Autism Awareness starts with acknowledging that autistic people exist and matter

The strange thing about Autism Awareness is that a lot of people raising it seem to be largely unaware that autistic people exist.

They organize all these Awareness events, and then they don’t invite us. It doesn’t even seem to occur to them that it is possible to invite us. They invite professionals, our parents, and sometimes our siblings. They say they’re raising Autism Awareness, but they don’t seem to realize that autistic people exist and have opinions on autism.

They give fancy Awareness speeches, and they speak as though no autistic people are in the room. They say things like  “Let’s imagine what it must be like to have autism and be overwhelmed with sensory information.” Or “They really need therapy so they can come to do the things that you and I take for granted.” They talk about Awareness, but seem to be unaware that autistic people are present everywhere.

They don’t reference the perspectives, accomplishments, or activism of autistic people. They don’t reference the existence of the autistic self advocacy movement. They talk about Autism Awareness, but they seem to be distinctly unaware that autistic people exist and do things.

So, for April, this is the Awareness I’m raising: Autistic people exist. We do things. Our accomplishments matter, and deserve to be respected and acknowledged. We grow up, and our adulthood needs to be taken seriously. We learn, and our thoughts are important. We are people, and it’s time to stop objectifying us. We have perspectives, and our voices matter.

Assuming we are listening

Often, people write about marginalized groups of people, in ways that make it clear that they’re assuming that we don’t read what they say.

So – whenever you’re writing about a group of people, assume that some members of that group are listening.

Disabled folks, people of all races and ethnic groups, people of all or no religion, women, men, trans* people, poor people, rich people, mothers, fathers, children, teenagers, lots of other examples…

When you speak or write publicly, everyone in every group might be listening. Assume they are. It will make your work better.