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Autism Acceptance vs. Autism Awareness

On the day of this writing, April 2nd, the world observes and celebrates Autism Awareness Day, a date that was established by the United Nations back in 2007. The month of April is also commonly observed as Autism Awareness Month. These observances are considered archaic and even harmful by autistic advocates however, and are slowly being supplanted by the far more relevant Autism Acceptance Month.

In contrast to the well known blue puzzle piece logo and the "light it up blue" slogan associated with the neurotypical-led Autism Awareness day and movement, the autistic-led Autism Acceptance movement uses the rainbow-coloured infinity symbol logo and the slogan "light it up red". As mentioned on the main UFO page, the rainbow infinity symbol represents the infinite diversity of people on the autism spectrum, and is just about universally preferred to the mainstream blue puzzle piece logo by actual autistic people.

Autism Acceptance vs. Autism Awareness

In essence, the difference between autism acceptance and autism awareness is the difference between saying "I am aware that you exist and are not the same as me" and "I accept you and the differences between us." The former constitutes no more than knowing of someone's existence, and the latter constitutes including them and treating them as you would anyone else.

There are multiple fundamental problems with pushing for awareness as opposed to acceptance. Mainly, it's the fact that simply being aware of an issue does not constitute change in and of itself. The vast majority of people are already aware that autism and autistic people exist. If anything, there needs to be awareness about the problems that autistics face from a society that rejects our natural ways of being.

The many dire problems that plague the autistic community, from titanic unemployment rates to medical torture to force us to repress our natural behaviours, do not stem from people not knowing that we exist, but from us not being accepted by the majority of people because of our natural differences. Autistic people don't commit suicide ten times more often than neurotypicals because they're despaired by not enough people being aware of autism.

It cannot be stated enough times that the same sordid lot of neurotypicals ("autism speaks" being a big group of such people) behind the Autism Awareness movement also demonise autism as a "tragedy" and something that needs to be "cured." Considering autism is quite literally a description of how over 100 million people's brain are wired, the later claim is nothing short of a thinly veiled demand for mass-genocide. It is quite obvious that these people have no actual intentions of helping autistic people.

Autism awareness inherently goes hand-in-hand with demonising autism as some sort of negative phenomenon that needs to be eradicated instead of accepted as the natural divergence in brain-wiring that it actually is. Without acceptance, awareness can even hurt autistic people further by putting us in the headlights of unenlightened people who see us as something to be banished, tortured, or genocided.

I presume that no one open-minded enough to read this article would be distressed upon seeing someone writing with their left-hand, yet left-handedness was historically also treated as an aberration that needed to be "cured." I am personally acquainted with a left-handed individual who grew up in the Soviet Union and was forced to learn how to write and perform other activities with their right hand because of such sentiments.

Take a moment to attempt to write a sentence with your non-dominant hand, and then imagine what an intolerant and callous worm someone would have to be to abusively force people to go through the process of learning how to do this fluently, all to punish them for a harmless natural preference. This same toxic insistence on forcing conformity no matter the cost is still prevalent towards autistic people today in the form of abusive "therapies" such as ABA, and even torturing autistic children with electrical shocks. Autistic people don't need to be cured. Conformist megalomaniac control freaks need to be cured.

Autism Acceptance in Action

Autism acceptance is not asking anything monumental of anyone, only to treat autistic people with the same respect that would be afforded towards any other person, and being understanding and accepting of our natural differences. That may seem like a significant demand for someone unaware of autism, but let's consider a few examples of this in action and compared with similiar situations that most people would not have any quarrel with.

Again, acceptance involves no more than treating autistic people with the same empathy and respect that one would offer towards other people, and being understanding towards our differences and eccentricities instead of supporting the idea that we need to be "cured" or ostracised. Some autistic people detest and will avoid making eye contact; some experience painful reactions to some scents, tastes, or sounds; some speak in a monotone manner and/or do not emote much; some are occasionally, partially, or entirely nonverbal; some regulate by rocking, flapping, flicking, or muttering to themselves. Some do not do any of these things, but are still autistic.

Encountering autistic behaviours or mannerisms can be understandably off-putting and odd, especially if one has not previously interacted with any autistic people. Please understand that neurotypical behaviours can be similiarly bizarre and inscrutable to us as well. As an example, I still cannot understand the point of smalltalk, nor can I even begin to fathom how loud extroverts manage to consistently display such boisterous exuberance in response to insipid social interactions.

The main point of the humourous Neurotypical Disorder page was to demonstrate how neurotypicals and their natural behaviours would perhaps be pathologised if autistic people were instead the vast majority of people in the world, and if we were as hostile towards mental differences as many psychiatrists are. Just imagine for a second how you would feel if the statements made on that page were not satire, but were instead official medical criteria for a so-called disability.

I have put together a page that explains, from my own perspective at least, the reasons behind many of our unorthodox behaviours (eye contact aversion, verbal communication issues and preferences for text-based communication, bluntness and accidental rudeness, etc) to help anyone interested in the subject to better understand and empathise. It's understandably quite difficult for anyone, autistic or neurotypical, to relate and truly empathise with someone whose mind works radically differently from their own, so I will do what I can to shed some light on that.

Benefits of Autism Acceptance

Speaking for myself, I am one of the minority of autistic people that has had the privilege of both having family and friends who accept me for who I am, and finding employment under open-minded and empathetic people that appreciate my strengths and don't mind my weirdness. Although I was not aware that I was autistic until a few years ago (and having rewatched some childhood videos before I learned to mask, I have nary a clue how I escaped diagnosis!), I always knew that I was fundamentally different from everyone else, so much so that it was pointless to attempt to hide it and pretend to be "normal".

Many other autistic people do not find the fortune that I did, as can be seen by the soul-crushingly high unemployment rates among even college-educated autistic adults. This and other misfortunes resulting from life-long societal ostracisation due to their own natural differences, is no doubt the main driver of the aforementioned highly elevated suicide rates amongst autistic people (ten times that of the general population by one estimate) Beyond the individual human tragedies that this statistic represents, it also represents an unfathomable loss of potential for all of humanity.

The world runs on the collective diverse strengths of many different people who collectively contribute how they can with their personal talents and abilities. As I went into detail on over at the Autistic Pride page, autistic people's differences can often result in us having many unique talents that are often lacking in neurotypicals. Thus, acceptance objectively benefits both the autistic and the neurotypical.

The social model of disability declares that so-called disabled people are not inherently disabled, so much as they are disabled by society and their environment. While I do not consider autism itself to be a disability at all, I do strongly agree with the logic behind this idea. Consider for example, a notion that short people are disabled because they are unable to reach tall shelves that are designed with the average adult in mind. Would it not make more sense to say that there is nothing wrong with the person, and that it is the design of the shelves that is disabling them?

An argument could also be made that it is tall people that are disabled, due to not being able to fit inside smaller spaces that a shorter person could squeeze into, which could prevent them from, for example, being able to complete some repairs to an airplane. I do not imagine that many people would seriously argue either of these notions, instead opting to believe that variations in height are just natural human differences that confer different advantages and disadvantages. In an ideal world, the same reasoning would be applied to autism.