Don’t Just Be Aware: Autism Acceptance Month

RethinkCare logo
RethinkEd logo
RethinkBH For Providers logo
RethinkBH For Health Plans logo

By: Rethink

World autism awareness and Acceptance Month

Share with your community

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn

April marks the start of Autism Acceptance Month, a 30-day advocacy campaign that aims to increase visibility, raise money, and share information about life as a person with autism. But the campaign didn’t start as an all-encompassing push for “Acceptance.”

Moving From Autism Awareness to Autism Acceptance

Originally, the month grew out of an “Autism Awareness Week” that started in the 1950s. While important to discuss, the program primarily shared information about the then-misunderstood diagnosis and sought ‌a vague “cure.” This framed autism as a medical problem that needed to be solved, instead of a neurodivergent diagnosis affecting many people who live whole and fulfilling lives. 

As time passed and people with autism began engaging in self-advocacy, they could express their concerns and alter the previous campaign, moving away from the term “awareness” and other outdated forms of support.

What Makes Autism Acceptance Month Different From Previous Iterations?

The new “Autism Acceptance Month” campaign grew out of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), which was formed in 2006 by a group of people on the spectrum. ASAN sought to share more accurate information about autism and promote fair support systems for people with autism. 

It moved away from finding supposed cures or solutions to autism—instead of trying to influence the societal perceptions of the diagnosis to make public spaces more inclusive. This means the ASAN shied away from the stereotypes of the disease, which often only featured extreme or misrepresentative examples. 

The new movement still seeks support for those most affected by the diagnosis, but it carved out extra space for people who live day-to-day with the diagnosis to talk about their daily life and how it could be positively impacted by those around them.

That cultural push centered on giving autistic self-advocates the floor in the discussion of the diagnosis. The “awareness” efforts of previous years were mostly conducted by advocates who were not on the spectrum. These people might be well-intentioned, but the self-advocates turned the conversation away from cures to highlighting issues or misconceptions.

ASAN and the change to “acceptance” culminated in a petition that asked the White House to officially recognize April as Autism Acceptance Month. President Obama signed that petition on October 2, 2014, officially recognizing April as Autism Acceptance Month. 

In his letter, President Obama wrote, “I hope that during this month we raise awareness about autism spectrum disorders, show compassion towards those with the disorder, and support efforts made by families and communities to enhance the lives of all individuals living with autism spectrum disorders.”

The president’s recognition of Autism Acceptance Month is an important step forward for the movement. But it’s still just thata step forward. There is still a lot of work to do.

Speaking Out For Autism Acceptance

Because of the petition, many organizations and advocates now can promote autism acceptance. And they can leverage the high-profile advocacy month to raise money and share their stories without alienating those in the community that don’t want a ”cure”. Many people with autism take pride in their diagnosis, and with the acceptance month, they can visibly express that pride while helping others in the community who struggle.

There’s no doubt that there is still work to be done. But this is also an exciting time for self-advocates and their allies because they are taking control of their own message. They are making sure that the public understands what it means to have autism, rather than allowing those people without an autism diagnosis to write the narrative. The movement is growing in size and influence. And it has been achieved with no significant professional support or funding.

The movement has come so far so quickly because self-advocates fought for their own rights. In doing so, they disrupted conventional wisdom about how society should treat autistic people and challenged long-standing assumptions about what is best for them. They are changing how people view the diagnosis, from something that needs to be cured or eradicated to something that is natural and that affects 1 in 44 children in America.

So as Autism Acceptance Month begins this April, consider the history of the movement and its advocates while learning something new about the diagnosis.

Share with your community

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Sign up for our Newsletter

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter on the latest industry updates, Rethink happenings, and resources galore. Simply follow the link to the footer and enter your email.

Related Resources

NEW YORK, Nov. 21, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — RethinkFirst, the leading software and solutions provider in behavioral health, today...
Webinar
Register for Webinar About this Webinar December 15th, 2022 @ 1 pm EST  In this...
Webinar
Enroll in Course Eligible for 1 free General CE  About this Free CE Webinar Dr....

Learn more about Rethink

African American male and Caucasian woman working on laptop drinking coffee
RethinkCare logo

Take care of your people with RethinkCare’s evidenced-based solutions that support the well-being your entire employee base in all aspect of their lives - from personal to parenting, and professional

For Employers ›
School learning with diverse middle school students
RethinkEd logo

Build strong school communities and healthy, safe learning environments for all your students with RethinkEd’s evidence-based strategies and technology solutions across SEL, Special Ed, Behavioral & Training

For Educators >
Doctor helping girl with psycho pedagogical intervention
RethinkBH For Providers logo

Start, grow and manage your practice with Rethink’s workflow automation and evidenced-based clinical best practice tools that help you optimize outcomes and operations

For Providers >
African American women talking while seated
RethinkBH For Health Plans logo

Support your members and your provider networks with Rethink’s solutions that support autism care management across your network while offering unique value-added services to your members.

For Health Plans >
logo rethinkfirst white

Together We’re Powering Potential

Transforming the Behavioral Health landscape requires scalable platforms that address a broad range of mental, emotional, and wellness needs. At Rethink First we are proud to work across the continuum of care to help individuals and the people they care about live healthier, happier and more fulfilling lives.

New call-to-action

The leading behavioral and mental health enterprise platform to support working parents, caregivers and their families.

For Employers ›
New call-to-action

Award-winning solutions empower districts and their educators to improve outcomes and wellness for all tiers of students and to build healthy and safe learning environments.

For Educators >
New call-to-action

Fully integrated workflow automation and evidenced-based clinical tools help behavioral health organizations optimize outcomes and operations.

For Providers >
New call-to-action

Patent-pending clinical solutions and member engagement services streamline autism care management processes and support outcomes for health plans, providers, and members.

For Health Plans >