April is usually known as Autism Awareness Month, but this year there’s a movement to re-brand it Autism Acceptance Month. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), an advocacy group for and by people with autism, is calling for April to be a “celebration of Autistic culture and community.”
For me, this resonates a lot more than Autism Awareness Month. I’m already very much aware of autism. Two of my four kids have Asperger Syndrome, and I’ve been living and breathing autism awareness for quite some time now. So have my husband, our two kids with ASDs, their siblings, our entire extended family, and our friends.
Awareness months are important. They remind us to take action. Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October reminds us to schedule mammograms; in February, American Heart Month reminds us to stop eating so much salt and maybe go for a run instead. But I’m not sure I need my community to take personal action, as much as I’d like people to just accept my kids they way they are.
Perhaps there isn’t much difference between asking for awareness versus asking for acceptance; both are about education, really. But acceptance requires a very small shift in thought.
Why should you talk to your kids about autism? Because statistically speaking, your child knows at least one kid with autism and interacts with him or her on a daily basis. Because the more we talk to our kids about accepting and understanding differences, the less likely they are to bully other kids. Because when you talk to your kids about being accepting of the “quirky” kids in their class, you’re also teaching them to be accepting of other kinds of differences: skin colors, accents, clothing brands, religious beliefs, music preferences.
Whether you talk to your kids about Autism Acceptance or Autism Awareness , I really don’t care. Either way, please take that extra step and mention not just how people with autism are different from people without it: talk about how they’re the same, too. To get you started, here are ten things I wish everyone’s kids knew about autism:
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