food for thought

Sorry But Autism Awareness Month Doesn't Work For Me

Since when does another human being get to decide whether or not acceptance is even on the table?

Emma Chao/Scary Mommy; Getty Images

As an autistic mom and someone who works with kids on the spectrum, Autism Awareness Month (sometimes called Autism Acceptance Month) doesn’t work for me. I was about to say April should be called Autism Welcomed & Wanted Month until a dear autistic friend of mine who works in the space pointed out that even with the name change it’s still neurotypical-centric. Each name, as it were, highlights that autistics exist, begs for further explanation of autism, and (my least favorite call-to-action) pushes for accepting autistics. Since when does another human being get to decide whether or not acceptance is even on the table? We weren’t asking permission.

Intent needs to shift. Instead of a month of others being intentionally aware of autism and learning to accept it, I need to accept myself. And I do accept myself, and, moreover, I love myself. I’m suggesting instead we change the name and call this month Autistics’ Month (think Grandparents’ Day, Mother’s Day, etc., but give us a whole month because we’ve got kids and adults to cover).

It’s not easy to get to a place where you love yourself, especially in a world that caters more to the neurotypical brain. I’m shown every day what is normal and expected: to look certain ways, to behave certain ways, and to hide certain things about myself. In other words, normalize yourself…to the neurotypical way. But I need this month to be about me and all those like me — in all my non-typical glory. Not in a toxic or selfish way, but in a way that celebrates the specifics that make up who I am as autistic Meg. I want this month to spread the message that it is good and right to be Autistic — to Autistics.

Does this mean others shouldn’t pause, look and listen? Of course not. The best way to love someone is to first love yourself and then to get curious without assumption. So please, to the neurotypical, love yourself and be curious of others! Ask questions and gain understanding so that you can love better — but make the month of April a month where autistics can intentionally think about what makes us us and give space so we can learn to love ourselves to our very core. And if you’re wanting to celebrate autism, by all means, celebrate BIG, but do so not under the guise that folks with autism are a different species to be accepted. Do it with us because there’s nothing wrong with being Autistic. Happy Autistics’ Month!

Meg Raby is a mom, children's author of the My Brother Otto series, and Autistic residing in Salt Lake City where you can find her playing and working with neurodivergent children as a Speech Language Pathologist and friend, or writing and planning big things in the second booth at her local coffee shop that overlooks the Wasatch Mountains while sipping on her Americano. Meg believes the essence of life is to understand, love and welcome others (aka, to give a damn about humans).