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Wednesday 22 Nov 2017

The End of the Month but Not the End of Autism Awareness and Acceptance

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Autism Awareness Month 2012 is over, but I want to remind everyone out there that just because the month of April is over doesn’t mean the efforts to continue spreading awareness should stop. This past month many out there were coining a new term “Autism Acceptance”, which I think needs to be applied to every other month of the year. More than that, I want everyone out there to continue spreading just plain old ACCEPTANCE.

Just because someone is different doesn’t mean they don’t need and deserve to be accepted with open arms by members of their community. We all look, act, learn and behave differently but we should all be treated equally and be afforded the same opportunities. Just because a person with autism may be considered “low functioning” and teaching them to communicate may be difficult doesn’t mean they can’t learn to communicate or that they don’t have something important to say.

When I was in graduate school the most profound experience I had was when a woman came to speak to my class about parent training. Her PhD dissertation was on teaching parents the skills they need to support their children with special needs. The speaker was severely impacted by cerebral palsy and could not communicate through verbal means but when she was young she was taught to communicate via morse code eye blink. An interpreter would then relay her communication to whom ever she was speaking. This woman was and continues to be the inspiration for why I do what I do.

This experience opened my eyes to so many things, the most important of which was that you can never, ever assume anything and no matter how hard it is you should always try. To say it more positively, you should always presume competence. The only thing you should assume is that the person is capable of learning and communicating. If a person can’t do something, the assumption should always be that it’s because they haven’t been taught not because their incapable of learning.

In the month of May we’re going to be talking about inclusion. This is an important concept when talking about acceptance because true inclusion involves interacting with, communicating with, teaching, befriending and accepting each and every person not because they’re different but because they’re the same. We are all human. We are all on this planet to learn and grow and support each other. There is no rational reason to exclude individuals with differences or their families. They, just like each and every one of you, deserve to be included in the community, given the same opportunities and accepted fully without hesitation.

I look forward to a month full of wonderful conversation around this topic. In our forum you’ll find the topic “What does inclusion mean to you?” in which I’d love to hear your stories!

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