In April, we join together to celebrate individuals with autism. I have heard April referred to as “Autism Awareness Month” and I have also heard “Autism Acceptance Month”. Is there a difference? Are these words interchangeable? My answer is that yes, they are different, And we need them both.
Awareness: The first step is awareness. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines being “aware” as “the knowing that something exists.” We have made great strides over the past decade increasing awareness that autism exists. Autism Speaks is celebrating its 10th year anniversary this year and they re-cap their 10 years of knowledge using 20 short facts. I would like to list the first four of these directly from their website. You can find the entire list at www.autismspeaks.org.
1. Autism’s prevalence has skyrocketed. Ten years ago, autism’s estimated prevalence was 1 in 166. Today it’s 1 in 68 – an increase of more than 100% in one decade.
2. Direct screening suggests that autism’s prevalence may be even higher.
3. Autism can be reliably diagnosed by age two. Because earlier intervention improves outcomes, Autism Speaks is redoubling their efforts to increase early screening, especially in underserved communities.
4. High-quality early intervention does more than develop skills. Early intervention can change underlying brain development and activity. It’s also cost effective as it reduces the need for educational and behavioral support in grade school and beyond. (www.autismspeaks.org)
Please visit Autism Speaks to learn more about autism, research, and advocacy efforts.
Acceptance: The focus and initiative on awareness over the past decade has help spread the word about and recognition of autism, but this is not enough. We now need to expand from that knowledge towards a focus on acceptance. Miriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines acceptance as “the quality or state of being accepted or acceptable”. Individuals with autism need to know that they are accepted in our community, lives, and hearts just the way they are. The state of having autism should not negatively impact acceptance. The Autism Acceptance Campaign proposes that “Autism acceptance means embracing and valuing autistic people as autistic people instead of being afraid of us, having low expectations, or trying to find a way to make us not autistic.” Self-advocates propose that autistic individuals do not need to be fixed but rather celebrated as a natural expression of diversity. Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/autism-awareness-how-about-autism-acceptance.html#ixzz3WXRG9uHv.
By moving from awareness to acceptance, we grow from knowledge into the active acceptance of individuals with autism. I would argue that as we progress from knowledge through acceptance, we will be inevitably led to a third “A” word, appreciation. Appreciation is the combination of awareness and acceptance in order to appreciate the value of what each individual has to offer.
If you have any questions or concerns about autism, we are only a phone call away! Learn the signs and act early. If you have concerns about your child’s development, we can help! Remember, Babies Can’t Wait! Contact the Parent Education –Infant Development Program of the RACSB: http://www.racsb.state.va.us/