Autism Acceptance Month* is here. Since you’re reading this, you may feel as if this celebration isn’t needed. You’re aware. You accept. Doesn’t everyone? Sometimes I feel the same way. But then something happens to remind me that not everyone lives autism awareness everyday.
Someone asks me about vaccines. Someone asks me if Henry will grow out of it. Someone tells me she doesn’t know much about autism but really wants to learn. Someone asks me about the percentage of Americans with autism and drops her jaw at my response. Someone wants to know the difference between autism and Asperger syndrome.
I am thrilled to be able to answer those questions, to direct people to resources, and to do so with grace and love. When someone cares enough to ask, I’ve seen their heart.
So, why do we still need Autism Acceptance Month? Because people still don’t know.
I live this every day, and maybe you do too, but many people do not. And they don’t need to live it every day, but they do need to know about it. Why?
Chances are, we all know someone on the spectrum. The CDC estimates 1 in 68 children in the US are diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. This number isn’t mean to induce fear; it is a statement of fact. More humans have atypical brains than we once imagined. Due to advances in science, knowledge, and understanding, more people are now diagnosed than ever before. (For more on the history of autism, I recommend Steve Silberman’s Neurotribes.)
Not understanding autism prevents us from living out Matthew 7:12: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” We can cause deep, long-lasting harm when we don’t know how to interact with those who process the world differently. As Christians – as humans – we should want to avoid this.
We are all made in the image and likeness of God; therefore, we all have inherent value and worth. We deny ourselves part of the fullness of human experience when we don’t take time to understand. Learning about others enriches our own sense of humanity, which in turn increases our empathy.
What will you do to promote acceptance this April?
*I use Acceptance instead of Awareness here, in keeping with the preference of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.