It is the time of the year that I hate. I know that hate is a strong word, but I feel, as an autistic person, that April is full of deaf ears. Thanks to organizations that have perpetuated a person first attitude and have blatantly ignored the wishes of autistic people, April is Autism Awareness month.
“That should be a good time for you,” says a good group of people, “They are bringing awareness to what’s wrong with you.” That is the problem though, I am not broken. There is nothing inherently wrong with me as a person. I struggle daily with having autism, but I have learned through personal experience how to live with having autism.
I am autistic and I find nothing wrong with that. No one should find anything wrong with that. Autistics are not broken people that need fixed or repaired. We may need support to help deal with our issues, but never assume we are broken individuals.
I mentioned the word awareness earlier and I think, and the autistic community tends to agree, that we need to switch to a different word. That word is acceptance, not awareness. Look, I appreciate the thought and the intent, for the most part, of people who light it up blue. Autism Speaks is the only group that is widely recognized by the world when it comes to Autism. Autism Speaks, however, is a group that does not speak for autistic people. They speak over and above actually autistic people.
Autism Speaks does not accept autistic people, they want to cure autism instead of helping those that have it cope. The autistic community believes that the way we think is just different, it does not need to be cured. The organization claims to have taken steps to accept autistic people, but they still use people-first language.
I want to take a moment to differentiate the two types of language used for autism. People-first language and identity first language are those two. I prefer identity first language, but ask the person. You want them to be comfortable. People-first language puts the person before the illness and that is fine for some diagnoses. Autistic people find that autism is more than just a diagnosis. They feel it is a huge part of them and an integral part of their identity. I feel this way myself.
A good alternative to the Autism Awareness month is the Autism Acceptance movement of Red. What this is, is autistic people protesting the usage of people-first language and Autism Speaks.
All we want is acceptance and understanding. We are not broken, we are not sick, and most importantly, we do not need a cure. Please remember that when talking to or interacting with autistic people.