4 Dos and Don’ts During Autism Acceptance Month

Carl is unstoppable. AbleLight provides Supported Living Services to Carl, who has autism

Hello, and welcome to April! Also known as Autism Acceptance month. Here at AbleLight, we love and celebrate our autistic friends all year long. And we love the opportunity to uplift them even more during this special month.

Originally, April was known as Autism Awareness Month. But the disability community has been shifting to “acceptance” over “awareness” for a number of reasons. For one, awareness campaigns are often tied to diseases, like cancer, or public health issues, like domestic violence—and autism is neither or those things.

What’s more, in 2021 the CDC reported 1 in 44 children are autistic—a number that’s only growing due to a better understanding of how autism affects people and improved diagnostic tools. With that kind of prevalence, it’s safe to say people are pretty aware of autism. And for the autistic community, what they want—and deserve—more than anything is to be accepted for who they are.

Changing from awareness to acceptance may seem like a subtle distinction, but it’s an important one. As are these:

DO use the gold infinity or rainbow infinity symbols

The gold infinity symbol is the preferred symbol within some autistic communities (possibly more widely used in Europe than in the United States). The color gold comes from the periodic table, where gold is represented by the symbol Au, corresponding with the “au” in “autistic.”

The rainbow infinity symbol is also widely used and recognized as a symbol for neurodiversity. It encompasses everyone—both neurodivergent and neurotypical people—as a means of embracing all kinds of neurological differences, including autism, as natural and beautiful parts of human diversity.

Don’t use functioning labels

The idea of autism being a linear spectrum with low-functioning at one end and high-functioning at the other end—signifying “more autistic” or “less autistic”—seriously simplifies the autistic experience, and in doing so, can be damaging to people’s perception and understanding of autism. People who are considered low-functioning can be dismissed or denied opportunities because they’re seen as less human, while those considered high-functioning may be denied support services they desperately need just because they appear “fine.”

Additionally, the high- and low-functioning labels are often applied by how well a person fits into neurotypical ideals, and doing so often fails to recognize the unique strengths and weaknesses of an autistic individual.

DO recognize autism as unique to every individual

There are stereotypes associated with autism, like having fixations (special interests), social difficulties, sensory sensitivities, anxiety, depression, poor eye contact, tics and fidgets, and more. But each person experiences being autistic in different ways. You might meet an autistic person who is comfortable and confident in one-on-one interactions, but who also becomes overwhelmed and struggles to function in busy or noisy situations. This person is neither low- nor high-functioning—they are simply a person who needs more support in some areas than in others. (Just like anyone else, we might add.)

Visually, the autism wheel is a much better representation of how autism appears in different people. We definitely suggest you check it out.

Finally, DO follow autistic content creators!

The online disability community is robust and is a great way for disabled people to connect with each other, and for anyone to listen, learn, join and share in the conversation. Try the hashtag #ActuallyAutistic to get started—it’s widely used across multiple social media platforms.

We’ll be sharing a few of our favorite YouTubers this week, so make sure you check back then. And in the meantime, here are some faves from Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.

A special shoutout as well to Instagram creators @neurodivergentrebel, @neurodivergent_lou, @autie_cam, @autinelle, and @nailastrophic, whose informative posts and conversation about Autism Acceptance Month informed some of the content of this blog.