April is Autism Awareness/Acceptance/Appreciation Month, whereby I am granted ‘exceptional liberty’ to advocate for the autism experience.
My personal and shared crusade is to help move past this being a month of settling for “autism awareness” and steer this sucker HARD to port toward acceptance, appreciation, understanding, and empowerment.
But, baby steps. So, to that end:
If you’re wanting to improve your autism awareness, here’s where you should be aware.
We are all autistically unique. To paraphrase something I read from a professional connection, Aidan Casey: “If you’ve met one autistic person, then you have met one autistic person.” The differences in autism manifestations alone are unique, and once you combine that with everything else that makes one person unique from another, you’re going to find a whole array of variety even among those on the spectrum. Don’t lump us all together.
We haven’t gotten to be our own leading advocates. THIS is a problem. Autism is overrepresented by allies and experts (or ‘experts’) on the periphery rather than those in the epicenter. If you’re not autistic, by all means advocate and educate — just be sure you’re helping advocate and champion the autistic voices. We do need you; we need just more of us.
We struggle from unconscious bias. This is hard, because it’s embedded, but it’s impactful. I’ve literally lost opportunities for directness and verbosity, both of which have been mistaken for criticality and pretentiousness. It hurts to have had to “sand down” more of my autistic attributes to better my life for me and my family. My ship has sailed and wrecked, but those of others don’t have to.
We’re not all savants. Hell, I’m not even that smart. I just remember a lot of things, mix it into a big word cocktail, speak at a college graduate level after a bit of practice, and it comes off “erudite.” But I still need a calculator to subtract two numbers if they don’t end in 0 or 5. Oh well.
We’re not “higher/lower functioning.” Let’s set aside the functioning labels. We all have different and varying needs. We’ve all adapted differently, some more capable of doing so than others, others with more support than some. I live independently with a wife and two children, I have a stable career, yet I can’t “function right” unless the bed is made. I don’t have “Autism Lite™”
We might even be masking. Yeah, we’re all around you and you probably don’t notice. That’s by unfortunate design.
If you’re going to be aware, just don’t settle. Be better than aware.