Why I believe we still need Autism Awareness and Acceptance

Six days into this year’s Autism Awareness month and I feel like people all over the world are doing a lot to raise awareness for ASD. I have been particularly impressed with people in Twitter who continually share their stories (see Aspienaut, for example). I have also received messages and emails from people who want to know more about Autism- which is pleasantly surprising since this is my first time to be actively involved in World Autism Awareness.

Nevertheless, colleagues, friends and others still ask me why we need to spread autism awareness. They mentioned that autism is already widely known, as people can easily identify TV/ film characters as having Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, from Rain Man to The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper. I pointed out that a quick internet search would reveal that there are still a lot of people who do not know much (or anything at all) about autism.

These searches reflect people’s ignorance about the condition and could lead to hate, prejudice and discrimination against individuals with autism.

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There’s no denying that most of these search suggestions are negative and hateful (to say the least). These search terms mean that there are a lot of people who key-in the same terms, which may then reflect the attitudes of these people towards individuals with autism. It is however, welcoming to see that there are people who are willing to explain what autism is, despite negative questions:

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What can we do?

Schools

Inclusive schools around the world provide young ones with the opportunity to interact with pupils with Autism and other Special Educational Needs. This can help others- including the schools’ staff, to know what Autism is and its many different manifestations. This of course depends on how many pupils with Autism one school has on its register.

Schools should explain to their students what Autism (and other SEN) are, and how best to interact with them. Quite a lot of schools do not explicitly teach children about the different disorders and conditions, despite having a relatively good inclusion practice. I believe that explicit teaching would help children work harmoniously with each other.

Workplace

Despite the Equality Act of 2010 which aims to protect workers with psychological conditions, there is still a lot of stigma around. It is important for workplaces to have an effective policy regarding mental health. It is most important to make them feel that they belong to the workplace. Give them space when they need it, and give them the appropriate help when they need it.

Remember:

People with Autism want and deserve to be accepted.

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2 thoughts on “Why I believe we still need Autism Awareness and Acceptance”

  1. I wrestle with the seemingly conflicting methods in schools and public opinion to help create awareness & acceptance towards children with autism or in fact all children with special needs using these precious children as the lesson themselves with ‘inclusion’ . I wonder who benefits from inclusion really and how do we define benefit in an educational setting? Whose benefit? Is a child with autism included in a typical classroom to learn the academics and grow as an individual learner with confidence, curiosity while being free from anxiety to do so or are they in a room of 20+ as an object lesson to teach others tolerance, acceptance, awareness etc. despite their specific social and learning needs. Is their sole purpose in a typical classroom to provide young ones with the opportunity to interact with them ( even though we all know this is challenging and at times stressful for children with autism) . Is the purpose of inclusion a method to teach sensitivity and remind others of all of our unique differences as the included child’s ability to access the curriculum or activities are reduced? I teach, I see… I wonder. As children with autism are included in a typical class, I see children struggle and hurting even in the best classroom with all the modifications and best intentions in place. I see these children shutting down, set apart by behaviors or with 1:1 aides… but more importantly I see anxiety, confusion, stress and wonder how it feels to try to learn with all that while trying to be a model to teach tolerance. I agree totally people can and are unaware , at times intolerant- I agree we must work on this but I struggle using children as the object of a lesson at their expense.

  2. *sacred facepalm because i didn’t knew how inhumane they are* lots of ppl in my school thinks that autistic ppl have to go to the asylum and i be like “do i look like i need to go there ???” geez i’m kinda in a rage now.

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