Chances are, when you think about the significance of April, one of the first things that come to your mind is Autism Awareness Month. Taking place from the first day to the last day of April, the month serves to educate people on autism and to support autistic people.
The only problem is, it doesn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, Autism Awareness Month was created with wonderful intentions; autism is something that surprisingly few people know about, and even less can say they understand it. The problem with Autism Awareness Month isn’t in the concept; it’s in the execution.
If you know anybody with autism, then it’s highly likely that you’ve heard the phrase “Autism Speaks”… With a very negative connotation. It’s no secret that Autism Speaks is an organization that has done some questionable things, between misusing their funding and endorsing Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), an oftentimes abusive form of “treatment”. However, the malicious activities of Autism Speaks hardly stop there; the organization also released a commercial entitled “I am Autism“:
I work faster than pediatric aids, cancer, and diabetes combined
And if you’re happily married, I will make sure that your marriage fails.
Your money will fall into my hands, and I will bankrupt you for my own self-gain.
I don’t sleep, so I make sure you don’t either.
I will make it virtually impossible for your family to easily attend a temple, birthday party, or public park without a struggle, without embarrassment, without pain.
You have no cure for me.
Needless to say, many autistic people (such as myself) have begun to consider the possibility that Autism Speaks is a hate group .
Now, back to Autism Awareness Month and it’s “Light it Up Blue” campaign:
Wait a second, I recognize that logo; the puzzle piece, the color blue…
…And there’s the problem. I don’t feel like I need to spell it out or list elaborate reasons as to why Autism Awareness Month is ineffective; it’s sponsored by a group that believes autism is worse than cancer.
However, this doesn’t mean we have to forget about autism this month; The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (Consider ASAN Autism Speaks’s saintly twin) has created an alternative: Autism Acceptance Month. Unlike Awareness Month, Acceptance Month was founded by actual autistic people with the intent of inspiring people to not only be aware of autism, but to also appreciate and respect autism.
So, how do you get started? Well, the first step is to get informed. Rather than buying into Autism Speaks’s fearmongering, check out some of these resources for accurate information on autism and disability culture.
Now that you’ve read up on the riveting world of autism, it’s time to take action. While you are certainly free to organize protests against misinformation and anti-autistic sentiments and fundraise for autistic people’s resources, your part doesn’t have to be so intensive; supporting autistic people is as simple as treating autistic people fairly and without judgment.