Once again, it is April 1st, which marks the beginning of Autism Acceptance Month, also referred to as World Autism Month and Autism Action Month. Every day we celebrate the unique differences and perspectives of each autistic individual, and this month we want to highlight the many different experiences and perspectives of the autism community.
There are many ways this month is recognized, from those who are working to shift the conversation away from awareness, which is considered stigmatizing by some, and onto acceptance (Acceptance is an Action: ASAN Statement on 10th Anniversary of AAM – Autistic Self Advocacy Network (autisticadvocacy.org); Autism Acceptance Month | Autism Society) to those who advocate for the needs of severely affected individuals (National Council On Severe Autism) to those who are focused on all people with autism reaching their full potential (World Autism Month | Autism Speaks).
Here at Seattle Children’s Autism Center, we hold space for the varied truths and narratives that co-exist in the world of autism and we believe that every person with autism has the right to thrive: to be accepted, included, celebrated and to live their best life. Some individuals with autism need high levels of support in their daily lives, while others are able to reach their goals without special education or other supports. And many others fall somewhere in between—benefitting from support in some areas and independence in others. All deserve not just awareness of their differences, but true acceptance and inclusion. This requires a shift for all of us—not just in our healthcare and education systems to provide needed supports and therapies to autistic individuals—in our society as a whole to broaden our appreciation of diverse lived experiences and recognition of the value of neurodiversity.
This month, we will feature a series of blogs from both the Seattle Children’s Autism Center and the Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Center. Our goal is to share a range of perspectives including autistic individuals, parents of individuals with autism, and providers who work with people with autism. Some will address the highs, such as the beauty in the individual characteristics and talents that make up autistic people, and some will portray the lows, such as what happens when families can no longer safely manage challenging behaviors at home. We will also share resources on social media, including those available in Spanish, that readers may find helpful.
We hope that seeing different perspectives this month will allow you to challenge your own views and the views of those around you. What can you and your community do to accept people with autism who may act, think, and feel differently than you do? How can you accept and adapt to those you encounter, rather than expecting they will adapt to what makes you comfortable? How can you encourage autistic individuals to be their best most authentic selves and support society in celebrating each person as they are? As a society, we have come a long way since the days when individuals with disabilities were hidden from view, but there is still much to be done before people with autism and other developmental disabilities will be fully accepted and included. At Seattle Children’s Autism Center, we are up for this challenge and will continue to dedicate ourselves to this work. We hope you will join us on our journey of acceptance and inclusion.