April has been known as “autism awareness month” since 1970. Think about all that has changed in society and medical science in the past 50 or so years, doctors now acknowledge that women can have autism, a person does not “grow out of” autism and many other things such as vaccines do not cause autism. I would like to think that with all this knowledge and building tools for statistics to have successful and fulfilling lives society can move past “autism awareness”. We all know what autism is, but autism is such an umbrella term that having one view of what it is can be more harmful than good, rather we need autism acceptance.
In recent years the community of autistic adults has been growing, you can find these communities on any social platform with the hashtags #autisticadult and #actualyautistic. One of the interesting things that come out of these communities is autistic adults showing people that we can live full lives, go to school, have jobs, and have families. This new representation is starting to break the perception that autism is only young kids who have high support needs, and while those people do exist, society also needs to acknowledge the many ways autism looks.
By moving towards acceptance rather than awareness we can begin to reduce the stigma that creates barriers to education, housing, and employment. What do these barriers look like? For example, in employment (which is what Spero careers Canada is working on) many autistic people have repetitive body movements or “stimming” that help regulate or have a flat affect and during an interview, an uneducated employer may just think they are unprofessional or just strange. The idea that autistic traits are unprofessional creates a barrier to employment. In education, I’ve heard time and time again that IEPs are unfair to other students and make people lazy, but if professors would truly just accept their autistic students for their strengths they would see their potential thus removing the barrier to higher education. These barriers could be removed if the general populous could accept autism as a neurotype and everyone on the spectrum has strengths.
In my dream world, no one would bat an eye when I sat on the bus or wore headphones in the grocery store. Needing workplace accommodations wouldn’t be seen as lazy and having ODSP as part of my income would cause discrimination from landlords. I know this sounds like a far-off dream but I and many other autistic adults advocate for this kind of acceptance so today’s autistic kids can be successful autistic adults that don’t have to go through all the trauma we did being in a world that doesn’t see us for who we are.
The autistic adult’s community on TikTok is by far my favourite one. Many autistics that I admire have their platform here and this article covers some key TikTokers who are advocating for autism acceptance and changing the way the world sees autism.