition says, autism affects how an individual experiences the world. This may include a different way of communicating. However, be aware that autistic individuals sometimes mask. “Masking” is when an autistic person mimics the social behavior of others. Masking is a survival tactic that many autistic people use to help them thrive in a world that has not accepted autism yet. This is very draining and can lead to burnout.
- Give and take when it comes to communicating. Often, autistic children have to learn spoken and unspoken social rules that come easier to others. This can be really taxing, especially when society expects individuals to behave one way. Remember that there needs to be a balance; learn and recognize the needs of your autistic friends and peers, just like how they are learning and recognizing yours.
- Accept the strengths and needs of autistic individuals, just like how you would expect others to accept your strengths and needs.
- Support autistic-owned businesses and uplift the voices of autistic individuals, especially autistic POC perspectives.
- Lastly, use red and gold or the rainbow infinity sign this month to represent autism acceptance!
Armstrong, T. (2012). Neurodiversity in the classroom: Strength-based strategies to help students with special needs succeed in school and life. Alexandria, VA: ASCD