By Kari Tanta, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, Rehab Manager Children’s Therapy and Kimberleigh Bechtolt, Community Engagement Associate, Washington Autism Alliance
While April has long been known as Autism Awareness Month, awareness alone does not go far enough in addressing the needs of this community. A study from the Centers for Disease Control estimates about 2% of U.S. adults live with autism spectrum disorder. Children are currently diagnosed at the same rate, boys at 3% and girls at 1%. Those with autism often need many services and support.
Below are some of the milestones in the continued journey for autism acceptance and inclusion—moving toward a world where people with autism enjoy equal access, rights and opportunities.
“In 1970, the Autism Society launched an ongoing nationwide effort to promote autism awareness and assure that all affected by autism are able to achieve the highest quality of life possible. In 1972, the Autism Society launched the first annual National Autistic Children’s week, which evolved into Autism Acceptance Month.“ – Autism Society
“In 2008, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities entered into force, reaffirming the fundamental principle of universal human rights for all. Its purpose is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity…”
The United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared 2 April as World Autism Awareness Day to highlight the need to help improve the quality of life of those with autism so they can lead full and meaningful lives as an integral part of society.” –United Nations
“Paula C. Durbin-Westby, who wanted a corrective to the negative images of autism that have been prevalent in many autism ‘awareness’ media pieces and events during April, organized the first Autism Acceptance Day celebration on April 1, 2011… Autism Acceptance Day and Autism Acceptance Month quickly became popular in the autistic community as participants spread the word through Facebook and other media.” – Autism Self-Advocacy Network
2021, Call to Shift from Autism Awareness to Acceptance
On March 4, 2021, the Autism Society issued a press release, once again calling for the universal shift to Autism Acceptance Month rather than Autism Awareness Month.
“The shift in the use of terminology aims to foster acceptance to ignite change through improved support and opportunities in education, employment, accessible housing, affordable health care and comprehensive long-term services.” – Autism Society press release
Resources for Learning and Practicing Autism Acceptance
Nothing About Us Without Us
“The Autistic Self Advocacy Network seeks to advance the principles of the disability rights movement with regard to autism. ASAN believes that the goal of autism advocacy should be a world in which autistic people enjoy equal access, rights, and opportunities…Nothing About Us, Without Us!”
The Autism Self-Advocacy Network created this website to teach people about autism and share their book, Welcome to the Autistic Community. “We wrote this book for autistic people who want to learn what being autistic means.” Get the book free here.