For many, April brings a time to reach out to their loved ones, wear blue, and educate and empower those around them. April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day. The goal is to teach others about autism spectrum disorder (ASD or autism). Answer questions like how the world can bring awareness and acceptance to help those with ASD succeed? Autism Awareness Month is the perfect first step to allowing others a safe place to learn and ask questions. However, there is a big difference between awareness and acceptance.
Awareness is simply knowledge. When you know something, the first step is awareness. When you reach acceptance, you are putting your knowledge into practice. This acceptance applies to many things, whether school, parenting, or different people.
So how do we go from gaining awareness to having acceptance? Awareness is easier. Teaching others about ASD, allowing them to ask questions and gain knowledge is the first step and a significant one. We can educate others about ASD and help them understand that although these men, women, and children may think and act differently from us, they can also find success in our communities. We can educate people about the early signs and behavioral therapies, social interactions, and more, but we must put our awareness into action to gain acceptance. It is essential to know and understand ASD, but it is equally important to interact and include those with autism in our daily lives. As a community, we can do several things to put awareness into action.
The reality of our world is this: there will always be different people. People who act and think differently have varying needs to feel comfortable and achieve. In 2018, an article was posted to autisticnotweired.com titled “How to Raise ACTUAL Autism Awareness.” In this article, author Chris Bonnello outlines the “good and bad” sides of online awareness, three active ways to raise awareness, and adds information about his personal experiences living with ASD. The sentence he uses to sum up, his argument is, “If the awareness we raise online has no impact once the reader logs off, it has no impact” (Bonnello, 2018). The truth in this sentence is awareness is assumed, yet people can read many topics on the internet, and once the laptop closes, is awareness changed to acceptance? Bonnello would say no. Bonnello also stresses the importance of focusing on the ability rather than the disability.
The beauty of a community like Hope For Three exists to support Bonnello’s reasoning. Encouragement is one of the most vital supports we can give a child. “It takes a village” is true in so many lives. When we reflect on the trials and tribulations we have gone through, stories typically involve another person who encouraged and walked with us and was there for support; this is no different for a person with ASD.
One must have community. A community of people who love, encourage, and support us; to share challenging experiences and lift us to succeed. More importantly, we need to talk about the things we can achieve. Bonnello further shared, “Real awareness means focusing on ability and disability. It means not being shy about discussing the difficulties, but positively talking about disabilities, so the person never has to feel limited” (Bonnello, 2018).
The greatest way to achieve acceptance is to understand that despite the challenges that ASD brings, support from a community can go a long way. There will always be rough times, and the hard days may feel like long weeks and potentially turn into years. A community of support and love makes those long days more manageable. We can foster a community of acceptance by accurately creating awareness for others about ASD. Many people know about autism in today’s world, yet many more do not, and some may project a negative connotation about ASD. With April focused on autism awareness and acceptance, it opens the door to understanding. It allows us to create a conversation with the world about men, women, and children living with ASD.
Raising awareness and, more importantly, acceptance is never easy. Questions are asked incorrectly, and people may never try to understand honestly. And those who will never cross the line from awareness to acceptance. It is important to remember that acceptance lies in the hands of each of us individually as much as it does as a community. Together, the world can move mountains, but it starts with an individual. It is okay to ask questions, but it is also okay to answer. As a community, we can raise awareness and teach each other, but the most significant focus of Autism Awareness Month is we can encourage. Encourage those with ASD, encourage others to be aware, understanding, empathetic, and accepting. As a community, we can encourage persons on the autism spectrum to be successful and achieve their greatest ability, and more importantly, they will not do it alone.
Authored by Ashley Beck