What Does Autism Acceptance Really Mean?

What Does Autism Acceptance Really Mean?

4 April 2022 • Words by Nicole Donne 2 mins

Autism Acceptance is the perspective shift from simple awareness to real change. It all starts with understanding the subject, and identifying and exploring what Autism really is. It is also the recognition that changes are necessary to ensure that Autistic people/people with Autism are enabled to thrive in a world that is not always the easiest place to be. Sadly, a serious amount of stigma surrounding the Autism Spectrum is still prevalent.

Without education and understanding, the historical perspective perpetuates.  In some communities, the only knowledge of Autism is based on the medical model of disability – a disorder and a cure, with no room for acceptance. There is a whole variety of wonderful styles of neurocognitive functioning.  Negative stereotypes can and will shift and morph into celebrations of our own unique identities.

This recognition, however, does not negate the requirement for individualized support on a person-by-person basis. There still must be recognition that most homes, schools and workplaces were not designed to cater to – nor often even consider – neurodivergent thinkers.  For everyone to have equal opportunities, it requires not only big ideas, big changes, and embracing a shift in perspective. It takes small changes in a million different ways too.

Nancy Doyle, the Founder of Genius Within, explains why this shift from Autism awareness to acceptance is so important:

“Knowledge about genetic phenotypes and prevalence rates are less helpful than ideas for improvements to the school day, the working environment, policing, and the intensity of information overload expected in everyday modern living.”

Supporting your child, friend, family member or colleague with Autism needs true acceptance, not just awareness. I came across a lovely article written by Sara Van Deurzen, from Gigi’s Playhouse in Wisconsin, who has a wonderful way to explain the difference.

Acceptance is inviting him or her to hang out with you.
Awareness is simply realizing that someone has a challenge.
Acceptance is engaging in a real conversation with them.
Awareness is seeing someone with a disability do something you maybe didn’t expect.
Acceptance is telling them they are awesome, cheering them on or working together with them.
Awareness is saying you have a friend with a disability.
Acceptance is truly being a good friend to them.
Awareness is appreciating the gifts and challenges of those with different abilities.
Acceptance is volunteering your time to help.
Awareness is agreeing with these statements.
Acceptance is sharing them.
Awareness does not imply doing anything different.
Acceptance is taking action.

As this Autism Acceptance Week draws to a close, it’s important to keep in mind for every other week of the year as well. True acceptance is “You are welcome here, and have an important place in the world, just as you are.” What a beautiful thought!

Nicole Donne