About the Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Autism Acceptance Month is a project of The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN). ASAN is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization run by and for Autistic people. ASAN was created to serve as a national grassroots disability rights organization for the Autistic community, and does so by advocating for systems change and ensuring that the voices of Autistic people are heard in policy debates and the halls of power while working to educate communities and improve public perceptions of autism. ASAN’s members and supporters include Autistic adults and youth, cross-disability advocates, and non-autistic family members, professionals, educators and friends.
Our activities include public policy advocacy, the development of Autistic cultural activities, and leadership trainings for Autistic self-advocates. We provide information about autism, disability rights, and systems change to the public through a number of different educational, cultural, and advocacy related projects.
You can learn more about our current projects at http://autisticadvocacy.org/
About Autism Acceptance Month
Autism Acceptance Month takes place every year during April. The first Autism Acceptance Month celebrations were organized by Paula Durbin Westby in 2011, as a response to traditional “Autism Awareness” campaigns which the Autistic community finds harmful and insufficient.
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.
Partnership with ThinkGeek
ThinkGeek is Autism Acceptance Month’s corporate sponsor. Since 2012, ThinkGeek has teamed up with ASAN to promote Autism Acceptance. During the month of April, ASAN receives 100% of the proceeds from sales of ThinkGeek’s “Neurodiversity” t-shirts. Each year has featured a new design. Images of past designs are included in the logos/images ZIP bundle available here.
You can read more about our partnership with ThinkGeek and view the Neurodiversity t-shirt product pages on ThinkGeek’s website:
Autism Acceptance in the News
Awareness vs. Acceptance
Acceptance and awareness come from vastly different mindsets. Awareness seeks to highlight how other we are and emphasizes the differences and distance between our ways of being. Acceptance looks at commonalities we share and at the strength inherent in diversity.
Those who seek awareness ultimately have the goal of bridging the gap by making us more like them. They’re aware that we are the problem, and they are aware that the onus is on us to be fixed. Awareness makes sure that the world knows just how difficult we make it for the people around us.
Awareness is all about creating a sense of urgency and fear. Awareness efforts present us as an urgent problem to be solved. Awareness operates in stereotypes and soundbites, not real people. Awareness has no substance; it is simply a tool to earn more money to “fix” us and to promote yet more awareness.
Awareness is easy. Acceptance requires actual work.
Acceptance comes from a place of understanding. Understanding isn’t generated by soundbites and posterchildren. Understanding takes work. Acceptance seeks to meet us where we are, or at least far closer to equitably than awareness does. Those who accept are not seeing us as projects or as charity cases. Those who accept us don’t “tolerate” us – they embrace us, differences and all. People who are aware care about us in spite of our quirks and challenges. People who are accepting recognize that you cannot excise our difficulties and oddities without excising a large part of the whole package that is “us”.
Awareness says the tragedy is that we exist as we are. Acceptance says that the tragedy would be trying to make us any other way.
Adapated from a piece by Kassiane S. here: http://autisticadvocacy.org/2012/04/acceptance-vs-awareness/
What is Autism?
Autism is a neurological variation that occurs in about one to two percent of the population and is classified as a developmental disability. Although it may be more common than previously thought, it is not a new condition and exists in all parts of the world, in both children and adults of all ages. The terms “Autistic” and “autism spectrum” often are used to refer inclusively to people who have an official diagnosis on the autism spectrum or who self-identify with the Autistic community.
More information about common characteristics of autism: http://autisticadvocacy.org/about-autism/
In the autism community, many self-advocates and their allies prefer terminology such as “Autistic,” “Autistic person,” or “Autistic individual” because we understand autism as an inherent part of an individual’s identity — the same way one refers to “Muslim,” “African-American,” “Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer,” “Chinese,” “gifted,” “athletic,” or “Jewish” people. This is called “identity-first language.”
On the other hand, many parents of Autistic people and professionals who work with Autistic people prefer terminology such as “person with autism,” “people with autism,” or “individual with ASD” because they do not consider autism to be part of an individual’s identity and do not want their children to be identified or referred to as “Autistic.” They want “person-first language,” that puts “person” before any identifier such as “autism,” in order to emphasize the humanity of their children.
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network asserts that it is impossible to affirm the value and worth of an Autistic person without recognizing their as an Autistic person. Referring to us as “people with autism” demeans who we are because it denies a fundamental component of our identity.
When we say “person with autism,” we say that it is unfortunate and an accident that a person is Autistic. We affirm that the person has value and worth, and that autism is entirely separate from what gives them value and worth. In fact, we are saying that autism is detrimental to value and worth as a person, which is why we separate the condition with the word “with” or “has.”
Ultimately, what we are saying when we say “person with autism” is that the person would be better off if not Autistic, and that it would have been better if he or she had been born typical. We suppress the individual’s identity as an Autistic person because we are saying that autism is something inherently bad.
Yet, when we say “Autistic person,” we recognize, affirm, and validate an individual’s identity as an Autistic person. We recognize the value and worth of that individual as an Autistic person — that being Autistic is not a condition absolutely irreconcilable with regarding people as inherently valuable and worth something. We affirm the individual’s potential to grow and mature, to overcome challenges and disability, and to live a meaningful life as an Autistic. Ultimately, we are accepting that the individual is different from non-Autistic people–and that that’s not a tragedy. Identity-first language shows that we are not afraid or ashamed to recognize that difference.
adapted from http://autisticadvocacy.org/identity-first-language/