So it’s the first of April and right now the last thing on people’s minds is autism awareness. But that really needs to change, since now during this pandemic we need people to be aware of the needs of disabled and neurodivergent people more than ever.
It’s simply a fact that people in the autistic community are far more vulnerable to communicable diseases and are going to have a far harder time coping with lockdowns and restrictions than the average individual. Knowing what they need right now is more important than ever before.
Historically the month of April is a difficult time for autistic self advocates who do not identify with the medical model of autism. One of the most despised organisation, Autism Speaks, is also the largest most well publicised group that historically promoted the “eradication of autism.”
Their campaign to “light it up blue” has been spreading a message that degrades autistic people for many years now, and a lot of the things you’ll see in autistic advocacy during this time of the month are a response to the degrading propaganda made by them.
By elevating our own autistic voices, we are trying to drown out those who would speak over us and for us without knowing us and our needs.
But what can I do as an Ally? I hear you ask.
That bit is easy!
Here are 5 things you can do right away to do your bit to support the autistic people:
1. Get curious. Ask questions about autism and try to learn more. How can we find autistic people on social media this month? Use hashtags like #AskingAutistics, #AllAutistics, #redinstead, #autisticgold, and #OurGoldenMoment to find writing by #actuallyautistic people
2. Learn about why it is that, despite the fact that 93% of autistic people polled prefer to be addressed as “autistic” rather than “person with autism,” medical providers are still routinely trained to use the latter and not the former and pass this incorrect guidance onto parents and caregivers.
3. Find out about our day of kindness instead of pranks for today (April first) and understand why pranks can be harmful to people with autism, and try to be supportive to those who “come out” as autistic on World Autism Awareness day on April 2 and throughout this month (see #OurGoldenMoment )
4. Understand the controversy around puzzle pieces better, and learn more about ideas like ableism, infantilization, and cure rhetoric that harms autistic people. When engaging with autistic people in discussions about these issues, try to understand the anger and pain and lifetimes of frustration they have faced and listen more than you speak.