Autism Acceptance: A Guide

You’ve likely heard the term “autism awareness”, usually accompanied by a lot of blue logos, especially in April for Autism Awareness Month. However, there is a growing number of organizations and adults with autism that are advocating for autism acceptance to become the norm.

You may be asking yourself, what’s the difference? Don’t worry; that’s what we’re here to explain!

Autism Acceptance

Autism Acceptance vs. Autism Awareness

Most people are aware that autism exists. It is one of the most common developmental disorders in the United States today, with 1 in every 54 children being diagnosed with autism. The problem with “awareness” is that it doesn’t always challenge harmful stereotypes or place any value on the uniqueness of each individual with ASD.

Acceptance focuses on acknowledging the differences of people with autism and listening to their wants and needs. The main ideas behind acceptance are understanding and promoting the voices of people with autism in discussions about autism and treating them as autonomous individuals with their own needs rather than just people who need cured.

Autism Acceptance

Autism Acceptance vs. Autism Awareness

Most people are aware that autism exists. It is one of the most common developmental disorders in the United States today, with 1 in every 54 children being diagnosed with autism. The problem with “awareness” is that it doesn’t always challenge harmful stereotypes or place any value on the uniqueness of each individual with ASD.

Acceptance focuses on acknowledging the differences of people with autism and listening to their wants and needs. The main ideas behind acceptance are understanding and promoting the voices of people with autism in discussions about autism and treating them as autonomous individuals with their own needs rather than just people who need cured.

Ways to Show Acceptance

Get to Know Individuals with Autism

Get to Know Individuals with Autism

This might seem simple, but it requires some self-awareness: Your natural reaction may be to interpret other people through a neurotypical lens, and you may not realize your own biases and preconceived ideas until you’re in the moment.

Taking the time to learn about what a person with autism’s behavior means for them can help you not only understand them, but also make them feel safe and accepted. When a person with autism is able to be themselves around you without hiding any behaviors, it makes them more confident and happier. This can be a huge benefit to a child or teenager who is still learning to accept themselves.

Avoid Ableist Language

Avoid Ableist Language

Even well-meaning words and phrases can imply that a disabled person is inferior or lesser. Saying “You don’t seem autistic!” may come from a good place but can actually be hurtful and invalidating.

There are many resources online about how to avoid ableist language. However, the language that a person with a disability prefers can vary. For instance, there is ongoing debate in the disabled community regarding person-first language (ex., a child with autism) versus identity-first language (ex., an autistic child).

When in doubt, ask how the person you are speaking with would like to be referred to, and stick with it. Even if you slip up, that’s okay — just correct yourself and move on!

Can Autism be cure

Educate Yourself on Neurodiversity

With so many resources readily available, it’s easier than ever to educate yourself on neurodiversity — the concept that brain differences are normal, rather than negative, and that we should focus on individual needs without qualifying them. Autism is considered neurodivergent, as well as ADHD, Dyspraxia, and Dyslexia.

Even if you don’t have much first-hand knowledge, listening to people with autism and being genuinely open and understanding can help you become a more self-aware, well-rounded person.

Practicing Acceptance as a Parent of a Child with Autism

Practicing Acceptance as a Parent of a Child with Autism

Children with autism can often be frustrated by interacting with neurotypical peers, and may start “masking” or hiding autistic behaviors to fit in. As a parent, you may also get frustrated with the neurotypical world and wonder how you can best help your child navigate it.

If your child is verbal, a powerful tool you can enable them to use is a “mini disclosure”. For a child with autism, a mini disclosure involves three steps:

  1. Identify the behavior in question: I don’t make eye contact with people.
  2. Say why you engage in that behavior: Eye contact makes me uncomfortable.
  3. Ask for support: I want you to know this about me, so you won’t be confused or wonder why I don’t make eye contact. If you’re not sure how I’m feeling, you can ask me!
Practicing Acceptance as a Parent of a Child with Autism

The main thing to remember as a parent practicing autism acceptance is that while you may not always get it right, you have plenty of support. At The Cardinal Center for Behavior Analysis, we want you to have access to all the resources you need to help your child with autism feel accepted, supported, and cared for: learn more about our Autism Services today to start towards a happier, more accepting tomorrow.

Questions?

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