First, some background. There are two loose, informal sub-communities within the autism community. I already talked about them more within the website, but they include a "pro-cure" camp and a "pro-acceptance" camp. These camps divide the community and, almost like political parties, one's feelings towards either camp generally line up with positions on a variety of autism-related issues, from treatments, to research, to organization.
The reason I gave you this background is that this schism applies to Autism Awareness Day vs Autism Acceptance Day, too. The pro-cure supporters mostly line up with Autism Awareness Day proponents. And Autism Acceptance Day was created as a pro-acceptance alternative and generally intended to be a direct counterpoint to Autism Awareness Day.
To choose to support one cause, awareness or acceptance, is generally to choose to deny another. And so here I stand, stuck in the middle because I support both causes. I support autism awareness, not the cocktail party "1 in 68" kind, but true awareness of the existence of autistic individuals towards the goal of helping children get diagnosed. Granted, I believe the importance of this goal is waning in the United States, as we've done a superb job of making people aware of autism's existence here, but as someone who has traveled abroad, I strongly feel that autism awareness is a critical cause in other countries I've visited, like China.
Yet I support autism acceptance as well. Because I look at what my sister needs and wants and what the children I've cared for over the years would benefit from, and hands down the answer is acceptance. Acceptance, as they say in the community, is an action. It's seeing the autistic individual in front of you and still giving them all the accommodations and therapy that will help them - but at the same time, it's valuing them for who they are. And that is one of the most important gifts you can give any autistic person.
But more than either one of those, I support a third cause, that of autism understanding. Because understanding is the bridge to acceptance. After all, if you're merely aware of autism but think it's a symptom of a disease separate from your child, or that your child is "trapped in their autistic world" a terrible world from which they can emerge if only you find the right treatment, when told that you should accept your child as autistic you're more likely to scoff or even react with horror at the notion than to do so.
I guess what I'm saying is, there are three causes in the autism community: Awareness, Acceptance, and Understanding. Here in the United States, we've done a great job with awareness and we're moving on to acceptance, but before we can get there we need the bridge of understanding to guide us. Thankfully, I think that's a cause that anyone in the autism community would be proud to stand behind.
So this month, I'm going to devote myself to the cause of Autism Understanding, along with Autism Awareness and Autism Acceptance. Each day I'm going to share a new photo that promotes understanding of autistic individuals and seeks to combat stigma and false ideas about autism. Feel free to share mine or make your own.
Together, we can make the world a better place for autistic people.