Autism Awareness to Autism Acceptance
At SDN we believe everyone should be accepted and celebrated for exactly who they are.
That’s why in April, SDN took part in Autism Awareness Month. It was a fantastic opportunity to support the autistic community and be a part of moving beyond building awareness of autism to building acceptance. During the month we’ve had the opportunity to listen to voices in the autistic community and reflect on our own practices.
It will come as no surprise that an important part of building autism acceptance is the language we use when we talk about autism. Through our research we recognise that there has been a shift in the way members of the autistic community prefer to talk about autism. We’ve identified a move away from referring to a child as ‘having autism’ or being a ‘child with autism’. Instead, there is now a preference amongst many to identify as an ‘autistic person’.
It might seem like subtle change but there’s something important driving this shift. Some advocates say that language like ‘child with autism’ increases the stigma of autism because it positions it as an illness, suggesting that the child needs ‘fixing’.
We also know there are differing views on this issue. Some in the autistic community do not prefer to identify as an autistic person. We acknowledge and respect this and we will always be guided by families and children around the language that best suits them.
However, as an organisation we’ve made the decision to shift our language in our communications and media. We want to embrace that being autistic is part of how a person may experience the world around them. Our language recognises the value of autistic people and doesn’t define or limit it to a condition or illness that needs fixing. It’s a shift that’s in keeping with discussions within the autistic community but also reflects our commitment to a child’s wellbeing. Our use of language aims to support children in developing a positive sense of identity and culture. As they grow up, we want them to have a strong sense of self and confidence in their identity as autistic.
It’s an important shift because Autism Acceptance means embracing autism, leading to an enriched and supported community.
Autism Awareness Month
April provided the opportunity to listen to voices in the autistic community and extend awareness about autism in the broader community, but also to reflect on what we do and learn.