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Shifting Perspectives: Why We Call April "Autism Acceptance Month"

As we wrap up the month of April, you might have noticed that this month isn’t just about autism "awareness" anymore—it’s all about acceptance. So, what’s with the change?  Let's explore why this language shift matters, and why acceptance should be at the forefront of our conversations.

In recent years, there has been a meaningful shift in the way we talk about autism, led by the voices of Autistic advocates. The Autistic community has made it clear that promoting autism awareness is not nearly enough, we can do better than that. Instead of solely focusing on awareness, April is now widely recognized as Autism Acceptance Month. 

Awareness, in its traditional sense, often leads to a shallow understanding of a complex topic. Sure, awareness is important as a first step -- you can’t accept something if you aren’t aware of it. But awareness is not enough, and it's crucial to move beyond it. Awareness implies a passive acknowledgment of existence, while acceptance requires active engagement, empathy, and understanding.

So, "awareness" is like saying, "autism exists.” Not really a whole month’s worth of excitement there. On the other hand, “acceptance”  is like saying, "Yeah, autism exists, and it's part of the awesome diversity of humanity!" 

Awareness campaigns sometimes make autism seem like this big, tragic, scary thing that needs “fixing.” But Autistic people aren’t broken—they're just wired differently. Think of it this way: our brains are as different as our faces, and that's what makes us unique. How boring would it be if everyone had exactly the same brain? Autism acceptance promotes a positive and empowering narrative, challenging negative stereotypes and advocating for the rights and dignity of Autistic individuals.

Awareness is a good starting point, but acceptance is where the real action happens. Acceptance creates meaningful changes in our communities and involves advocating for things like better support services, inclusive education, and equal opportunities for Autistic people.

So, as we reach the end of Autism Acceptance Month, let's remember that acceptance is not just a one-time event but an ongoing commitment to creating a more inclusive and equitable world for all. We don’t need to wait until next April to celebrate autism as a neurotype, center Autistic voices, and amplify autism acceptance.

By shifting our perspectives, we can celebrate the diversity of human experience and build a society where every individual is valued, respected, and supported.  Because when we embrace neurodiversity, we make the world a better place for everyone. 

And maybe next year we can all follow the lead of Sonny Jane Wise (@livedexperienceeducator) and make yet another shift to Autism Action Month!

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