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Can We Change ‘Autism Awareness Month’ to ‘Autism Acceptance Month’?

Jaron Riggs
My son Jaron Riggs / TSM

The month of April is Autism Awareness Month. It’s something very dear to me as I have two children who have both been diagnosed with ASD (autism spectrum disorder). What bugs me is that I’d rather have an acceptance of autism than an awareness.

As with most awarenesses, I think there’s plenty of awareness for autism. If my child isn’t acting like the other kids, or if someone asks him a question and he doesn’t answer, I just say he’s mostly non-verbal because he has autism, and so far, everyone has understood. My friends and family are very aware, but it’s their acceptance that means the world to me. When my son is freaking out because strings on two balloons cross over and he’s having trouble getting them unwound, those closest to us don’t look at him weird and they don’t talk down about the situation. They just help as they can because they know he has autism.

Same with my daughter. She’s high functioning, which means she’s a lot like most girls her age, yet she still has some social awkwardness. Sometimes she acts before she thinks. If she’s acting too silly, my friends and family accept that and my wife and I take care of the situation, which usually just involves asking her to calm down.

Since I’m around autism daily, I’m very aware and am a huge proponent of everything on the spectrum that deals with it. But I’d rather April be reserved for Autism Acceptance Month than Autism Awareness Month.

If you see children doing things like running around a waiting room singing to themselves, flapping their arms because they’re excited or not making eye contact with you, it may not mean they have autism — but accept the notion that they might. And just because it may seem like they’re distant from anything you’re talking about or doing, know that just being there makes them feel welcome and it doesn’t make them any less part of the group.

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