Happy Autism Acceptance Month!

Autism Acceptance-001April 2 is on the calendar as World Autism Awareness Day. Lots of people are doing lots of things to mark the occasion, and everyone has their own perspective on the meaning of the day.

There is a vibrant and active community of adults with autism and parents of children with autism in the blogging world, many of whom would rather we move beyond awareness and claim the day and the month for acceptance of those with autism. This makes sense to me! Awareness suggests concern and toleration; acceptance implies belonging and understanding. It’s a much better word.

So what can we do?  Pretty much what we’d do for anyone.

In our families…

We could remember all children are simply that – children, who flourish when needs that are common to all children are met. We can filter whatever therapy is offered according to those principles, starting with the sure knowledge that they are loved and are safe. No therapy should get in the way of trusting relationships. As our family says, hugs make you grow.

We can also keep in mind that children develop and learn at different rates. How fast they learn and grow does not necessarily indicate a person’s potential, and a lack of communication doesn’t necessarily indicate a lack of understanding, either. But development can’t be rushed, just supported.

In our schools…

What is the point of a good education? We prepare our students for life in their community. We hope students will have the skills to collaborate with others, to think deeply and reflectively, and to use their skills to support themselves and others. We have the same goals for kids with autism as for everyone else. The starting points are different, but our hoped-for outcomes are the same.

It isn’t easy to meet the needs of diverse learners in one classroom, but it can be done. For example, there is a model being used in several Manitoba divisions that helps teachers do just that. It’s about including students both socially and academically, by recognizing strengths, teaching through multiple strategies, and learning by making connections. You can read about the 3-Block Model of Universal Design for Learning here.

In our communities…

We want our children to grow up to lead meaningful, productive lives and to be as Independent as possible. We hope they will maintain and develop satisfying relationships…just like everyone hopes to do.

Success in adult life requires understanding and support from our families, social support organizations and employers as well as the efforts of those (with or without disabilities) who are growing to maturity and increasing independence.

It’s not really about “regular” people and “disabled” people. Every child needs support to grow.  We have different needs, but we are one community, and we are more alike than differences might make it appear.

Here’s to a successful Autism Acceptance Month! May we all learn something that helps us understand and appreciate one another better.

A good place to start is by reading the thoughts of those who have lived with autism.  Paula Kuth is doing a blog series: 30 Autobiographies in 30 Days.  Every day of April she will highlight an autobiography that has had a profound impact on her work, because she believes people with autism are the best resource for families new to the world of autism, for teachers with questions about new students, and for young people and adults who are themselves receiving a diagnosis.