April is Autism Acceptance Month. In honor of this month, UCP Oregon would like to share a piece written by Andrew Haynes.
Andrew is the Brokerage Administrative Assistant for UCP Connections, and is a person with Asperger’s. Andrew would like to thank Silas Bird (Operations Coordinator for UCP Connections) for assistance in creating this piece.
By Andrew Haynes, Brokerage Administrative Assistant, with assistance from Silas Bird, Operations Coordinator
Autism Acceptance Month is a time to celebrate and embrace the unique qualities of individuals on the autism spectrum. It's no longer enough to simply raise awareness about autism; we must shift our focus towards acceptance and inclusion.
We must advocate for policies that prioritize inclusion, education, employment opportunities, healthcare access, and social support for autistic individuals.
The article "Autism Speaks doesn’t speak for Autism" by Isabelle Ouyang provides a compelling argument against the popular organization Autism Speaks.
The author argues that Autism Speaks perpetuates harmful stereotypes and stigmatizes individuals with autism rather than helping them. Ouyang points out that Autism Speaks' advertising campaigns often portray autism as a tragedy, which can lead to negative attitudes towards those with the condition.
Additionally, the organization's focus on finding a cure for autism implies that people with autism need to be fixed or cured rather than accepted and supported.
The author also critiques the lack of representation of autistic individuals in leadership positions within the organization, which can lead to a disconnect between those making decisions and those directly affected by them.
Many individuals with autism have spoken out against Autism Speaks, stating that they do not accurately represent their experiences or perspectives.
The Puzzle Piece Symbol
The puzzle piece has been a symbol of autism awareness for decades, but it is time to retire this outdated symbol. The puzzle piece implies that individuals with autism are incomplete or missing something, which is not only inaccurate but also offensive. Autism is not a puzzle to be solved or fixed; it is a neurological difference that should be accepted and celebrated.
Furthermore, the puzzle piece does not accurately represent the diversity within the autistic community. Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that individuals with autism have varying abilities and challenges. Using one symbol to represent such a diverse group of people oversimplifies their experiences and perpetuates stereotypes.
Instead of using the puzzle piece, we should listen to and amplify the voices of autistic individuals themselves. They can tell us what symbols or language they prefer and what truly represents them as unique individuals. It's time to move away from outdated symbols like the puzzle piece and towards more inclusive representations of autism.
It is crucial for organizations working with marginalized communities to prioritize listening to and uplifting their voices rather than speaking for them without their input or consent.