There has been a move in the autism community to move beyond awareness toward acceptance. People are already aware, they say. It's time to take things to the next level.
I'm not sure.
It's not that I don't want acceptance. Of course I do. But I don't think we're ready for it. Why?
Because I still get emails on our local mom's group mailing lists talking about the dangers of vaccines and seeking recommendations for doctors who will agree not to vaccinate.
Because I still walk into stores that sell books called "Stop Autism Now!" that claim that coconut oil can cure everything from autism to Alzheimer's.
Because parents still put their children at risk by trying to cure them with hyperbaric oxygen treatments, bleach enemas, and chelation. And there are doctors willing to perform these (and take their parents' money to do so).
Because I still see Facebook comments with statements like "In my day, we didn't call it a behavior disorder, we called it being a spoiled brat."
Because I still read so many false claims about autism, associating the disorder with violence.
Because I still see people calling autism a "disease."
Because people think only boys have autism.
Because I still read comments on blogs like this one: "I understand Autism, but just because a child doesn't have Autism, doesn't mean they're a perfect angel & it doesn't mean their parents 'have it easy.' At least you get help & support through various programs. Your child will get special treatment just because of an Autism diagnosis, mine won't. Like you said, the grass is always greener..."
Because parents are still made to feel that they caused their child's autism, because the lived near a freeway, were too old, ate the wrong foods, or had the wrong birth experience.*
Because school districts still do not provide appropriate educational opportunities for kids like Moe.
Because even special education teachers don't understand that behavior is communication.
Because people have no idea that there are many, many smart adults with autism who can speak/write/communicate and advocate for themselves. And do it everyday.
Because people think that autism looks either like the geeky genius or the completely withdrawn child. Moe is neither of these.
Because people assume that because someone can't talk, he or she can't understand.
Saying that we are ready for acceptance is like saying that because Obama was elected, we are living in a post-racial world. That because we have "civil unions" and "domestic partnerships," there is equality for the same sex couples. That because there are women in positions of leadership in corporate America, that we have gender equality in the workplace.
We need to be aware of the many truths of autism before we can get to acceptance of all people on the spectrum.
I want acceptance. But I'm afraid we have a long way to go.
April is Autism Awareness Month, but autistic people and those who love them are aware every single day. I've submitted a post about being a Special Needs parent to BlogHer Voices of the Year. I'd love it if you'd vote for it here: Becoming Special
*For a list of the myriad studies showing various "causes" of autism, see the ever-growing list in the sidebar at Disability and Representation.