It’s past midnight as I write this, so technically the day is over, but today, April 2, was Autism Awareness Day. I prefer the title Autism Acceptance Day. “Awareness,” to me, is a nebulous term that is all but devoid of meaning. Everyone is “aware” of autism. Everyone is aware at the very least that it exists. We don’t need a special day, week or month to be aware of autism.
Some people have decided that this should be Autism Acceptance Day instead. Instead of merely being aware of autism, how about we accept autism and autistic people? Stop using the word “autistic” as a joke in 21 Jump Street. Stop calling someone “Rainman” simply because they are able to remember particular dates or facts.
What I want people to know is that I am autistic, but that doesn’t mean that I am somehow not “normal.” Autistic for me is normal. What I am is normal for me. It may not be normal for anyone else, even for another autistic person. But I am normal. I am not broken. I am not defective. I do not need to be fixed. Yes, there are things that I need help with, but who doesn’t need some form of help sometimes? There are things I am not good at, but there are plenty of things that non-autistic people are not good at. There may be things that I am in fact better at than non-autistic people.
As the poem by Virginia Satir puts it, “I am me. In all the world, I there is no one else exactly like me. Everything that comes out of me is authentically mine, … I can see, hear, feel, think and do. I own me, and therefore, I can engineer me. I am me, and I am okay.“