It’s Autism Acceptance Week, a week in which the message is focused on Autism Acceptance, over Autism Awareness. The debate to be had is that the matter of awareness can lead individuals with Autism, to feel that they are treated as a problem to be fixed, rather than an individual to be who they want to be and have the right to be. What help is raising awareness when it doesn’t benefit the autistic individual? Surely it is better to strive to be accepting towards Autism and recognise the potential within the individual. We here, strive to be as inclusive as we can. We are led by the individual and always respect their preferred pronouns and terminology that they desire for us to refer to them as.
If the world were different, it would allow for all neurotypes to be celebrated for who they are and what they contribute. We ask you now to imagine a different world. In this world, imagine if all forms of communication were accepted, imagine that judgements about body language ceased to be, imagine that stimming is considered no different to simply tapping your fingers when nervous and imagine lining items up in lines was considered creative play. If we could create this scope of inclusivity and acceptance, countless issues that Autistic individuals and their families face would instantly be removed. This is one of the core values that Autism Acceptance Week holds.
On the flip side of this, imagine a world where we are all the same. Can you imagine it? It’s quite boring, isn’t it? We are all meant to be different, and unique; it’s what makes life interesting!
Society is ready to make the steps to a more inclusive environment, it is making those changes which slowly lead us towards this new world we spoke of moments ago. Changes to acceptance rather than awareness is more helpful to do this, in that the figures and information into why Autism exists isn’t really helpful. Autism can’t be separated from the individual, it’s a major part of that individual’s identity, as much as the colour of their eyes, or the colour of their hair.
Social media is a dominant force of representation within the 21st century, and sadly it can represent neurodivergent identities to the public as an illness which needs to be cured, rather than a different but completely valid way of being. A great deal of difficulties faced by Autistic individuals and their families would be drastically improved/reduced if others simply understood their neurobiology, accommodated that and simply accepted that individual for who they are. To be seen as a problem within society can be demeaning, and lead the individual to mask who they really are, and after all we all have the right to be who we want to be, so why should autistic individuals be seen as an exception to this?
Autistic individuals need the permission to thrive. And this doesn’t just apply to when that individual is old enough to leave education and do what they want to do as an adult; they need permission from an early age, in that they can learn to flourish as the individual they are throughout their childhood. This is a discussion we have regularly with families about the need to thrive not survive through education, and the risks to the individuals mental health in the process. That sense of being who they want from an early age ingrain in them that they can do this throughout their life, not just when they reach a particular age or can access a certain environment.
One thing that we can do to begin this shift from awareness to acceptance, is to normalise the language around sensory preferences and overwhelm. Modelling language and strategies can increase all children’s/young people’s literacy, specifically emotional literacy, and their individual sense of self. Normalising such conversations, and acknowledging the individual’s identity, regarding their preferences (pronouns etc) are some of the small steps needed to shift societies perception.
We say, you are you. We look at you as an individual and see our role in supporting others around you to understand what makes you tick, and what support you need to reach your full potential. We accept you, on a good day, a bad day or just a bog-standard day. We accept all of you and you are welcome here.