1. DO YOUR READING
Read. Do your research. Whatever you need to get on top of what ASD is (autism spectrum disorder) and what it’s all about. Look up resources about diagnosis to adulthood. Look these up in resources from Autism Society organizations to blogs written by people on the autism spectrum. Autism looks different in every person. If you recognize, are familiar and get this saying: “if you know one person with autism, then you know one person with autism.” then you’re on the right track.
Language. Let’s jump to that for a second. This is also something that’s dynamic and changing. I’d recommend asking what the person with autism prefers (person with autism autistic, or both or many more options). This is such an important and ongoing conversation in the autism community that you should listen in on. Language is powerful. You’ll realize this as an arbiter and ally of autism acceptance.
2. CONNECT ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Look up blogs and influencers on social media. Follow along. Subscribe. Not sure if youtube counts as social media – but you should get there too! Sure, we talk a lot about how these zones are becoming toxic but I’ve found that engaged in the autism community through the routes to be refreshing and accepting. It’s always nice to be reminded that social media can be used for good and to connect with others we wouldn’t otherwise have come in contact with in our daily lives.
Share. Share what people create in these online spaces. There are so many great thought leaders, artists, memists (the artistry of memes), etc. with work to be shared. If that isn’t a form of literally spreading autism acceptance then I don’t know what else could be! Well, of course, there are more ways to do so.
3. SUPPORT THE COMMUNITY
Now this can, of course, includes the online autism community spaces and networks I just mentioned, but stop and search some places that serve your local community. Find them. Befriend them. Go to their events. Donate your $$ and/or time to what they do. I’m talking about organizations, programs, camps, clubhouses, mentorship programs. There are a lot of different autism focused orgs out there. A quick google search will guide the way! Join these.
Now there’s more…
You may or may not find some local organizations near you. Even if you do find some and do any or all of the things i asked you to do above, there are several informal ways to support your community locally. Individuals on the autism spectrum and their families want to feel accepted in their communities, like even when they’re in the grocery store. Smile, wave ‘hello’, do all things friendly and give them some grace. Doing things outside of the home is a huge milestone for some families. And any feelings of support here mean the world.
4. GET EXPERIENCE
Did you already join all of those organizations and programs mentioned? Wow! You’re good. And in perfect footing for this step.
Next, you’ll get experience at these places. You’ll need this to really get your grips on ASD. sure, you can read all day about ASD looks like on paper, but everyone knows that it’s expressed differently person to person (recognize this reworded phrase?!) I once taught a service learning course to undergraduate college students which combined classroom and community experiences. This created a cycle of knowledge learning and active learning.
Hey family members + peeps on the spectrum…
I know you’ve got the day to day experience and/or in-body, lived experiences, but it also helpful for you to get more experiences too. It’s a great way to connect with others and understand some things, experiences, and knowledge that you’ve internalized. For example one of my autistic friends mentored another student on the spectrum, and through that process not only helped that student but also realized that he’s learned so much about himself over the past few years as a student.
5. SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES
This final tip is more or less a combo of the previous 4 tips. OR HAS EVERYTHING LED UP TO THIS POINT??!??
My point here is that you. Yes, you. You are an ally with all of your experiences leading up to here or along the way, you should share them however you can. In blog form. On social media. With your friends and family. All these ways but most importantly, show up for this community in ways that show you know, care and support them… as a member too.
The first thing I want you to do is to share this tip sheet. Far and wide. Tag me in whatever you write too!. I’d love to follow along on your journey and the awesome work you’ll do.
Lots of people are aware of ASD, so our next step is acceptance.
And we need your help!
Let’s do this.