It’s April which means it’s Autism Awareness Month. The infamous organization Autism Speaks asks people to “light it up blue” this month for autism awareness. Autistic people, however, would prefer that you Tone It Down Taupe. Why?
You shouldn’t light it up blue because that’s sponsored by Autism Speaks. They bill themselves as an autism charity, but their ultimate goal is a world without autistic people. This stands in contrast with the majority of autistic adults, who value the existence of people like them. I will be writing more about Autism Speaks later this month. The short version of the story is, Autism Speaks doesn’t speak for autistic people.
Another reason to steer taupe instead of blue this April is that awareness campaigns are nebulous at best, harmful at worst. Autism awareness often means perpetuating damaging falsehoods like autistic children causing parents to divorce, autistic children being “missing” or lost, autism being a tragedy, or even autism justifying homicidal fantasies on the parent’s part.
Rather than “awareness”, what’s needed is acceptance. From Unstrange Mind,
Autism acceptance is seeing us as whole, complete human beings worthy of respect. Autism acceptance is recognizing that we are different and helping us learn to work within our individual patterns of strengths and weaknesses to become the best people we can be, not trying to transform us into someone we are not. Autism acceptance is remembering always that Autistic people are listening, including those who might appear not to be, and choosing to speak of autism and Autistic people in ways that presume competence and communicate value.
Acceptance means not thinking a rise in diagnoses is some tsunami or catastrophe.
The third reason you should Tone it Down Taule is because it is an autistic led initiative. Two autistic women, Shalia and Kassiane (blog here) conceived of Tone It Down Taupe in anticipation of April 2013. For 2014, TIDT raised money to give away three iPads to autistic adults who can use them as communication aids. This year they are raising money for AutHaven, an autistic retreat.
So Tone It Down, support autistic children and adults, and tell people about autism acceptance rather than awareness.