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Autism Awareness, So What?

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April is Autism Awareness Month.

It’s not that I don’t care.  And it’s not about whether I do or do not support or agree with Autism Speaks.  I’m aware of autism every day.  And I tend to believe that most people are already aware of autism.  Awareness doesn’t mean anything.  People are aware of different races and religions, they’re aware of Down Syndrome and Learning Disabilities and Autism.  Being aware doesn’t give people the ability to be kind, understanding or even particularly helpful.  Opinion and perception are ingrained at an early age.

If we all really wanted to come together and make a difference, we would be supporting autism education.  If we start educating today’s children at a young age about  people who are different, and about why being different is okay, then we would begin making a difference for tomorrow.

Most large companies provide diversity training to their staff on an annual basis.  Now, we know this is mostly so they can avoid lawsuits, but there’s something to be learned from this model.  If a specific curriculum was developed for each grade level, beginning in Kindergarten, we would be turning out young adults that were armed with knowledge and understanding of differences.  If each year children learned not just about cultural differences (Does your school have a cultural diversity night?  Ours does.), but cognitive differences as well, the impact would not just be about what kind of adults they turn out to be, but it would also have an immediate impact on the rampant issues of bullying in our schools.

Education.  But to be effective, it would have to be mandatory and implemented in every school, in every city and state.  Now that would be something I could get behind.  That would be something the autism community could actually agree upon and support.

 

autism education watermarked

1 in 88 children.  That’s a lot of children to not know about.  Blue light bulbs don’t teach others about sensory challenges.  T-shirts don’t help children understand communication impairments.  Awareness doesn’t stop teasing, bullying, and shunning.

You could accuse me of being selfish, and that might be true.  This is personal.  I want other children to understand why Connor sometimes repeats lines from TV shows and movies.  I want children to understand why Connor likes to spin.  I want teachers to understand that every single action stems not from a “typical” thought, but an autistic thought, because he is autistic every second of every day and, therefore, every action comes from being autistic.  And I want the school to understand why I push them so hard to use a positive behavioral approach, rather than a punitive approach.

I want this for every single one of our children.  I want this for us parents, so we can have just a tiny bit more hope when we send our children off to school.

And I want our government and our educational system to understand that there is value in autism.  There is hope.  If only we cared enough to educate others, to educate our children.

It’s something we should not ask for, but demand.  We should demand that every child is educated about autism.  Because with education comes understanding, and with understanding comes acceptance.

Please share this post if you agree.

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About Flannery

Kid, husband, dogs, my mother, full-time job, maximum stress, minimal relaxation...sooner or later I had to vent. AND we moved from California to Texas. I could start a whole other blog about that.

28 responses »

  1. i whole heartedly agree, I’d like to share the autism education logo on my timeline.

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  2. Carmen G. Halfrunt

    I have to agree with you, “Lighting it up Blue” is easy enough that anyone can participate in, but promotes only a superficial kind of awareness. Even superficial awareness can be useful, but any unfocused awareness can be used in negative ways, for negative agendas.

    The mighty “cruise-ship” of awareness needs to be steered or it will at best, wind up somewhere you didn’t intend, or at worst, crash and burn, but until either, just drift aimlessly.

    True awareness of autism comes from being educated and instructed about it from several perspectives. Yes, legislators– it will take effort and money, because there are so many things to know: What accommodations are, what purpose stimming behaviors serve, ways we can include Autistics and show them respect, etc. It would be amazing for someone to arrive at this level of compassion and understanding in a self-guided journey, just simply knowing that Autism is a thing– but it seems like that’s what we are hoping will happen.

    Thank you, Autism Speaks, for your part in making people aware, but I think that phase is basically done and it’s time to do more and be more. We need to create meaningful curriculum that directly addresses the needs of Autistics, so that in the future the onus isn’t completely on them to be the ones to adapt to an inhospitable world.

    We can meet them more than half way, and we must.
    If we don’t steer the ship, then we deserve whatever hellish destination we arrive at.

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  3. I want all that too. Educating allows awareness to grow into understanding. Well said.

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  4. thanks flannery!

    i love this! yes, i do promote ‘light it up blue’… however, i go out and promote it with the intention of talking to my neighbors – as many as i can. i think it’s so important!

    awareness + education!!!!

    ❤ ❤ ❤ ~jennifer

    Reply
  5. I can’t possibly express how much I love this, how spot-on this is. Thank you. Off to share it now!

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  6. Amen! Education leads to better understanding, which leads to so much more inclusion…love this one.

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  7. I TOTALLY agree with this…BUT, i also enjoy light it up blue.i did not know what autism was until my daughter started showing signs and i did research. Now that she is newly diagnosed i like to put out there for others, my family, friends and so forth about autism. And ive got alot of questions as to what autism.even is!!! so in order to educate our children and anyone of that matter we need to make all aware of autism.

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  8. I could not agree more! The other day we were at the eye doctor, and I had a curious child ask tons of questions about Autism. It was wonderful to be able to teach a young person something new, especially about embracing diversity. The wonderful ended when the little girl had to leave and the adults who had been listening to me explain my daughter and Autism behaved horribly as she melted down. I want to do everything I can to prevent another generation of ignorance and cruelty.

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  9. awareness is one thing caring enough to do the right thing is another…

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  10. WHOLE HEARTEDLY AGREE!!!

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  11. Just three words for this post…. “Hell yeah!” & “Amen!” Sharing it out right now!

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  12. Love love love this post! Happy to have found your blog & looking forward to following 🙂

    It has only been 1 year since my son was diagnosed with Aspergers … it’s been a tremendous learning experience for me. “Awareness” is step 1. Education & understanding is step 2. We need to get to step 2 in our society. Even my close family – the ones who know of my son’s condition – don’t understand completely WHAT it is, WHY he is the way he is, or HOW to deal with him. I’d love for us to take that big step from 1 to 2. When a stranger asks me “why did you tell your son it’s a ‘loud potty?'” while we’re in a public restroom, and I get to reply by educating her about Aspergers and sensory issues, it makes me happy. I love talking to people about Autism / Aspergers – even though I’m no expert! I appreciate their willingness to learn. Thanks for this great post 🙂

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    • Thanks for stopping by! Will check out your site too. The first couple years are hard, trying to figure out what you should be doing, what’s helpful and what’s not. And my family is the same way and I don’t know how to motivate them to learn. Just keep plugging away I guess.

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  13. I am so with you here. Awareness is great but it’s not enough. Intentional education is an awesome idea – for kids AND their parents, too.

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  14. I love everything about this post. You nailed it.

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  15. Yes, this is personal. Terrific post.

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  16. I love this so much. The kids who have stuck with Ashlyn and stuck up for her through elementary, middle and high school are the ones who were education about her and autism and how they could help.

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  17. Awareness will do jack to help me get anywhere. From the way autism speaks does it, it will only hurt me. It will teach NTs to pity me and hope to cure me. And apparently, the origin of the blue theme only comes from the fact that more boys are diagnosed. First of all girls do get diagnosed. Secondly, I strongly oppose gender binary, including the idea that pink is for girls and blue is for boys. Thirdly, I think many girls get missed for a variety of reasons, and that the sex ratio is not that unbalanced. In the autistic adult population, i have actually noticed more women get involved in self advocacy than men.

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  18. I so agree with you. I have recently decided to do my small part to help with this. I am an autism Mom of a 35 year old son and also a health care professional for 34 years. I am just starting on something that puts my knowledge and experience in those two areas together. I want to put together an educational program for health care professionals so that when one of our children is in the health care environment, the care givers would be more aware of the special needs they might have and be prepared to alter the environment and the needed therapies so that it is a more pleasant experience for our children. Any suggestions, help or advice would be deeply appreciated.

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    • I love that idea! And yes, I absolutely recommend you talk to Lizbeth, from Four Sea Stars. I happen to know her background would make her a good resource.

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  19. I love this so damn much! Sharing everywhere!

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  20. I could not agree MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Amen sister.

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  21. This is a great message, one of the best autism posts I have read in a long time, totally accurate, and a message that more people need to hear more often. In addition to “autism awareness”, I don’t like the term “autism advocacy” either. Autism advocacy places an unfair burden of proof on autistics to explain themselves to everyone they meet in exchange for the promise of autism acceptance, which is usually a false promise anyway. The idea of “autism advocacy” implies that autistics owe the world an explanation for being born the way they were born, and the rest of the world does not have to accept them unless they can explain it so well that neurotypicals can understand it. Impossible!! People need to learn to accept autism whether they understand it or not, without demanding an explanation.

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  22. Great post! We were thinking alike, as I wrote mine the evening before: http://revgunnar.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/tired-of-awareness/

    Reply

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