Wednesday, March 30, 2016

"Neurodiversity Month": Why "Autism Awareness" Just Doesn't Cut It Anymore


Ahh springtime. The sun is shining, the temperature is rising, and if you're Canadian like myself, you've probably just survived Second Winter (seriously, good on ya mate). It's the time of the year when everything seems to be waking up and things are beautiful. There is, however, another reason this part of the year is meaningful, especially to those of us on the Autism Spectrum and our allies. April is, after all, traditionally known as Autism Awareness Month, and it's that time during every orbit of the earth around the sun when all those who care about Autism choose to show solidarity. Sounds good, right?

The problem is, as both a yearly phenomenon and a movement in general, Autism Awareness doesn't really cut it. It is a cause that dates back to the first parents' movements centred around Autism, and it has the backing of big organizations like Autism Speaks, but the issue is that none of these groups really put Autistics first. Parents' groups are, understandably, focussed on navigating the challenges of raising a child with Autism, and Autism Speaks has a whole host of problems that would take an entire blog post to fully articulate. Despite having honourable intentions, both groups unintentionally (perhaps intentionally, in the case of Autism Speaks) perpetuate the same message; that Autism is a tragedy in need of eradication. Nothing could, of course, be further from the truth.

There is an important saying among Autistic self-advocates that there can be "nothing about us, without us," and it is the violation of this principle which is at the root of all of society's misunderstandings of Autism. People are inundated with clinical facts and statistics about various Autism Spectrum conditions that range from true-yet-overly-simplistic to flat out wrong, and yet not many organizations that claim to fight for the welfare of Autistics actually seem to care enough to consult those of us with first hand experience on the subject. If self representation is a key cornerstone of any civil rights struggle, then it is an opportunity many of us are denied in the mainstream Autism discussion.

Because of this, I'd like to propose something on this blog. Rather than calling this Autism Awareness Month, let's rechristen it "Neurodiversity Month" instead. We would of course still welcome all of the support and shows of solidarity put forth by our allies and friends, and we would still encourage the discussion of best practices regarding working with Autistics and living with Autism. The chief difference would be that, rather than let other organizations define our struggles and triumphs for us, we will do it ourselves. Neurodiversity Month represents us taking back the month and fighting for our own self-representation on this issue, and it's essential. There will be no talk of cures and eradication, only love, acceptance and support the way it should be anyway. Basically, much like June is LGBT Pride month, I propose we make April ours.

I invite anyone reading this blog to support this initiative. Let's retake the month together, and give all of those on the Spectrum a chance to advocate for and represent themselves. Our Facebook page will have custom banners and profile pictures available. I urge you to use them throughout April to show your solidarity and support, not just for Autistics, Aspies and other Neurodivergent folk, but also for our right to be ourselves and speak for ourselves, our struggles and our triumphs in this world.

As always Yours in Diversity

Adam Michael

1 comment:

  1. I am 10,000% down with reclaiming this month for ourselves. There's no such thing as a "normal" brain, after all, so why not celebrate that instead of condemn it? It makes no sense at this point in history.

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