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Autism Acceptance: More than Awareness

Updated: 1 day ago

Read about the significance of red in April and learn how you can actively advocate for the appreciation of those with utism. Listen to this post here:

Autism Acceptance (audio reading)

Autism Acceptance is more than just a day at the start of April. It's the whole month... the whole year... our whole lives.

And yet the focus provided by Autism Acceptance Month helps us reflect on the progress society has made and will continue to make in how autism is framed and understood.

window paint saying "Autism acceptance month"

We are proud to be part of the local network of individuals and organizations working to push that understanding even farther and deeper. This past April, we "Lit it up #RedInstead" with yard signs for our families and staff, window murals, and special spirit day activities. It was all celebration! All joy!

But why "Red Instead"? Why red? Instead of what?

Red represents the heart and vibrancy of our clients and the passion with which we help them build skills and advocate for themselves. Red is for the love that fuels acceptance and, even more than that, inspires appreciation. Red is for embracing the unique value our clients each possess!

three Partners in Autism behavior technicians and one client celebrating in red with a balloon

Red is celebration. Red is joy.

But this is the beginning of a recent shift in how society views autism.

April wasn't always for Autism Acceptance decked out in red. It began as Autism Awareness draped in blue.

At first, the words might not sound very different, but the message was.

"Awareness" highlights diseases in need of cures. "Awareness" seeks to fix a problem. Blue was used to imply that autistic individuals were inevitably sad and isolated and would remain that way until their symptoms were eliminated. Together, "awareness" and the color blue framed autism in what is called a "medical model of disability." This model, or way of understanding, sees the diagnosis of autism as a problem, an abnormality that should be corrected.

After years of continual advocacy by countless autistic individuals and others, more and more people are coming to see autism and other neurotypes through the perspective of a "social model of disability." The social model reframes the source of the struggles that diverse individuals face. Rather than being caused by the "disorder," surrounding social barriers - including both physical inaccessibility and attitude biases - are the things that should be fixed to improve quality of life.

Many of these barriers are not intentional, but that doesn't make them less significant.

Parts from both of these models can be true at the same time, but since the medical model has dominated public thinking for decades, it is important now to regain balance by examining and responding to the social model.

staff celebrating autism acceptance in red in front of Partners in Autism's clinic

This is why moving beyond "awareness" to "acceptance" and even to "appreciation" is so important. In order to remove barriers, we must all come to see the people behind those barriers as full, valuable people. Not as people who need to be cured but as people who have unique perspectives and unique aptitudes. People who can contribute something meaningful and rare to society. People who have innate value.

So, why Red Instead? Because it lifts up the complete, valuable person. It supports them and celebrates them. It says to our clients, our friends, our loved ones, and our community: you have dignity, value, and agency.

The light that shines from each of these individuals is vibrant and indispensable.

Partners in Autism's Autism Acceptance signs in yards across town

Thank you to all our families, friends, and staff who joined us in supporting each other across all neighborhoods and communities! This is just a tiny sample of the signs you've posted and just one way in which we're all working to build acceptance and appreciation for autistic individuals! We are so proud to be a part of this community!

How can you increase public Acceptance of autism?

  • Stay informed.

    • Listen to the perspectives of autistic individuals, not just people speaking on their behalf.

    • Seek out diverse voices to understand the full picture.

  • Examine your own biases.

    • Be aware of the assumptions you have. Engage in experiences to help you broaden your perspective.

    • Put what you've discovered into action in the ways you interact with others. You will set an example for others.

  • Speak up to educate.

    • Respond to misconceptions you hear in your conversations. Remain gentle and understanding, but share the things you've learned.

    • Be on the lookout for barriers that most people take for granted, and advocate for changes to the systems the barriers are a part of.

  • Wear red in April, but be ready to explain its significance. Wear acceptance and appreciation always.

    • Follow our Facebook and Instagram pages. We post advocacy and affirmative content for you to share year-round.


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