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Not Everyone On Board With Autism ‘Awareness’


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As Autism Awareness Month kicks off, hundreds of buildings will light up blue and a documentary about autism will screen nationally, but not everyone in the autism community is pleased with so much attention being paid to “awareness.”

Through Facebook, a budding movement is growing among those hoping to shift the conversation from one focused on a cure to an effort centered more on tolerance.

“I was a bit tired of seeing ‘awareness day’ events tied to organizations that are asking for donations,” says Paula Durbin-Westby, 52, who has autism and started a Facebook event called “Autism Acceptance Day” after hearing from others who felt hurt by traditional awareness events that didn’t highlight positive aspects of the developmental disorder.

So far, more than 1,000 people have signed on to participate in the grassroots effort. Meanwhile, a similar Facebook group called “Autism Understanding and Acceptance” has just over 1,700 members.

“A lot of what gets passed off as awareness paints autism as a death sentence,” says Melanie Yergeau, 27, an Ohio State University graduate student with Asperger’s syndrome who’s helping plan a poetry and essay reading featuring the work of individuals with autism in honor of Autism Acceptance Day. “This year we want to start off April with an acceptance message.”

The efforts come as more traditional awareness month activities are taking hold.

Wretches & Jabberers,” a film about two men with autism, will start playing Friday at AMC Theatres. The movie will screen in 40 cities across the country during April through a deal with the Autism Society, which will receive some of the proceeds.

Meanwhile, more than 700 buildings and landmarks around the globe including Niagara Falls, the Empire State Building and the Sydney Opera House in Australia will light up blue Friday and Saturday nights as part of an Autism Speaks effort to mark World Autism Awareness Day on April 2.

Many NBA teams are also participating in the “Light It Up Blue” initiative by turning arenas blue, airing public service announcements during games and other activities.

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Comments (3 Responses)

  1. vmgillen says:

    Until “Autism” has a proper etiology, and/or the APA straightens out it’s DSM, “AWARENESS” should be limited to spreading the word that there is no single “face” of autism.

    “ASD”: I am sick and tired of people telling me my “highly involved” son would be just like Jimmy – the – Aspie if I had followed bat guano-based interventions.

    “ASD”: Likewise, Jimmy is sick and tired of people crossing the street when they see him coming because their definition of ASD is based on knowing my child.

  2. Nathan Young says:

    I have autism myself and have been aware of the autism acceptance movement for some years. There is a great deal of misunderstanding I think. Autism is a disorder label and some have acquired it as an identity for political reasons. The fact is it is a disability label in the DSM and to seek to cure adverse symptoms is a good thing. I am not sure why I have to accept the adverse symptoms I have and otherwise is a bigotry of some kind. I think cure awareness helps people understand the more adverse sides to autism and people that are able to attend college and include themselves fine I am not sure why they are diagnosed or so upset by the reality of others who are not as well off and whom would benefit from cure based research for treatment remedies and not merely coping mechanisms or just the acceptance they are different. Accept people with autism but not so easy to accept autism the disorder label.

  3. Jordan says:

    Autism Speaks gives me cardiac arrest, but i’m thankful that the White House doesn’t “light it up blue”. I’m planing some Autism Acceptance projects of my own, but i’m putting them on the backburner because there’s more to life than just Autism. I had a life before Neurobigotry reared its ugly head, now my aim is the continuity of my “life” during these troubled times with Autism “Awareness”.

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