Autism Acceptance Month

April is Autism Acceptance Month, a time to foster greater awareness, understanding, and inclusion.  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines acceptance as “the quality or state of being accepted or acceptable:  approval”.  In the context of Autism Acceptance Month, it means building our knowledge in order to embrace autistic people as they are, rather than seeking to change them, and creating neurodiverse-welcoming spaces where autistic students can thrive.  

Autistic people often have significant differences in their communication, social relationships, sensory experience of the world, and self-regulation.  These differences are often misunderstood.  Most of what we have learned about autism comes from a deficit-based “medical model” that presumes that neurotypical norms are inherently better, and that treatment and education should be focused on making autistic people “less autistic.”  

But, the last few years have seen an explosion of research – much of it led by autistic researchers – that proposes a new model – one that sees autism not as a deficit-based condition but as a way of being in which autistic people have different ways of communicating, socializing, playing, and thinking that have as much inherent value as neurotypical ways of being.   And, this research also shows the tremendous toll that efforts to make autistic people act “less autistic” has taken – higher rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide reported by those who were taught to “mask” their autism and who do not receive effective support to navigate spaces designed for neurotypical individuals. 

As an organization devoted to ensuring that students with disabilities receive the education and opportunities needed to create a positive and fulfilling future, the Co-op is committed to providing our member schools with the resources and tools they need to create neurodiverse-affirming spaces that meet the needs of all learners. 

If you haven’t yet explored our online course “Understanding Autism” (free to members), we urge you to do so.   It highlights the latest research and clinical understandings on autism, centering the voices of people who are themselves autistic to shed new light on how educators can best support autistic students.  The Co-op will be offering a live PD version of the introductory session of that course two times during April.  Teachers, Assistant Teachers and DAs are encouraged to attend. Registration information can be found in our April 3 member newsletter.

Here are some other resources: “Welcome to the Autistic Community” – an online book written by autistic people to educate both autistic and non-autistic people about autism.  Check out the chapter on being an ally!

“Different, Not Deficient:  Autism and Communication”

“Autistic Play” – written by an autistic adult; describes the many ways that autistic children play

Double empathy:  Why Autistic People are Often Misunderstood

“How Autistic People Experience Sensory Processing Issues”

“No more fixes, no more cures”

“America’s most popular autism therapy may not work – and may seriously harm Patient’s mental health”

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