Autism: Why There’s More Than Awareness
Awareness of autism is the precursor; acceptance is the goal
It is currently estimated that 1 in 36 children have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. In the year 2000, that estimate was 1 in 150, indicating that prevalence and/or identification of autism has soared in this century alone. There are many other facts about ASD that readers may or may not be familiar with: for instance, that boys are 4 times more likely than girls to receive an ASD diagnosis, and that autism is reported in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups. These facts do indeed spread autism awareness, which is what the month of April used to encompass. In recent years, however, April has shifted to representing something that sounds similar, but is quite different: Autism Acceptance Month. Read on for details about this change and what you can do to support it.
Different—A Great Thing to Be!
Kids, while noting differences in other children even at a very young age, may not be given lessons on how to understand, appreciate, show appropriate curiosity and celebrate these differences. This book is a great introduction in helping guide them into doing so.
**Find more book suggestions for children and adults within this newsletter!
Spring has sprung and it’s time for a product that’s going to get you and your little ones outdoors, whether it’s at the zoo or around your block: a trusty wagon! Keep it simple or go fancy, but they’ll all do the trick!
Awareness vs. Acceptance
…and why it makes a difference for autism
There’s a growing awareness circulating this April, and it’s not about autism, per se. It’s the awareness, ever-increasing in volume, that the autistic community does not want to be simply made aware of– they want to be accepted without objectification, this month and every month. The revision of Autism Awareness Month to Autism Acceptance Month may seem subtle, but that is far from the case. The designation was actually established in 2020, after the Autism Society of America changed their terminology and subsequently urged the media to follow suit (although the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) has called April “Autism Acceptance Month” since 2011). The proposal was made in an effort to incite actual changes in how society treats autistic individuals and their families.
Raising awareness about autism has historically consisted of information regarding what autism “looks like” and its increasing prevalence in our world. Yet, many autistic individuals felt stereotyped by the objective diagnostic criteria, and felt that recognition and awareness of autism did little to understand and accept it. Awareness and understanding have vast differences, and since the latter involves actual effort, it is what will move society towards accepting that autism is not a condition to be cured or be ashamed of– it is a way of thinking, experiencing and communicating that differs from the neurotypical model, but is nonetheless a natural condition in humanity.
Arguably, there is nothing wrong with raising awareness for autism– awareness generally focuses on education, which is an important precursor for creating any long-lasting change in perception. Becoming aware of the differences of the autistic population is a necessary step towards learning to understand and respect those differences, which is the ultimate goal. In accepting autism, communities around the world are more likely to advocate for equal rights and resources that will support its neurodiverse citizens.
Learn about identity-first language
Person-first language is likely something many readers are familiar with, such as referring to an autistic individual as a “person with autism” in order to prioritize the humanity of the person being discussed. However, a growing number of individuals now prefer to be referred to with identity-first language (i.e., “autistic person”) in order to recognize and validate that being autistic is an all-pervasive part of their identity. Ultimately, while there are still differing viewpoints about terminology for those with an autistic diagnosis, it is important to respect the type of language that an individual prefers and address them in the manner that they prefer, whenever possible.
Promote acceptance in your community
Volunteer at, organize and/or promote events that are sensory-friendly in nature.
- The Reason I Jump, by Naoki Higashida
- The Autistic Brain, by Temple Grandin
- Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s, by John Elder Robison
- Sincerely, Your Autistic Child, by Emily Paige Ballou, Sharon daVanport and Morenike Giwa Onaiwu
- Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic, by Michael McCreary
- Odd Girl Out: An Autistic Woman in a Neurotypical World, by Laura E. James
- We’re Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation, by Eric Garcia
Show support via generosity
Consider donating to a reputable source, such as through autismsociety.org, in order to provide valuable resources where they are most needed.
Spring Has Sprung!
Springtime activities to enjoy with your little ones all season long
Get out your checkered table cloth and spread it out for a glorious spring picnic! Bring along books, binoculars and pillows to make it extra cozy and interesting. Picnics in back- or front-yards can even be extra special, since it gives you and your kids a charming perspective on what you generally consider to be ordinary.
While nature hunts can take place at any part of the year, there is something extra special and exciting about spring nature hunts; flowers are just beginning to bloom and animals are extra chatty and happy, making the whole experience feel magical.
Outdoor exercise during the summer months can be hard to time because of mid-day high temps, but in springtime, almost anything at anytime is an option! Consider gathering your little clan for outdoor yoga, sprinting races, bike riding, soccer and roller skating/blading, to name a few.
Plant a garden
Bring your kids along when you shop for your springtime flowers, and involve them in the planting and gardening around your home. It will make them feel like special helpers, and digging and touching dirt is wonderful sensory input!
Teach your children about autism
It’s never too early to discuss the importance of inclusion. Rent child-friendly books about autism and have open discussions about neurodiversity.
Some children’s books featuring characters with autism include:
- I See Things Differently: A First Look at Autism, by Pat Thomas
- My Brother Charlie, by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete
- A Friend for Henry, by Jenn Bailey
- The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin, by Julia Finley Mosca
- Crow Boy, by Taro Yashima
- A Friend Like Simon, by Kate Gaynot
- Noah Chases the Wind, by Michelle Worthington
Ultimately, celebrating neurodiversity is a necessary step towards helping the autistic community feel empowered and supported. Self-education about autism and being realistic about the limitations that society still places on autistic individuals are required for change; a lack of understanding keeps society’s head in the sand.
As a German proverb wisely notes, To understand and to be understood makes our happiness on earth. By seeking to understand a largely misunderstood population of amazing individuals, we contribute to this collective happiness. And we will all be the better for it.
Showing support for celebrating neurodiversity at CTC!
Content of this newsletter was written by:
Megan A. Miller, M.S., CCC-SLP
Please contact Megan with any questions or comments at: email@example.com