As I have been too ill to prepare anything for World Autism Day I am reposting this.
Awareness versus Acceptance
Many people argue about whether awareness or acceptance are what people with autism want from society. Lots of people will say that an awareness of autism is fine, but people can be aware and still not accepting. Virtually everybody thinks they know what autism is, but that doesn’t stop people being offensive. And some people argue that acceptance suggests that it is up to the neuro- typical people to say `Oh, we accept people with autism` as if NTs can decide what types of people are acceptable, as if autistic people have put forward a fairly good case and they`ve been accepted in to the day to day order of things. My view is somewhere in between:
- Awareness means everybody being aware of what autism is, and having at least a basic knowledge of it.
- Awareness is a positive thing because it will hopefully lead to greater understanding, easier access to services, and make life easier for autistic people.
- The vast majority of people are already aware of the existence of autism, even if they don’t fully understand it.
- Awareness can help improve the lives of people with autism.
- Awareness can’t solve all of the problems.
- Acceptance means people who aren’t autistic accepting autistic people and their ways.
- Acceptance can be very positive as it might make things easier in the work-place or learning environment.
- The word acceptance does have a tendency to give a lot of power to the people without autism, as it suggests that it is up to them to decide if they want to accept autistic people or not.
- A lot of people don’t like the phrase `acceptance` for that very reason.
- Does this mean that acceptance is a bad thing? No, it doesn’t. But it does mean that it is something that you have to be careful about when approaching.
Taking the positives and negatives from the concepts of awareness and acceptance, I think that there is a good ground to be reached somewhere in the middle. Most people are aware of autism to some degree – even if it is just through Rainman. Some people are accepting of it without really knowing what it is. For me the real key is understanding; you can be aware of autism, but not really know what it is. Often this will lead to pity, people being patronising, or a belief that people with autism are either dangerous, or completely pointless trying to communicate with. A lot of negative stereo-types pervade the public’s perception of autism; they are accepting yes, but quite often they are not accepting of real autistic people. They might be aware, but in reality they are not aware of real autism, they are aware of the Medias` portrayal of autism. That is why understanding is so important: you are aware of autism – good. You are accepting of autism – good. But do you understand autism?
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