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Autism Acceptance Month [Resources]

Today’s World Autism Day and the second day of Autism Acceptance Month, and I’ve already seen a bunch of folks sharing posts of support, which is wholesome and lovely and much appreciated. However a lot of them use colours, symbols, tropes, and language that have some pretty harmful origins. A lot of these are super easy to miss if you haven’t spent a much time around the Autistic community, so I’ve gathered up some resources on some of the biggest ones I’ve seen recently.

Words are one of my big challenges, but I’ve collated links to a whole bunch of related resources, with illustrative images, from Autistic folks much more articulate than I.

Some general info to start with…

Reframing Autism: A manifesto for allies adopting an acceptance approach to Autism
AssistiveWare: 5 Guidelines for Autism Acceptance Month and beyond
Autistic Mama: Autism Resources A-Z For Acceptance and Understanding

Other general resources

Learn From Autistics
Autism Acceptance: Resources list
Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism
Autistic Mama (Autistic parent of Autistic children)

Left side (blue), titles "Awareness": puzzle piece, crying, #LightItUpBlue, and a range of negative associated words. Right side (colourful), titles "Acceptance": ASAN logo, neurodiversity logo, happy family, #RedInstead, and a positive words
Artist: MissLunaRose

Autism “Awareness” or Autism Acceptance?

The Mary Sue: Autism Doesn’t Make Me Blue: How to Support Autistic People This April
AWN Network (Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network): Tell Me About Your Autism Awareness Month
In the Loop About Neurodiversity: Why Autism Awareness Isn’t Enough
AWN Network (Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network): Your Autism Awareness Has Failed
Speaking of Autism…: Moving Beyond Autism Awareness
AWN Network (Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network): Autism Acceptance Requires Action

Note (April 2024): A recent LinkedIn post by Sonny Jane Wise (Lived Experience Advocate, and author of We’re All Neurodiverse) has added some nuance to the discussion of awareness vs acceptance for me – the issue isn’t as much that awareness isn’t a worthy goal, and isn’t something that’s still required, but that the kind of awareness being spread is shallow, ablest, harmful, and often lead by organisations who don’t have the community’s best interests at heart.

We do still need awareness, just not the style of awareness we’ve traditionally been offered. And remember that awareness still needs to be accompanied by acceptance.

Autism $peaks

Autism charity or anti-Autism hate group?

AWN Network (Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network): Why I Boycott Autism Speaks
AWN Network (Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network): Is Autism Speaks a Hate Group?
Autistic Mama: 4 Simple Reasons I Don’t Support Autism Speaks
Speaking of Autism…: Why You Should Not Support Autism Speaks
In the Loop About Neurodiversity: The Ableist History of Autism Speaks
In the Loop About Neurodiversity: Is Autism Speaks Capable of Change?

Bonus: The Good & the Bad

Reframing Autism
In the Loop About Neurodiversity: Good Autistic Advocacy Organisations vs Bad Autism Charities

Various Autism puzzle piece icons, large in the centre is the National Autistic Society puzzle-piece logo of a crying child.
Source: Cassandra Crosman (In the Loop about Neurodiversity)

Puzzle Pieces

Learn From Autistics: The Problem With the Autism Puzzle Piece
Good Autism School: Puzzle Piece as a Symbol Of Autism: Critics
Fierce Autie: Puzzle Piece is Hated by the Autistic Community: the history and what to use instead
Autistic Alex: Why you need to stop using the puzzle piece to represent autistic people
Autistic Mama: Saying Goodbye to the Puzzle Piece

The Drake meme, illustrated with a picture of Nathan. The top panel (bad) says #LightItUpBlue, the bottom (good) has #LightItUpGold #ToneItDownTaupe #RedInstead
Artist: Nathan McConnell (Growing Up Autie)

Blue = Autism

Light It Up Blue (or not)

Meriah Nichols: “Light It Up Blue” is Bad. This is Why You Shouldn’t Buy in to the Blue or the Puzzle
Autistic Mama: 5 Shocking Reasons NOT to Light it Up Blue for Autism Day

The #RedInstead Response

Autistic Mama: What to Do Instead of Light it Up Blue for Autism Acceptance Day
Learn From Autistics: Wear “#RedInstead” on Autism Acceptance Day
Speaking of Autism…: This April, go #RedInstead for Autism Acceptance!

What Colours Should We Use?

Autistic and Unapologetic: Which Colour Represents Autism?

4 stick figures: "Suffers from autism" person being stabbed with a rainbow knife; "on the spectrum" stands on a rainbow floor; "Person with autism" holds a rainbow handbag; "Autistic person" has their head-circle filled with rainbow colours
Neurology is not an accessory (by IdentityFirstAutistic, defunct)

Language: Person-First vs Identity-First

“Person with Autism” vs “Autistic Person”

ASAN (Autistic Self-Advocacy Network): Identity-First Language (includes links to articles written on the topic by folks who use identity-first, person-first, and a mix of both)
In the Loop About Neurodiversity: Why the Autistic Community Prefers Identity First Language
AWN Network (Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network): The Failings of Person First Language
Speaking of Autism…: How Person-First Language can be Dehumanizing
Autistic Mama: 3 Simple Reasons to Use Identity Language For Autistics

Note: Community preferences should be default, however if individual’s choice of the language they use to identify themselves is different, that should be respected. If in a public forum, it may be wise to include a disclaimer that this is the language the person in question chooses for themselves.

"What does the autism spectrum look like?": A linear rainbow spectrum from "More autistic" to "Less Autistic"? NO; a circular rainbow spectrum, with different sections labelled "Language, motor skills, perception, executive function, sensory filter"
Summary graphic by David Bradley (ScienceBase) of Understanding the Spectrum by Rebecca Burgess

Functioning Labels

“High-functioning” vs “Low-functioning”, “Severely Autistic” vs “Mildly Autistic”

Speaking of Autism…: The Fallacy of Functioning Labels
Autistic Mama: The Problem with Autistic Functioning Labels
Autistic Mama: Autism Functioning Labels are Inaccurate and Harmful
Rebecca Burgess: Understanding the Spectrum

I also highly recommend jumping on twitter and checking out the tags #ActuallyAutistic and #AskingAutistics


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