Preparing for April, a.k.a Autism Awareness Month with a post that highlights the problems with the ‘awareness narrative’, suggests some improvements and provides links to a couple of other good autism themed posts.
April is upon us, and to the non-autistic world April is Autism Awareness Month. In this post I look at some problems with the ‘autism awareness’ narrative and put forward an alternative viewpoint. After my own bit I will share a couple of important related links.
THE PROBLEMS WITH AUTISM AWARENESS
At its most innocuous the ‘awareness’ narrative is simply laughably inadequate for the purpose. People being aware of autism, its challenges and its benefits (yes, the latter do exist) is at most a start. At its worst, as exemplified by a USian organization that is still allowed to call itself an ‘autism charity’ but is in truth an anti-autistic hate group (I will not sully these pages with the name of said organization, suffice it to say that if you see anything with featuring a blue puzzle piece avoid it like the plague) it is deeply destructive, contributing to the ‘othering’ of autistic people.
AUTISM ACCEPTANCE – THE ABSOLUTE MINIMUM
Autism acceptance means accepting autistic people as people, allowing us to be ourselves and express our talents and individuality in our own ways, not seeking to make us fit. Not only is forcing square pegs into round holes counter productive, you are highly likely to break the pegs in the process. If I write any further autism specific posts in the course of this next month I will not again mention ‘autism awareness’ – I have done so here only to highlight its inadequacies, I will be starting from a baseline of Autism Acceptance.
AUTISM APPRECIATION/ AUTISTIC PRIDE
Many of my greatest strengths come directly from being autistic, and actually what we need to see a lot more of is the talents and strengths of autistic people being appreciated. Part of that appreciation is acknowledging that we do have the talents and skills we possess in spite of being autistic, in many cases we have those skills and talents precisely because we are autistic. Look out when reading about autism for stuff written by autistic people, – there are plenty of us writing about autism and wanting to be found. Enjoy your April as much as you are able to.
TWO IMPORTANT LINKS
Kerry Anne Mendoza of The Canary has recently been diagnosed as autistic, and has produced her own piece tackling this subject, which you can read by clicking here.
My response to Laina’s magnificent 500th blog post “The Autistic Pride Award [500th Post]”.
Laina over at thesilentwaveblog decided to do something special for her 500th blog post. The result was an absolutely splendid post, and this is my response to it.
THE AUTISTIC PRIDE AWARD –
This section sets the scene for the remainder of the post. First here is Laina’s brief:
Whoever wants to participate, participate. I’m focusing primarily on Asperger’s/autistic people, of course, but anyone who supports autistic people and neurodiversity is welcome!
Do link back to the blogger who gave you the idea
Do link back to this blog as the original creator.
Describe a bit about yourself. However much you feel comfortable saying.
List your main “special interests” or areas of primary focus/niche specialties.
If you’re on the spectrum yourself, describe why you’re proud to be Aspergian/autistic or what you like about being Aspergian/autistic.
If you’re not on the spectrum yourself, you can use this opportunity to describe a loved one in your life who is and what makes them awesome, or you can explain what autism means to you and why you think the world would be a better place if it were to be more embracing of autism.
(Of course, you can answer more than one! For example, someone who is autistic can also describe how much better the world would be if it was more open toward autism.)
If you like, you can list other blogs or resources that are autism/neurodiversity-positive, to give them a shout-out, too.
The fact that I am writing this post demonstrates that I wish to participate (1). I was inspired the source article itself which deals with (2) and (3), and I take this opportunity to urge you not just to read Laina’s 500th post in full but also to explore her blog in more detail. Thus, the rest of this post will start with point (4) of this list.
This is my WordPress profile statement:
I am branch secretary of NAS West Norfolkand #actuallyautistic (diagnosed 10 years ago at the comparatively advanced age of 31). I am a keen photographer, so that most of my own posts contain photos. I am a keen cricket fan and often write about that subject. I also focus a lot on politics and on nature.
You can learn more about me by reading more posts on this blog, and the rest of this post. I will include photos that relate to some of my interests, and links to other blogs the relate to my interests.
Photography – as many of the posts on this blog show. There are many photographic blogs that I could link to here, but I have chosen just one, Cindy Knoke’s, from which I choose to feature a post titled “Gorgeous Greece & Her Beautiful Islands“. Here is one of my fairly recent photographs:
Public Transport – I am the creator of a London Transport themed website, www.londontu.be, I have blogged here about many journeys, including Inlandsbanan and The Jacobite, while the photograph above was taken through the window of a moving train. Here is a public transport related photo to end this segment:
Nature and Natural History – these linked interests are lifelong. For a natural history blog I thoroughly recommend whyevolutionistrue, while for good stuff about nature I recommend Anna’s blog – this is one of her posts about nature. Here is a recent bee picture to end another segment:
Cricket – I am listening to commentary on the second T20 between England and South Africa as I write this.
Autism – kind of obvious given that I am both autistic and involved in an autism charity. Before moving on to autism related blogs I offer a link to the National Autistic Society website (it is a very useful resource). I have of course already linked to Laina’s blog at the very start of this post, and I also recommend strongly theunabashedautist, americanbadassadvocates and theinkedautist. Having (including the opening link to Laina’s blog) given shout outs to four blogs by #actuallyautistic folk I finish with a link to Autism Mom.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT BEING AUTISTIC
Many of my greatest strengths, such as my computer skills, my attention to detail, my skill at taking and editing photos are a direct product of my autism. Autism is part of who I am, and never in the ten and a half years since I was diagnosed have I wished that I was not autistic. I conclude this post with a photographic collage that I used in an auction alert email sent out yesterday: