April is a month dedicated to Autism. You’ll find a few titles for this month: Autism Awareness Month, Autism Acceptance Month, and World Autism Month. Historically Autism Awareness Month seems to have been most common, but some organizations are pushing for a permanent change to Autism Acceptance Month. If we as a nation have learned anything in the past three years, it’s that words matter.
Awareness: (n) interest in and concern about a particular situation or area of interest (https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/definition/english/awareness)
Think of the last time you heard someone use the word awareness. It’s generally used in the phrase “raise awareness” to imply a greater societal need to know about a problem, issue, or cause. If you google the phrase, many of the results discuss a need for a solution to a problem or issue, or a movement for a cause, or a need for change.
Acceptance: the quality or state of being accepted or acceptable (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/acceptance)
Now think of the last time you heard someone use the word acceptance and how it made you feel. It’s generally used to imply that society does not see a need for change or improvement.
Another term that is being used more often in the autistic community is neurodiversity. Neurodiversity: (n) the concept that differences in brain functioning within the human population are normal and that brain functioning that is not neurotypical should not be stigmatized (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/neurodiversity).
The name change isn’t the only change implemented by the community. In the past, a puzzle piece has been used to represent autism awareness. The autistic community has spoken out against this as the puzzle implies childish behavior and something to be solved or something missing. The replacement symbol is an infinity symbol.
The author of this post is not autistic and therefore I will not speak for the community. Instead, I will share various resources created by the autistic community.
When it comes to this topic, listen to autistic adults before anyone else.
Regardless of your feeling regarding the puzzle piece vs infinity symbol, blue vs gold, or person first vs identity first language, Autism is not a disease.
People are people; be kind over all else.