Autism Acceptance, not Awareness. Don’t Light It Up Blue.

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Have you ever noticed that “autism awareness” assumes that you’re not autistic? How about the way that the people imploring you to support their plight are almost always the family members of an autistic person? Or how we always seem to read about autistic children, and rarely adults?

Of course, I’m not autistic. So instead of writing my own post on why I think “autism awareness” erases autistic people and puts allistic people front-and-centre, this post is all about the links.

Nothing about us without us

“Light it up Blue” is the slogan for Autism Awareness Month. Why would someone who wants to support their autistic friends and loved ones object to either? The primary reason is that many autistic people see Autism Awareness Month as a front for Autism Speaks, a huge organisation claiming to advocate for autistic people.

Except, of course, that it doesn’t. This post at The Caffeinated Autistic details many of the problems with Autism Speaks. In short, though:

  • Autism Speaks isn’t run by autistic people and (as of 2014) have never had any autistic people on their board.
  • Autism Speaks refers to autism as having “stolen” children from their families. Their goals are not to support autistic people, but to end (“cure”) autism. Many autistic people feel that their autism is an essential part of who they are.
  • Autism Speaks gives money to forms of therapy such as ABA, which many autistic people have described as ‘abusive’.
  • For a long time, Autism Speaks was an explicitly anti-vaccination organisation.

There’s a lot more in the original post.

Matt Carey at Left Brain Right Brain wrote about how Autism Speaks uses Autism Awareness Month/Day to advertise for themselves.

over the years, Autism Speaks has made autism awareness into autism speaks awareness. And no where is that more obvious than on April 2nd with their “light it up blue” event.

Is blue the color of autism? No. It’s the color of Autism Speaks. But Autism Speaks is out there asking people to shine blue lights for autism awareness. A whole section of their shop (yes, they have an online shop) is devoted to “light it up blue” merchandise. All complete with the Autism Speaks logo.

How to Support Autistic People this month?

Nove Mona from the Mary Sue has written a guide for allistic people wanting to help support autistic people. It’s targeted at April, but I promise you- if you’re reading this in September, most of it remains relevant. Here’s the April-sensitive part:

The first, and most time sensitive, is to participate in our boycotts of Speaks. Let the world know that you support oppressed groups being the main voices on themselves in #REDinstead in April, especially the 2nd, and wear red to show support and spark conversation. Boycottautismspeaks has a list of retailers donating to them, as well. You can also check out our other hashtag, #AreYouAwareOfMeNow, to keep up on the dialogue. The best defense we have against ableism is education and conversation. Learn about autism from autistics with sources like Neurowonderful, The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, and our organizations, such as Autism Women’s Network and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. Your area may even have a local chapter!

Support Autism Acceptance Month

Autism Acceptance Month tries to do what Autism Awareness Month does not:

Autism Acceptance Month promotes acceptance and celebration of autistic people as family members, friends, classmates, co-workers, and community members making valuable contributions to our world. Autism is a natural variation of the human experience, and we can all create a world which values, includes, and celebrates all kinds of minds.

In a nutshell, Autism Acceptance Month is about treating autistic people with respect, listening to what we have to say about ourselves, and making us welcome in the world.

I’m not an expert, but this month I’m keeping an eye on #redinstead. I’m making an effort to share autistic people’s words and perspectives as much as I can, and to be there for my friends if they’re having a rough time of it.


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Autism Acceptance, not Awareness. Don’t Light It Up Blue.
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One thought on “Autism Acceptance, not Awareness. Don’t Light It Up Blue.

  1. 1

    … to be fair, there’s one thing “autism awareness” type things can be good for, to the actual benefit of actual (high-functioning-type, at least) autistic people: “Oh, so *that* explains these things about me.”

    While being autistic is… not something that can, and probably not even something that *should*, be “cured”, it is something that often causes problems when dealing with neurotypical people. Understanding… the shape of the problem, as it were, can make it easier to deal with.

    Though if Autism Speaks was in any way aligned with the anti-vaxxers, they can go die in a fire.

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