It’s April, so if you’re like me, your social media feeds have been dominated with Autism Awareness Month profile pics and messages. I don’t have the stats to back this up, but anecdotally, I feel like Autism Awareness Month has become one of the most mainstream, widely known awareness months out there (ranking just behind Breast Cancer Awareness Month, in my eyes). It’s impressive, and a testament to the hard work of the autistic community and advocates!
That said, before you change your own profile pic or “Light it up blue,” I’d encourage you to consider supporting a different cause this month: Autism Acceptance Month.
Autism Acceptance Month is a concept that has been around for a while within the autistic rights movement. As an allistic–non-autistic–person myself, I don’t want to man-and-able-splain, when autistic people are more than capable of speaking for themselves. So here’s what Autism Acceptance Month is, in their own words:
“Autism acceptance means embracing autism as a natural part of the spectrum of human diversity and accepting autism as one of many different legitimate, meaningful, and valuable ways of experiencing the world. Autism acceptance means believing that autism doesn’t need to be fixed or cured for autistics to be happy and live good lives.
Autism acceptance means treating autistic people as members of a minority group who are entitled to the same rights as everyone else. It means changing the goal for autistics from “indistinguishability” or “recovery” to living with needed supports and gaining equal opportunity with neurotypicals — supporting autistics as they are. It means helping autistic children grow into autistic adults, rather than mourning the nonexistent neurotypical child they never were.” [Source: Autism Acceptance Day, Autistic Self Advocacy Network]
For such a small change in words, reframing April as a month of acceptance is a powerful concept. I think people are pretty well aware of autism these days! The current research suggests that 1 in 68 children have autism, and after years of media saturation and national discourse, I’d challenge you to find someone that has never heard about autism before. But in the words of Autistic Hoya, “Not all awareness is good awareness, and awareness itself can be the farthest thing from acceptance.”
For years, any discussion or news around autism has always focused on one thing: finding a cure. Vaccines are to blame! Maybe we can find the gene that causes autism and fix it! If you have an autistic child, these are the therapies you have to do so they can be as normal as possible! We’ve focused all our collective energy on seeing autism as a problem that has to be fixed and cured.
But–and here’s the radical idea–maybe autistic people don’t want to be cured. Maybe they like themselves just as they are, and they’d like others to be more accepting and understanding of them. Instead of investing our money in research for a cure, why don’t we spend more money providing services to autistic people that allow them to have more happy, empowering, and successful lives?
“[…]the concept of a “cure” for autism is profoundly unethical and leads to dangerous and even deadly consequences for autistic people. It is also out of line with the consensus of the scientific community, which has recognized the idea of cure as scientifically implausible. Research towards “cure” does not help autistic people or our families, and after decades of protest from autistic people, the public has begun to realize that a world without autistic people is not an ethical or desirable goal.” [Autistic Self Advocacy Network]
Maybe allistic people should instead value the many strengths and abilities that autistic people have, and view autism not as a problem, but simply as a difference. Not abnormal or invaluable, but instead, as a normal and valuable part of the range of human expression and experience.
So this April, I encourage everyone: let’s try to be more accepting.
If you liked this post, you’d love our upcoming webinar Understanding autism: Essential tips & tools for youth workers. It’s happening on Thursday, April 27th, so be sure to register today!
Behaviors are the result of the interactions of two things: the characteristics we possess as people and the characteristics of the situation we face. The theory behind the iceberg model of childhood behavior is that there are many things that influence the way that children act and react: skills, knowledge, experience, social role or values, self-image, traits, and motives. Some (the most conscious) of these characteristics can be seen outright – “above the water,” if you will. The more subconscious or unconscious characteristics are the ones working behind the scenes — “underwater.” It is a mixture of all of these characteristics that will shape a child’s behavior—meaning that the cause of the behavior won’t always be apparent.
The tip of the iceberg—the conscious characteristics that children have in their toolbox—are skills, knowledge, and experiences. Skills represent what children can do innately or things they have learned to do over time. Knowledge is what they know or have come to understand as they’ve grown. This knowledge is shaped by their experiences, which help build both the knowledge and skills available to them in their personal toolboxes.
Under the water, however, are the unseen forces that can shape their behaviors. This portion consists of four large components: their social role and values, self-image, traits, and motives. Continue reading “Understanding the Iceberg Model of Childhood Behavior”
These days, the first place that people look when they want to learn more about your organization is your website. Your website is your first and best chance to create a positive impression with many people, but is it creating a good impression for you with people with disabilities?
Is your website accessible and inclusive? Welcoming to all? Because let me tell you, if families of youth with disabilities get a bad vibe from your website, they’re not even going to both reaching out or trying your program.
While web design is a very detailed subject, there are some some basic and relatively easy things you can do to make your website more accessible to people with disabilities.
When it comes to making your marketing inclusive for people with disabilities, one of the biggest difficulties is subtitling videos. In a small nonprofit, you don’t have the budget to be able to pay someone to create subtitles for all your videos (we’ve tried it, and boy, can it be expensive!), and you certainly don’t have the time to transcribe all your videos or the video-editing software to then add those transcriptions to your video. This is a real challenge, and one we’ve faced first-hand at PYD.
But lucky for you, there’s a solution! Over the course of our dealing with this challenge, we’ve come across a strategy that is free, quick, and easy for anyone to do, regardless of your technological know-how or background.