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With Autism Awareness Month Comes Push For Acceptance


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The month of April is known for autism awareness, but this time around, self-advocates are looking to expand the recognition toward acceptance of those with the developmental disorder.

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is spearheading efforts to rebrand April — known for decades as “Autism Awareness Month” — as “Autism Acceptance Month.” The group has launched a website and is publicizing events in cities across the country that are geared toward inclusion, understanding and supporting those with autism.

“I don’t think there are many people who don’t know that autism exists. We think it’s time to move on to more constructive goals,” said Ari Ne’eman, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, of the effort which is also being supported by TASH, the National Council on Independent Living and other groups.

The initiative is an extension of a grassroots movement that emerged two years ago when Paula Durbin-Westby, who has autism, established a Facebook event titled “Autism Acceptance Day.” At the time, Durbin-Westby said she was inspired after hearing from other self-advocates who were frustrated like she was that the traditional awareness month often meant pleas for donations and negative portrayals of life with autism.

This year, organizers of acceptance month are hoping that what started as a word-of-mouth effort will blossom into an annual initiative focused on engaging people — both those personally connected to the autism community and those who are not — to take action to support people on the spectrum.

With that in mind, they are asking self-advocates, family members, educators, services providers and the general public to sign an online pledge in support of autism acceptance, something that Ne’eman called “a really easy step to becoming an ally.”

“I pledge to only attend, speak at or otherwise participate in autism panels, conferences and events that meaningfully involve autistic people. I choose not to give my business or my time to settings that fail to include autistic voices in conversations about autism,” the pledge states.

Beyond the push toward acceptance, other autism advocacy groups are gearing up for annual awareness activities and fundraising efforts.

The United Nations will host a series of autism panels and a reception on Tuesday. And, more than 7,000 buildings, landmarks and homes around the world including the Empire State Building, Niagara Falls and the International Space Station are expected to be lit blue to honor World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, among other activities.

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Comments (17 Responses)

  1. Jane Strauss says:

    the light it up blue nonsense is from Autism $peaks, an organization that gives most of the huge amount of money it raises to research designed to eliminate autistics, and a miniscule fraction to services for Autistic families, children and adults. This is also an organization that demonizes autism and autistics, and spreads panic about neurodiversity. I really do not think that any disability publication should be publicizing that.

  2. Marc Rosen - Co-Editor of "Perspectives: Poetry Concerning Autism and Other Disabilities" series says:

    Blue has nothing to do with autism. It represents Auti$m $peak$, an unholy crusader that repeatedly violates the rights and liberties of autistic people, while demonizing us as the cause of all that is wrong in this world. Anyone who “lights it up blue” is voicing support for those who would murder, torture, and physically violate us. As a supporter of the Autistic Union, I recommend lighting everything GOLD instead, to represent our resilience in the face of obscene and repeated discrimination.

  3. Sarah says:

    Why should any parent be expected to accept injury to their chld because that is what Autism Speaks and Ari Ne’eman is asking parents to do. I love my son but I will never accept what was done to him and thousands of other innocent children. Unlike Ne’eman, many children with autism cannot self advocate because they cannot speak and he thinks this is acceptable? As a parent I am well aware of autism. I need action on autism not more awareness.

  4. Samantha Bodwell says:

    Autism Acceptance Month is not a new idea, the Autism Society of Northern Virginia voted unanimously in November of 2011 to rename April Autism Acceptance Month all due to my suggestion and further urging, I am the sole Autistic on our board. This is our second year of celebration! Autistics are making changes all over the place, everyone can do their part. I am Autistic and I am Proud! A VERY happy Autism Acceptance Month to one and all! :) :)

  5. Sarah says:

    Since we’re accepting autism let’s promote acceptance cancer, accept diabetes and accept MS. ludicrous right? and it makes about as much sense as autism acceptance even it’s sounds catchy. We can accept the person who suffers not the condition and no, they are not one in the same. Autism effects my son it does not define who he is as a person no more than cancer defines a person who suffers from it. Autism is a challenge. I do not embrace or accept autism but I cope with it and give my son the support he needs.

  6. Cat says:

    I applaud the effort to improve acceptance of ALL individuals and their differences. Autism is not a disease to be cured, anymore than cerebral palsy is. Diabetes, cancer, and multiple sclerosis are all disease states. My son does not have a disease, he is differently wired; he does not need to be cured, but he does need to be accepted. We should aim to minimize the occurrence of autism and cp, in that they pose difficult challenges in our society for those who have them. We should, however, also celebrate these individuals and provide them with the love and support they need to navigate our world so that they feel included and valued.

  7. Dadvocate says:

    As Ne’man knows quite well, “awareness” means much more than knowing that autism exists. It means understanding (and acknowledging) the impact this disorder may have on people in all aspects of life: education, meaningful employment, safety and well being, healthcare, housing. We are very far from achieving that so, no, it’s no time to move on. Ne’eman really needs to stop the unhelpful rhetoric. It is unhelpful to crafting good policy for all (which is his charge at IACC). The goals of acceptance and Autism Speaks one of awareness aren’t mutually exclusive, unless you want them to be. Autism Speaks even linked to the “Acceptance” site today. It is time to move on from the attacks on Autism Speaks, they aren’t going away.

  8. Ethan says:

    Sarah, I think you’re missing the point. The difference between autism and cancer, diabetes and MS is that those can kill people, whereas autism doesn’t. Autism isn’t an injury, either. Also, an inability to speak doesn’t mean an inability to self-advocate, since many people (autistic or otherwise) who can’t speak can still type and so communicate. There is also AAC (alternative augmented communication) for people with autism to help them communicate and self-advocate even if they can’t speak.
    Autism isn’t and wasn’t a thing that is “done” to anyone, since people are born with it and it affects them for their whole lives. There is also no way to make it go away, which is why so many people would prefer more to be done to help autistic people and their families live with it, instead of doing research to eradicate it which does nothing to help people right now. Things that obviously would help people right now more than trying to cure autism would be things like funding therapies and AAC and so on.

  9. KA101 says:

    Awareness, as the broader concept of understanding the problems (always the problems) associated with autism, is a good way to encourage murderous parents & discriminatory transplant decisions.

    “This autism will bankrupt my family!”
    “He’ll never be able to manage his transplant.”
    “I just couldn’t take it anymore.” “Oh, how difficult that parent’s life must have been, it’s no wonder xe snapped.”
    “That person with autism just won’t get the same benefit from this organ as the nonautistic person over there. Hey, at least she won’t have to live with such a debilitating disorder much longer.”


  10. Sarah says:


    I want awareness on environmental factors (neuro toxins) that are contributing to the autism increase. The CDC recently reported that 1 in 50 children up from 1 in 88 in 2009 and 1 in 110 in 2006 and 1 in 150 in 2002. Over the last 10 years, the autism numbers have been tripled and this is not because doctors got really good at diagnosing. This increase does not fit the profile of a genetic condition no matter how much the “Autism is Genetic” PR machine tries to convince the public otherwise. For your information, my son was born normal and hit his first year developmental milestones on time. Even my ultrasounds were fine. There is a strong environmental aspect to the autism increase that is being ignored and that is wrong.

  11. Sarah says:

    My son was NOT “born with” autism so please stop saying that because in my sons case that is false. His genetics tests are all “normal” per the lab report. Havign a genetic mutation implis a risk but it does not equal autism. With the exception of Fragile X and Retts, many autism cases are environmentally triggered. So what are the trigger(s)???

  12. Jessica says:

    Sarah…None of us can say whether or not our child was born with this disease. No one. You know why? Because we don’t know. My son was ‘normal’ as well until a series of vaccines at 12 months. Symptoms appeared shortly after. Did the vaccines CAUSE the autism? I don’t know. Did it contribute to a predisposed condition? I believe so. I think it’s dangerous and doesn’t help our cause when anyone claims they know the exact cause because we don’t.
    Awareness can be found is dozens in other areas. You can’t bury your head in the sand and wait for action. You can stand up and do something about it.
    I agree that the CDC and medical community needs to step up, but that wasn’t the point of the article. It doesn’t do our children, or the millions of others, to argue the semantics. What matters is what we do for them NOW,, trying to provide a future for them where they will be accepted and thrive.

  13. Brooke Wood says:

    It is really a great work that people are spreading awareness for autism. As April is celebrated as Autism awareness month it should celebrate as acceptance month, I totally agree with this term because we the society can make this dream come true. If accept Autism as our part of life then these children can live a normal life as others do. I don’t think that there may a a person who do.t know about Autism, because if not by name Autism then would known through other name or abbreviation. I am with this campaign. keep up the good work.

  14. Tacitus says:

    As you can see, the anti-vax religion cannot succeed by argument or evidence, so now they are begging the rest of us to please shut up and stop disagreeing with them! But I’m the one whose supposedly part of a PR machine? That’s laughable. I’m not the one trying to sell you chelation treatments, which have already killed innocent children who were only guilty of being autistic.

  15. autismUXB says:

    So what are the trigger(s)??? – exactly – one question that is avoided repeatedly !!

  16. Whitney says:

    I don’t think anyone knows for sure where or when autism occurs. I am not going into Austism Speaks that organization deserve a topic of it own.

    Here are some of the reasons I heard

    Environmental pollution (which is not true people been displaying autistic behavior for 2 centuries)

    Vaccines (that was proven false)

    Parents genetic material and age

    Genetic mutation that is my favorite it means I mutant like X-Men.

    It does not matter honestly what causes autism in the daily lives of people who have as long as the services and equal opportunity are provided. I mean in the ordinary lives of people the cause is not important but how handle it is. There are many in communities to live marginalized people who are different from them it gives a false sense of superiority of segment of population. This prejudice does not limit itself to autism I think we should have 365 days equality instead of just one month.

  17. Jose Grecko says:

    Article makes some valid points, but is wrong on some counts. Autism is a mental disease which will be cured one day, but it is a disease, make no mistake. It sometimes makes the infected person do terrible things. And I mean terrible. My autistic teen bites, kicks, scratches, punches, pulls hair, breaks walls, windows and doors with his head, bites voice recorders in half, breaks anything and everything when in a bad mood and generally makes life terrible for everyone who is trying to help him. It takes 3 people to teach him each day, and often he needs his own bus to/from school. This is all part of his disease, and most of the time he is a sweet 2 year old in a 15 year old’s body. But about 10% of the time, he is more violent than most kids in juvenile hall.
    To teach acceptance of autism is a mistake. Autistic kids go off without notice, are generally selfish as they see us as tools and not people, and can hurt other children. We can tolerate the kids who have autism, and be more careful with them, but we cannot change the world to fit what they need. That will never happen. those with low-level autism tendencies may be taught in normal classroom settings, but not those who are truly autistic. The spectrum has been modified in recent years to dilute the true definition of autism.
    It is a disease. And like Schizophrenia and Bi-Polar disorder, autism in itself should not be accepted, but should be cured. Even those with low-level or mild autism need the cure as they do not know what they are missing. They speak of accepting their behaviors, but society cannot be changed to deal with them. They need to conform as soon as treatment is available.

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