Why Autism Awareness isn’t enough

22 March 2018

Dear Friend,

In March, it is World Autism Awareness Week. Our Twitter feeds, Facebook pages and other social media accounts will no doubt be flooded with rainbows, jigsaws, blue or what ever symbol or colour they have chosen to use this year. But mine will not.

I don't feel the need to don my onesie for the day, or bake a load of cakes, or dye my hair red or whatever the latest stunt may be.

I am well aware that there are people who will argue that awareness is always good or that any publicity is good publicity?
Sorry, In my opinion, no!

Why Awareness isn’t enough

  • Shouldn't we care about what is happening to autistic people all year round? I object to the idea that we are on a conveyor belt of caring with one eye on what's coming round next week. 
  • Are the public suffering from awareness fatigue? Do we simply click the button and share the sentiment for the week/day across our social media then move onto the next topic of the week and forget about it?  But we did our bit, didn't we? Real change does not happen at the click of a button!
  • I hate it when people jump on the latest bandwagon (particularly z list celebrities)
  • Do you agree with a charities philosophy? We need to be careful whose pockets we are lining. I have a problem with some of the large autistic charities involved in organising these stunts. Did you know that Autism Speaks Seeks a cure for autism and spends most of its budget on research not direct care?
  • I believe 'stunts' like this whilst raising awareness do little to raise acceptance of autism. 70% of families still feel socially isolated and 50% don't want to go out because they are worried how people will react. (TMI Campaign Report)
  • Where is the diversity? Autism is a broad spectrum but some charities rely on the extreme cases because they are seeking to illicit sympathy and therefore raise more money for themselves. 
  • Where are the success stories? I want awareness that challenges, not reinforces, the stereotypes.  Where are the stories I want to show my son? The successful artists, actors, sportsmen, writers, etc
  • Where are the actually autistic people? I want to see autistic people advocating for themselves. I also find it worrying that many advocacy organisations fail to employ actually autistic people so they can be out of touch with what autistic people really want.
 I will continue to    
  • Challenge the stereotypes and raise awareness of the real issues that face autistic families on a day to day, year round basis.
  • Write about our experience honestly and in my own quiet way.
  • Champion changes that make a real difference to people with autism like; working with KLM cares on making flying more autism friendly, providing health passports for autistic people, more school places.
  • Keep myself informed about autism.
  • Love my son.
  • Highlight the problems in the support system.

You can click and share on social media AND...

  • Read a book or blog post to learn more about autism
  • Watch a TED talk. Like Steve Silberman's, The Forgotten History of Autism or Rosie King's, How Autism Freed me to be myself
  • Invite the mum of a child with autism for a drink
  • Be patient in queues
  • Invite an autistic child from class to a birthday party or to play
  • Ask a local business to run an autism friendly event
  • Don't stare at children having a melt down in the supermarket
  • Volunteer at your local autism cafe or centre
  • Talk to an autistic adult about what works for them
  • Embrace difference
  • Teach your children to embrace difference
  • Ask; How can I help?
  • Be kind!

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Photography @My_Dutch_Angle

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