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Autism Acceptance Month: Embracing Neurodiversity

Apr 01st, 2024 | by Lisa Murphy OTD, OTR/L, SWC

Lisa Murphy OTD, OTR/L, SWC

April 01st, 2024

Autism Awareness Month is Now Autism Acceptance Month!

“Awareness is knowing that somebody has Autism,” said Christopher Banks, CEO of The Autism Society of America. “Acceptance is when you include a person with autism in your activities.”

Autism acceptance month is a platform to create change; a stage to support a shift in thinking to promote acceptance and inclusivity.

In honor of autism acceptance month, we challenge you to embrace neurodiversity and amplify Autistic voices. Every individual with Autism is a unique being with their own strengths and challenges. Let’s take this time to learn more about Autism so that we are open, willing, and able to communicate strategies to make our communities more welcoming for everyone. 

What is Autism?

As defined by The Autism Society of America,

“Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex, lifelong developmental condition that typically appears during early childhood and can impact a person’s social skills, communication, relationships, and self-regulation. The Autism experience is different for everyone.”

How Common is Autism?

According to the CDC, approximately 1 in 36 children are affected by autism. The cause of autism isn’t fully known, however, researchers believe both environmental and genetic factors may contribute to an individual being diagnosed with ASD.

What Are the Symptoms of Autism?

Symptoms of autism may include, but are not limited to:

 

What Are the Therapy Options for Autism?

From a NAPA pediatric therapist’s perspective: What I’ve Learned From Working With Autistic Children

A New Approach: The Neurodiversity Perspective

Moving away from the traditional medical model of Autism which views psychological characteristics and developmental differences as deficits and pathologies, the neurodiversity perspective defines Autism as a difference in the way the world is experienced. Aligned with the social model of disability, the neurodiversity perspective embraces developmental differences as a variation of the norm; resulting disablement is largely a result of the mismatch between an individual’s needs and inaccessible environments.

The neurodiversity perspective defines Autism as a difference in the way the world is experienced.

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, learn about the neurodiversity approach in this blog by a paediatric therapist.

What Does the Autistic Community Say?

Many autistic adults embrace the neurodiversity perspective seeking acceptance and inclusion rather than a cure.

  • While each individual is unique, and it is always polite to ask about language preferences, the larger Autistic community prefers identity-first language over person-first language, i.e. “autistic individual” rather than “person with autism”
  • Historic symbols of Autism such as the puzzle piece which may connote incompleteness are hurtful
  • Messaging of “light it up blue” which perpetuates the stereotype that autism is more common in boys is harmful
  • Events such as walks for a cure and autism events that center non-autistic speakers lends to a sense of otherness and isolation

 

Ways YOU can Support the Autistic Community:

  • Use identity-first language (Autistic person)
  • Follow autistic influencers and advocates
  • Feature the works of autistic authors, artists, and creators
  • Shift the conversation away from finding a cure to using support language. Use words such as inclusion and acceptance in your April advocacy for Autism.
  • Consider celebrating Autism Pride Day (June 18th)

 

Follow These Autistic Advocates, Creators, and Influencers on Instagram

 

Find Additional Resources in the NAPA Blog:

About the Author 

Lisa, an occupational therapist, is NAPA’s Global Director of Rehabilitation and a 10-year NAPA veteran. When she’s not treating or mentoring, you can catch her exploring her new hometown Denver and hiking with her family.   

About NAPA Center

At NAPA, we take an individualized approach to pediatric therapy because we understand that each child is unique with very specific needs. For this reason, no two therapeutic programs are alike. If your child needs our services, we will work closely with you to select the best therapies for them, creating a customized program specific to your child’s needs and your family’s goals. Let your child’s journey begin today by contacting us to learn more.

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