April 9, 2013

Why We Still Need Awareness

There has been a move in the autism community to move beyond awareness toward acceptance. People are already aware, they say. It's time to take things to the next level.

I'm not sure.

It's not that I don't want acceptance. Of course I do. But I don't think we're ready for it. Why?

Because I still get emails on our local mom's group mailing lists talking about the dangers of vaccines and seeking recommendations for doctors who will agree not to vaccinate.

Because I still walk into stores that sell books called "Stop Autism Now!" that claim that coconut oil can cure everything from autism to Alzheimer's.

Because parents still put their children at risk by trying to cure them with hyperbaric oxygen treatments, bleach enemas, and chelation. And there are doctors willing to perform these (and take their parents' money to do so).

Because I still see Facebook comments with statements like "In my day, we didn't call it a behavior disorder, we called it being a spoiled brat."

Because I still read so many false claims about autism, associating the disorder with violence.

Because I still see people calling autism a "disease."

Because people think only boys have autism.

Because I still read comments on blogs like this one: "
I understand Autism, but just because a child doesn't have Autism, doesn't mean they're a perfect angel & it doesn't mean their parents 'have it easy.' At least you get help & support through various programs. Your child will get special treatment just because of an Autism diagnosis, mine won't. Like you said, the grass is always greener..."

Because school districts still do not provide appropriate educational opportunities for kids like Moe.

Because even special education teachers don't understand that behavior is communication.

Because people have no idea that there are many, many smart adults with autism who can speak/write/communicate and advocate for themselves. And do it everyday.

Because people think that autism looks either like the geeky genius or the completely withdrawn child. Moe is neither of these.

Because people assume that because someone can't talk, he or she can't understand.

Saying that we are ready for acceptance is like saying that because Obama was elected, we are living in a post-racial world. That because we have "civil unions" and "domestic partnerships," there is equality for the same sex couples. That because there are women in positions of leadership in corporate America, that we have gender equality in the workplace.

We need to be aware of the many truths of autism before we can get to acceptance of all people on the spectrum.

I want acceptance. But I'm afraid we have a long way to go.


  1. Because professionals still tell mothers 'they caused their child's autism'

    Because people still tell me to give them a clip round the ear..

    Because people still ask me what their 'special talent' is...

    Because other parents have stopped bringing their children to play with mine because their behaviour maybe catching...

    Because people still think one therapy fits all!

    Thanks for writing this x www.autismandlove.com x

    1. Yes to all of these, especially maternal blame! Thank you.

  2. Sigh, yup. There are so many misconceptions about folks on the spectrum.

  3. Jenny I always admire your writing. You are so correct, people might be aware but they do not always accept. And I think that both go hand in hand. Unfortunately there is still so far to go.

  4. My daughter isn't on the spectrum but has CP and Global Developmental Delays. I understand this post 100%.

  5. Yes to all of these. Awareness is still needed. I think we forget that sometimes in our world where it's around us all the time. Great post.

  6. I saw a facebook post this morning showing the rise of vaccines correlating with the rise in rates of autism. I saw that the original poster's friend had commented, saying she herself was the mother of an autistic child and that those correlations are inaccurate. Although my family has not been directly touched by autism, I know you and others who have been. The insensitivity of her post was appalling to me. I told her so, directed her to the Autism Speaks "Friends Support Tool Kit" and removed her from my friends list. I normally would not have responded, but since it is Autism Awareness month, I felt I could act in some small way to show support and encourage others to educate themselves a little better.


I love comments! Respectful disagreement always encouraged.


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