Autism Acceptance Month

April 19, 2021 – Alli Boyer, Adult Services

April brings us Autism Acceptance Month, a time to “promote autism awareness and assure that all affected by autism are able to achieve the highest quality of life possible.” In 2021, the Autism Society of America is using #CelebrateDifferences to “focus on providing information and resources for communities to be more aware of autism, promote acceptance, and be more inclusive in everyday life.” This year, the Autism Society of America is shifting the title from Autism Awareness Month to Autism Acceptance Month because, in addition to advocating for awareness, they want the focus of their outreach to involve promoting the acceptance and inclusion of individuals with autism in everyday society. The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) has been pushing for this change since 2011. ASAN is run by and for those with autism, and seeks to “end the misguided search for a ‘cure’ and focus on empowering and supporting autistic people and all people with disabilities to live the lives we want.”

Autism is a spectrum disorder that can affect different individuals in varying degrees, and it usually impacts a person’s social skills, communication, relationships, and self-regulation.

Autism Acceptance Month has a special place in my heart – not just because I believe that everyone deserves inclusion and equal access to living their best life, but also because my little sister has autism. Growing up, it was obvious she was processing the world a little differently from me, but, as a kid myself, I didn’t even know the word “autism.” I am six years older than her, and I remember she would get overstimulated by loud noises (breaking down in the middle of us singing Happy Birthday) or various textures (socks are a no-go, and showers’ streams have to be a particular pressure). During family functions, I would often go with her to a private room, just the two of us, as a way to decompress in the middle of my loud, boisterous family holiday. She always wanted me to comb her hair (she had these long, beautiful ringlets of super tight curls) because I did it without touching her head too much (another sensory trigger).

During the early 2000s, especially in the small town we grew up in, there really wasn’t a lot of knowledge or resources for living with autism – or how to help your autistic child. As such, my sister really struggled in school and it took many many years to build coping skills. However, despite that, when she was in middle school she decided to enter the school talent show – something that always seemed incredibly overwhelming. The day came and she stared out quietly and facing a back wall instead of the crowd, but somehow she found her own strength and turned around to face her entire student body! In middle school! Alone on the stage! I can honestly say that is not something you could have paid me to do and my sister 100% has more guts than me. She is now a young adult and she continues to amaze me. She lives with some roommates and their staff, and, prior to COVID, was working on getting a job – something we didn’t think was possible in that early 2000’s rough patch.

There are some resources here in Missouri that may be helpful if you or someone you know has autism:

Southeast Missouri Autism Project
SEMO University Autism Center
Thompson Center
Easterseals Midwest
Autism Support Now

Here are some titles in our collection that may be of interest to you:

Autism is a world (DVD)
Understanding brothers and sisters on the autism spectrum (DVD)
The reason I jump: the inner voice of a thirteen-year-old boy with autism – Naoki Higashida
Uniquely human: a different way of seeing autism – Barry Prizant
Growing up on the spectrum: a guide to life, love, and learning for teens and young adults with autism and Asperger’s – Lynn Kern Koegel
Managing meltdowns and tantrums on the autism spectrum: a parent and caregiver’s guide – Jenna Ward-Hawkes 
Would you teach a fish to climb a tree? : A different take on kids with ADD, ADHD, OCD, and autism – Anne Maxwell 
The Autism Revolution: whole-body strategies for making life all it can be – Martha Herbert

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