It is April. It is Autism Awareness Month. 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 whatever the latest ploy may be because to me it is just a publicity stunt. Lets roll in the latest charity case. What will it be next month?
I believe 'stunts' like this do little to raise acceptance of autism but serve more to reinforce the stereotypes.
In 2015 the National Autistic Society carried out a YouGov poll and found that more than 99.5% of people in the UK had heard of autism... BUT... In the same YouGov poll just 16% of autistic people and their families said that the public had a meaningful understanding of autism. A massive contrast that shows us we still have a way to go in promoting acceptance.
I am also uncomfortable with the fact that many of these campaigns are run by charities who lets face it want to make money therefore we tend to be shown the worse case scenarios. The cases that really pull at your heart strings and make you want to part with your hard earned cash.
Where are the success stories?
Where are the stories that I want to show my son???
- I would like to see documentaries showing autism success stories, brilliant artists, musicians, dancers, etc giving an honest account of their journey to get where they are now.
- I would like people to see the diversity within the autistic community not only the extremes.
- I would like to watch a concert with amazing autistic performers or a play with autistic actors.
- I would like to see autistic sports people competing.
- I would like to listen to autistic authors speak, like Temple Grandin or Chris Varney: How my unstoppable mother proved the experts wrong or watch inspirational TED talks like Rosie King: How autism freed me to be myself and Steve Silberman's: The forgotten History of Autism.
Because after all isn't that who it is about? Autistic people, like my son. What message do I want to give him?
There will be some who say; Well isn't any publicity good publicity. Well in my opinion, no! Not if it reinforces stereotypes.
I want acceptance! I don't want awareness.
So I will continue to try and challenge those stereotypes and raise awareness of the real issues that face autistic families on a day to day basis. I will continue to write about us honestly and in my own quiet way...
But I will keep one eye on Autism Awareness month as I am extremely happy to see that the National Autistic society are focusing their campaign on developing a meaningful understanding of autism, this year by asking: Where will you make a change for autistic people? A huge step in the right direction!
What will you do?
This is a revised post!