Today’s the annual “World Autism Awareness Day” as part of Autism Awareness Month. As all of us parents of children with Autism know, there’s really no such thing as ‘just’ a month dedicated to it, since we’re aware of it all the time, but… let’s be honest. “Light It Up Blue” tends to draw folks’ attention.
And every year, it turns into this whole pissing contest online about whether you support Autism Speaks or are against them. How folks who have Autism (and are active in their own advocacy) feel versus how parents/caregivers of people with Autism feel, and this and that and this and that… who has a right to feel how about the matter…
Frankly, to me, it’s all a fairly stupid argument.
(Yeah, I have an opinion. That shouldn’t be a shock.)
So, for starters – I’m not against Autism Speaks. I think there’s plenty of good things they do – I love the idea of the MSSNG project, and how they got Google on board. I like that they bring a lot of attention to the disorder, and they’re the 800 pound gorilla in the room when it comes to Autism advocacy… and they do get results, in efforts like ABLE and the like. Love’em, hate’em, there are things they do that are good.
Like one of the groups that I’m really ambivalent about – the National Autism Association (which I will not link to, due to my issues with them). NAA does great work with their Big Red Safety Box… but they also still continue to endorse the proven-false idea that vaccines cause Autism through their website. It’s kind of a toss-up there, and I could argue – as I do with AS – that they at least do some good, even if they’re potentially causing harm as well with their views.
But this is why I love that there are a multitude of organizations to serve our niche of the population. From the Autism Society of America (or our local chapter), to Pathfinders for Autism to plenty of other organizations that I’m sure exist out there, we have many options of organizations that we can support, that offer support back to families and those directly affected by Autism in many ways. I think I’ve discussed this enough that I don’t have to beat this to death yet again.
But then this week, I’ve noticed this #WalkInRed thing as kind of an Autism-Awareness-but-Against-AS kind of thing.
Look, folks. Simple facts here.
I know plenty of folks who hate AS… but let’s be honest. At this point, blue is the color that’s associated with Autism Awareness, for better or for worse. Trying to have a ‘protest’ awareness thing that uses another color just dilutes the effort to make people more aware of the growing population of people with Autism who are going to need supports and understanding in their lives.
And I know plenty of folks who hate the puzzle-piece as the symbol for awareness as well. I personally find it meaningful, appropriate, and absolutely fitting on multiple levels… but we also should admit to ourselves that it’s widely recognized as ‘the’ symbol for awareness.
We have so many larger mountains to climb when it comes to Autism awareness and acceptance. Arguing about colors and symbols serves not only to distract from trying to build that awareness and acceptance… but confuses the public at large, and risks losing attention all together. What we need to be doing is doing everything we can to build awareness and acceptance for people with Autism. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to do it, if it makes more people aware of how it affects individuals with Autism, and how there’s as many different degrees of impact as grains of sand on the beach…
So… tomorrow, I have my blue 1-in-68 shirt picked to wear at the office, and I’m going to pair it with one of my autographed Autism-awareness Aberdeen Ironbirds jerseys (one with puzzle-pieces all over the sleeves).
The goal for tomorrow is getting folks to think about Autism and how we’re going to help support those who have it, today and in the future. Let’s not let stupid aesthetic arguments and community in-fighting distract us from that.