Yesterday marked this year’s World Autism Awareness Day. Despite my long-time passion to raise awareness of the condition, yesterday has been my first time to actively participate on WAAD, albeit on a very small part. It has been amazing to see the enormous response from people all over the world. My twitter and WordPress feeds have been full of people’s accounts of how Autism changed their lives. Professionals, family members and individuals who have ASD wrote about their experiences- the good and the bad; the struggles and the triumphs. It has definitely been an enlightening day for me, personally.
Autism Awareness Day also has it’s own critics. These people purposely refused to ‘light it up blue’ mainly because they do not agree with the ideals of Autism Speaks- a charity organisation which endorses WAAD. Autism Speaks has been widely criticized for their ‘scare-mongering’ tactics and their negative portrayal of Autism. Some argue that suh tactics can lead people to fear prople with Autism instead of accept them.
Putting the issue of Autism Speaks aside, there are a lot of positive things that I have learned just from reading people’s stories and opinions yesterday.
1. Autism Awareness is great, but what we really need is Autism Acceptance. Awareness is a huge step, but it’s not the final one. We all need to embrace the fact that a lot of people are living with ASD and we need to do our part to help them.
2. People with Autism have a lot of potentail and can flourish.
3. People around those with ASD should provide support, but they should also learn to back off. Help and teach them to be independent.
4. A lot of people with Autism have shown that they are capable of willing themselves to prove to others that having ASD does not mean the end. Many have become professors, authors, athletes and businessmen, making them the best role models for people the world over.
5. Perhaps the best thing that I have learned is that everyone can do their part, and no one contribution is bigger than another.