April is Autism Acceptance Month. You may have previously heard this month referred to as Autism Awareness Month. Acceptance versus awareness. What’s the difference between these two terms, and does it really matter which we use?
What’s the difference?
Autism Awareness Month originated in April 1970 by the Autism Society. At that time, 1 in every 2000 children was identified as having Autism. Today, 1 in 54 children have Autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). From a prevalence perspective, it is understandable that in the 1970s, most people were likely unaware of Autism. It wasn’t commonly identified, therefore the average person likely had less interaction with Autistic persons. Today, Autism is much more widely understood by the general population. Arguably most people know at least some information about Autism or may know someone with Autism. In short, the time has come to move beyond awareness and into acceptance.
Does it matter?
Simply put, yes. Words matter. Imagine for a moment you were starting a new job. Would you prefer your new coworkers be aware of you, or would you prefer they accept you as a colleague? If you imagine your child on a sports team, would you prefer the team is aware of your child (name, age, appearance, general presence), or would you prefer the team accept your child? When we take these terms from our own perspective, the differences become apparent. Awareness is minimal, a very low bar. Acceptance is true integration.
Many adults with Autism consider Autism to be central to their identity rather than a disease to be aware of. The transition from awareness to acceptance is reflective of the wants and needs of the autistic community. Autism is not a disease to be cured; rather it is a neurologically-based condition, lasting across the lifespan. Acceptance encourages society to not only be aware of but to accept and support neurodiversity.
We invite you to read more from The Autism Society: https://www.autism-society.org/releases/media-urged-to-recognize-shift-from-autism-awareness-month-to-autism-acceptance-month-this-april/