Friday, March 31, 2017

Autism Acceptance Month 2017

Ben Edwards updated his cover photo.
42 mins
Tomorrow is the first day of April, which, for some out there, is Autism Awareness Month with blue lights, clothes, and other decor, but for me, and others out in the autistic world, it is Autism Acceptance Month, as of the past six years, which is associated with gold, red, taupe, orange, and green. For us, blue and awareness tend to be associated with medically-modeled groups on autism, such as Autism Speaks, which unfortunately, has raised money (of which only 3 to 4% tends to go to autism services every year-the bulk in advertising, genetic research, and corporate salaries) by comparing autistic people to car wrecks and being struck by lightning, and of their twelve year existence, only in the last two were there autistics on their board, and only two-Stephen Shore and Valerie Paradiz. I have nothing wrong with these two individuals, certainly. I saw Stephen Shore speak at Johnson County Community College and thought he was wonderful, and I have heard well of Paradiz and am sure her work is top notch. I am sure neither of these people accepted their positions lightly, but that is not enough to turn around an organization, which, only months after finally appointing two autistics, endorsed Donald Trump in the 2016 election-the man who mocked a disabled reporter on live television and believes vaccinations cause autism despite twenty years of overwhelming evidence. Blue, moreover, signifies AS's puzzle piece logo, already a red flag for representing autism and autistics as something to be put together rather than fitting together naturally, but is blue due to the notion that autism is more prevalent in boys than in girls, despite diagnostic criteria having a heavy male bias where autistic females are diagnosed much later than their male counterparts, particularly in low-income areas and rural communities, that they have been called "research orphans." Gold, on the other hand, is there because its chemical symbol Au is the first two letters of the word 'autistic,' and red, orange, taupe, and green symbolize other autistic symbols, such as a heart and spark of the Celebrate Autism Foundation, and promoted by groups with heavy board and membership autistic representation, large portions of income to autistic services, and positive representation of our abilities, such as the Academic Autism Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education, the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership, the Autistic Union, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, and the Autism Women's Network. And for everyday of April, I will wear NO BLUE WHATSOEVER (except in my rainbow color Autism Acceptance Month shirt), but plenty of gold, red, taupe, orange, and green. I started doing this two years ago six days into April while still an undergraduate student at the University of Central Missouri, and did it all month long last year, and this year I will do it again. And let me tell, I do it to the letter.  The photo on this post is my new Facebook album cover.

Now, I have heard, on awareness versus acceptance, that awareness is necessary for acceptance. I am indeed for awareness (as in understanding autistic behaviors roles in processing and resulting from environmental factors), but let me put it this way. Imagine you are buying a bookshelve to assemble from IKEA (I know, I'm sorry) and awareness is the screws, while acceptance is the wood. You would not keep ordering tons and tons of screws and no wood hoping it could create a full shelf. Acceptance implies awareness. We have enough awareness, but awareness is not enough.
You can celebrate Autism Acceptance Month in many ways: art, poetry, donating to financially accountable charities, telling stories of yourself or others in your life who are autistic (as long as you do things like not telling private information against their wishes), and other things. There are limitless ways you can celebrate Autism Acceptance Month. April 2nd is Autism Acceptance Day, as opposed to Autism Awareness Day.

One last note: I know that many of you out there wear blue and celebrate Autism Acceptance Month because you care about a loved one or people out there, and I care that you care. If I did not, I would not be writing or doing this all. All I am asking is for all to consider that activism can go in wrong directions, and we as people can correct it. If you do not end up agreeing with me, I know at least that I can teach you something, and you all in return, many be able to teach me.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

World Down Syndrome Day 2017

Today is World Down Syndrome Day, and at this point, I have to say I cannot help but remember my good friend, year-long roommate, and friend and "disability brother" Tyler Weekly. I would have a photo collage of all our selfies and pictures from our trip to Florida together if not for technological issues, but I will have it, and I will say that I (and all our number of great mutual friends) remember all that he is-the guy who I go to see movies where works at AMC in Olathe ...and can get me in-and then teases me when I cry during Passengers, how we spend nights watching plays at Starlight Theater where he is an usher captain, how he will spend the night while we watch The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, and I will read him some of the books of Buddhist legends and folk tales I have and share with him stories from the autistic people, get to see him at the Spring Down Syndrome prom every year, who I saw Dr. Strange, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Moana, The Accountant, Sing, The Great Will, The Lego Batman Movie, and Hidden Figures-for which I still have all the ticket stubs, and how he will always dream big, challenge me to go on with whatever I am doing, and, above all, remind me of why I love life so much. Seeing him will make me so glad that all the progress for people with Down syndrome that has happened and all that is in the process of happening, as well as that with autistic people and those with other disabilities.