This April, you will probably have seen a lot of online content celebrating Autism Acceptance Month. At the same time, it’s possible that you might have come across social media posts and news articles marking Autism Awareness Month. It does sound confusing, but there is a trend of more organisations following the former than the latter.
The reason for that is many autistic people feel that the idea of ‘awareness’ is used to promote ideas that are against what they would like. They include the idea of ‘curing’ autism and speaking about autism in negative terms. Also, many organisations that promote awareness instead of acceptance are led by non-autistic people, having little or no autistic input into how they work.
Autism Awareness Month (as well as Autism Awareness Week and Autism Awareness Day) were set up by non-autistic people in the USA back in 1970. In 2007, the United Nations made Autism Awareness Day one of its’ internationally recognised official health-specific UN Days.
Acceptance Month’s origins
Some autistic-led campaign groups such as the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) saw the Awareness Days, Months and so on as ableist. As a response to that, they and other autistic-led groups set up the idea of ‘Autism Acceptance Month’ to counter some of the content and ideas being pushed that were detrimental to autistic people.
With Acceptance Month being created, autistic campaigners put forward the idea that autistic people should be accepted for who they are. This is something that many larger organisations have adopted as time has gone on, most notably the National Autistic Society in the UK.
The imagery associated with Autism Acceptance Month was different too. Instead of resorting to ribbons and the jigsaw piece symbol, as used by controversial organisations such as Autism Speaks, they used other symbols such as the infinity sign and a rainbow – sometimes combining the two.
As a sign that autistic people’s voices are being listened to, more organisations are choosing to follow and celebrate Autism Acceptance Month instead of Awareness Month. This is something we in the AIM team welcome.
Why we mark Autism Acceptance Month
With a staff team that is majority autistic, a steering group made up entirely of autistic adults and us supporting hundreds of autistic adults in Leeds every year, we opt for Autism Acceptance Month. Whenever we work with someone, we make sure we accept them for who they are. This is how we like to be treated and want to make sure we do that in one-to-ones, groups and at Autism Hubs.
We want to avoid producing and sharing content and resources that aren’t in line with the idea of acceptance. Throughout the year, we hope we have done that. We wouldn’t willingly promote anything that lessens the voice of or does harm to autistic people.
- Autistic Self-Advocacy Network – Acceptance vs. Awareness: https://autisticadvocacy.org/2012/04/acceptance-vs-awareness/
- Gill Loomes-Quinn – What is Autism Acceptance (slideshow): https://leedsautismaim.org.uk/2018/04/27/autism-acceptance-talk-slides-available/
- Autistic Self-Advocacy Network – Autism, Being Autistic and Acceptance: https://autisticadvocacy.org/2012/05/autism-being-autistic-and-acceptance/
- Indy100 – What is Autism Acceptance Week?: https://www.indy100.com/identities/autism-acceptance-week-awareness-day
- Bristol Autism Support – The importance of autism acceptance: https://www.bristolautismsupport.org/autism-acceptance/