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Autism Acceptance Month

It is that time again. It's that time of the year when I see a spike in traffic to some old blog posts on puzzle pieces and autism awareness. It is either Autism Awareness or Autism Acceptance month, or something along those lines. I get messages asking if I'll discuss "promoting autism awareness," which seems a bit odd to me by now.

Awareness? Who isn't "aware" of autism? The media (including some celebrities) have done a great job promoting "awareness" of autism. There are plenty of news stories and events promoting the ideas of an autism "epidemic" (which implies a contagion, but that's a rhetorical debate), various possible causes, and the "suffering" of families, especially parents. I don't know how anyone cannot be aware of autism.

Acceptance? At least it sounds better than tolerance. I don't want to be "tolerated" — I want to be included and accepted for the person I am. I can support a campaign that features inclusion and acceptance.

The stories in local media discuss the costs, stresses, and possible causes of autism. These are the nightly news stories that are "teased" during my crime shows. "How one family is coping…" or "What's causing autism in Pittsburgh? More at 11." There are also the runs, walks, bake sales, and other fundraising efforts for national and local advocacy groups, often meriting a sentence or two after the "shocking story" has aired.

Don't misunderstand, I'm an advocate for anyone and everyone when it comes to educational opportunity and supports. I fully endorse more research on cognitive challenges. We do need more acceptance and understanding of autistic people — and that's much bigger than "autism" because those with an autism spectrum disorder are not a monolithic community.

I never liked "Black History Month" or "Cancer Awareness Month" or any other special month. We should always pay attention to the people around us, and the communities we might not know well. A day or a month? We need every day to be about acceptance, understanding, and inclusion.

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