Autism is a developmental disability that may impact a person’s social skills, communication and ability to self-regulate. It typically appears in during early childhood and the level of disability varies from person to person. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Autism has risen from 1 in 150 in 2000 to 1 in 59 in 2021.
Since 1972, the Autism Society of America has worked diligently to promote acceptance and educate the general public about Autism. The Autism Society has formally announced a shift from “Autism Awareness Month” to “Autism Acceptance Month”. They are calling on the media to promote this change in their coverage in order to promote a higher level of acceptance and opportunities for those with Autism. This year’s campaign, “Celebrate Differences” is observed throughout April.
There are many ways to support those with Autism. The Autism Society offers a free course, Autism 101 which takes about 30 minutes to complete. https://www.autism-society.org/living-with-autism/how-the-autism-society-can-help/online-courses-and-tutorials/#autism101. The offering is sure to increase knowledge around the subject matter. The Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidences offers free training modules on various Autism topics. https://autisminternetmodules.org/help.php. The Autism Society shares stories from family members and individuals on the spectrum. Stories can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. Autism Matters is a free electronic newsletter. Business can subscribe and post the information in public viewing places. Joining the Autism Society can be completed online. A household membership costs only $40.00 annually. https://www.autism-society.org/get-involved/join/. The benefits include access to information along with promotions and giveaways.
Many businesses are now doing their part to promote acceptance. AMC theaters, Home Depot, Ford, CVS, AMC, Walgreens and Microsoft have developed programs to hire and train those with disabilities to include Autism. AMC has gone 1 step further and developed a program of monthly movie offerings for those with disabilities. The lights remain up and the sound is turned down in order to decrease stimulation that many with Autism find bothersome. Sesame Street at SeaWorld in Orlando provides specialized training for Associates to ensure they understand how to best interact with those with Autism. They recently introduced Julia, a 4 year old with Autism, as a Sesame Street Character. Quiet rooms are provided for the people with disabilities who may need a break.
Kit Albrecht author of 5 Guidelines for Autism Acceptance Month and Beyond (https://www.assistiveware.com/blog/5-guidelines-for-autism-acceptance-month) provides helpful suggestions to promote Autism acceptance. Kit points out not all people with Autism like to be referred to as a person with Autism. Some prefer no reference to it. Afterall, people with Autism are people and pointing out the disability may not be necessary. Living well, not becoming normal is another point made. Focusing on reducing hypersensitivity, promoting education and employment should be the focus of support.
In sum, awareness of support services and acceptance of those with Autism should be the focus of Autism Acceptance month. Celebrating difference and encouraging inclusion for people throughout the year facilitates acceptance for those in need of greater understanding.