Time we change our perspective about Autism
Time we change our perspective about Autism
Many of us are familiar with the Autism Awareness campaigns that take place time and again. Many Autistic people across the globe do not like The Autism Awareness campaign. Every year social media gets flooded with posts on Autism awareness in order to show support to the autistic community. The problem with this is that autism awareness has not proven effective at improving the lives of autistics. Rather, it has contributed to the increase in the stigma associated with autism. It also leads to widespread misinformation of outdated perspectives. All of this makes it further difficult for the autistic community and change our perspective about Autism. The autistic community now strives for autism acceptance over autism awareness.
Let us see why:
First and foremost, Autism is a well-known condition globally. So raising awareness is not more relevant than what it was many years ago. When you see posts or content made by media, Autism is portrayed as an illness or a disease. Something that is feared. Or that there is a need to cure it or eliminate it. It does sound harsh, isn’t it? Tragically, this is the current perspective. You may have watched many movies, TV series and even read many books that have autistic characters in them. For those of you who have, if you have observed keenly, many of those characters are not fully accepted for who they are among the neurotypicals. The stigma continues in spite of awareness. And that is the reason why awareness alone is not the solution. We need to advocate for Autism Acceptance.
What does acceptance mean? Autistics want to be acknowledged for their differences and accept them as they are. Accept them as they come. Acceptance creates positivity. And when we create positivity, we observe things differently.
Here’s a list of traits that we can see in many autistics:
- Attentive to detail
- Excellent work ethic
- Excellent memory
- Above-average intelligence
- Amazing talents
And there’s a lot more to add to this list. Creating acceptance is thus, the most important perspective about Autism that we change.
Moving on, we need to understand from where the information about Autistics is being delivered to us. We need to listen to the Autistic community. Each autistic person has a story to tell. Many of the things that we as neurotypicals do, do not represent them. Take for instance the “Light it up Blue” campaign. It’s not really the right colour choice as it suggests that Autism mainly affects boys. This is also known to be a common gender stereotype. And the prolonged use of the symbol just adds to the misinformation already created. Similarly, the jigsaw puzzle symbol promotes the misconception that Autism is a children’s disorder. The Autistic community has on several occasions tried to raise their voices on these concerns. It is time that we start listening to them and advocating for them as well.
But how can we change these perspectives?
Here are some changes that we can make to change our perspective about Autism.
- Follow autistic activists on various social media platforms. Get to know first-hand about their experiences with Autism. Share the work of those autistics that self-advocate and work towards representing their community. Here are some posts:
- Talk to an Autistic person that you know: Ask them how you can contribute towards making the environment more accessible to them. It could include even the simplest things such as using clear and precise language for communication, dimming the volume of lighting in the surrounding, not expecting eye contact etc.
- Be patient & empathetic: Keep a check on family, friends or acquaintances who are Autistic. We must understand that all of us have different opinions and needs. Because each one is unique and each one is an individual. Do not presume an autistic’s abilities based on their diagnosis.
- Support Red/Gold colour instead: Many Autistics prefer these colours and encourage people to wear these colours.
- Promote the infinity symbol: The rainbow infinity symbol represents neurodiversity while the gold infinity symbol represents Autism in specific. The jigsaw/puzzle piece symbols are offensive. An autistic is not a puzzle or a mystery to be solved. We need to stop this.
- Eliminate labels: Terms like “high functioning” or “low functioning” are harmful and no longer used.
- Use identity-first language: That’s the majority vote. It’s an “Autistic person”. Not “Person with Autism”.
It’s time we change our perspective about Autism.
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