As the prevalence of ASD increases, so too does the need for acceptance. Children and adults with ASD are in schools, neighborhoods, families, and workplaces in towns and cities all across the country, and though they are as valuable a part of society and humanity as anyone and everyone else, they struggle to gain acceptance. So how can we work to change this? The first step is learning to recognize acceptance when we see it.
Acceptance is not about wanting to find a cure.
Trying to cure or fix something is in fact the opposite of accepting it. If something needs to be cured, that suggests that there is something wrong with it, that it’s not functioning properly. A major part of ASD acceptance is therefore understanding that while people with ASD may be different, they are not broken, damaged, or flawed.
Acceptance goes beyond awareness.
Cultivating awareness of ASD has been a very important goal for the ASD community, but many people feel that awareness in and of itself is not enough. Certainly it is important to be aware of ASD in terms of the basic realities of the condition, but it is what we do with that awareness that matters. For example, it is possible to be aware of ASD but at the same time to be afraid of it, to want to fix it, or to let it lower our expectations of someone’s abilities. Awareness alone does not automatically bring inclusion, appreciation, or support.
Acceptance looks like…
Acceptance can look different depending on the context, but at its heart, it is all about embracing and valuing individuals with ASD rather than simply tolerating or trying to change them. Here are just a few examples of what ASD acceptance can look like:
Making sure that spaces, experiences, and actions are “sensory-friendly” to people with ASD. For example, snapping your fingers instead of clapping when applauding a presentation at work so that your colleague with ASD isn’t disturbed by the noise, or making sure that the lighting in your home is not too bright for your child with ASD.
Learning and respecting the language and communication preferences of individuals with ASD, including how they would like to be referred to.
Facilitating, but not forcing, access to resources and support such as health care therapies or education services.
As an employer, hiring an employee with ASD and paying him or her the same wage that an employee without ASD would receive.
Purposefully including people with ASD in the life of your home, school, community, or workplace.
Educating yourself about the myths and misconceptions surrounding ASD, and fighting against negative stereotypes and messages.
Far from being passive, acceptance is an action; it means, as best you can, helping people with ASD to be the best individuals they can be, and helping to make the world a more inclusive and more accessible place for ASD individuals of all ages and abilities.