1 Apr 2016

Acceptance is Key to Autism Awareness

Acceptance is Key to Autism Awareness

Author: AAPC Publishing  /  Categories: Autism and Employment , Autism and Communities   /  Rate this article:
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“We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same.” 

–Anne Frank

April is Autism Acceptance Month. Most places still recognize it as “Autism Awareness Month.” 

That’s fine for now, but I think this is one of the last years that will be the case. Between 1-2% 

of the world’s population has autism. You more than likely know someone who has it. More 

and more individuals on the autism spectrum are being identified and are becoming adults, 

growing a self-starter movement for acceptance of them as they are, instead of looking for a 

“cure”… Or, I guess I should say, an acceptance of us.

My autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was not diagnosed until adulthood. As such, I didn’t receive 

any of the supports that children on the spectrum are usually supplied with. Fortunately, I did 

fairly well without them. At the age of 24, I have graduated college, started a career, and have 

high hopes for the future. However, 35% of individuals with ASD don’t go to college or hold a 

job after graduating high school. While I cannot speak to the experiences of all individuals on 

the spectrum, I do feel that more of our stories should be heard.

When I was diagnosed a few years ago, it initiated an inner turmoil and, ultimately, denial. ASD 

did not become part of my identity – how I saw MYSELF – until my last year of college, during 

an internship. A publishing company in Lenexa, KS, specializing in books and materials related 

to ASD, was looking for an intern to help write their catalog. Publishing was a field I long 

considered as a perfect fit; as a child, I devoured books and gained an admiration for the 

written word. As part of the internship, I was able to attend the Autism Society of America’s 

national conference in Denver. I found a community of individuals on the spectrum, people I 

had never come into contact with, and seeing them helped me accept myself.

Growing up, I was completely aware of the stigma surrounding mental illnesses and disorders. 

That is what our children are learning: if you don’t fit in, especially in middle school and high 

school, you won’t be happy. If your differences stand out, then you stand out and you become 

a target. Bullying (and cyberbullying) is a huge topic in schools, but when it comes to children 

with mental differences, that conversation gets complicated. If teachers aren’t prepared to 

include children of ALL backgrounds in their lessons, then how can these children ever be truly 

accepted by their peers?

All individuals with ASD want to be accepted, not just acknowledged. The slogan, “Nothing 

about us without us,” establishes the idea that decisions regarding treatment and lifestyle 

should not be made without taking into account what the person with ASD wants (which, 

surprisingly, does often happen). In my opinion, ASD is a different way of thinking and 

communicating that, rather than needing to be “fixed” to match what others are used to, is 

worthy of being included and even appreciated.

A number of influential historical figures have exhibited characteristics of ASD, including Albert 

Einstein, Isaac Newton, Thomas Jefferson, and Nikola Tesla. If these men were able to effect 

significant change in their lifetimes because of their unique perspectives, how many more of us 

can have a similar impact?

Margaret Utz is the managing editor at AAPC Publishing in Lenexa, KS. She has a degree in 

Communication Studies and is a member of ASAN (Autism Self-Advocacy Network).

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