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How Can Teachers and Professionals Celebrate Autism Acceptance Month With Their Clients and Students?

Teacher or professional pointing to an autism acceptance logo

At a Glance

In this post, here are some basic tips around navigating Autism Acceptance Month with your students or autistic individuals you support.

As a teacher or professional who wants to acknowledge the importance of Autism Acceptance without accidentally evoking the baggage of this month, what can you do to center the autistic people you are supporting without burdening them with labor they do not want?

If you are not a teacher or professional, here are some ideas you may want to share with the teachers and professionals in your life!

Autism Acceptance Month is just around the corner, and if you’ve celebrated or acknowledged this month in the past you may know that it can represent a real mixed bag for autistic people. 


From its origins as Autism Awareness Month and the implication from many organizations that the goal should be to find a cure to the very real labor that many autistics are expected to put into events to ensure they are appropriate and accepting, it’s understandable that not every autistic person will look forward to this time and that there may be some wariness toward whatever kind of acknowledgment or celebration you wish to plan.


As a teacher or professional who wants to acknowledge the importance of Autism Acceptance without accidentally evoking the baggage of this month, what can you do to center the autistic people you are supporting without burdening them with labor they do not want? 


Here are a few tips for getting started and finding more clarity in your situation.

1. Put Your Students and Clients in the Driver’s Seat - Including Whether They Want To Be Involved

As you may have noticed above, autistics during the month of April may find themselves in a bizarre situation where their input is frequently solicited but they simultaneously lack any agency to shape the programming in question in a way they would want. 


One way to get out ahead of this problem is to emphasize that your students and clients can shape programming for the month very early in the process - early enough to make fundamental changes if necessary rather than just input around the margins. 


Working together through some of those questions can help instill trust that this is a mutual process meant to primarily benefit autistic people. 


Crucial in maintaining agency however is accepting that not every autistic person will be interested in this process, and that could be the case for a wide variety of reasons. 


Even if you personally are excited about celebrating this month, the feelings and preferences of the autistic people you are supporting should take precedence.

2. Seek Out Autistic-Led Organizations to Support

Another classic trap of Autistic Acceptance Month is promoting organizations who might have an affiliation with autism but whose goals broadly do not align with the majority of autistic people. 


These are organizations who may have advocated for an autism “cure” in the past or still in the present and one sad reality is that many large neurotypical-led organizations get considerably more attention and money than autistic-led organizations in the same space. 


With that in mind, if you want to plan your event around increasing support for an organization, consider consciously focusing on autistic-led organizations first and foremost. 


Some examples of autistic-led organizations (and certainly not an exhaustive list) include:

3. Put the Onus on Allistics to Learn More About Autistic People

While we wish we could say this were not the case, one reality of existence for autistic people is that the burden is often placed on them to learn about allistics, allistic social norms, and navigating social situations while not getting the same treatment in return. 


While in theory communication should be a two way street, in practice allistics are much more likely to see their behavior as the ‘socially acceptable default’ rather than a style that must also be learned.


While it would be ideal to show awareness and sensitivity to this dynamic year round, Autism Acceptance Month can be a great time to have that discussion with allistics, especially allistic faculty and staff who may hold autistic students/clients to a particular standard based on social norms. 


Drawing awareness to this dynamic is also a great way to try to continue the conversation beyond just a single month and encourage better communication and outreach from allistic students, staff, or faculty. 


The more that allistics can take up the work of meeting autistic people halfway, the more that symbolic months such as this one can serve to amplify autistic voices rather than become yet another battleground of neurotypical social norms.

Conclusion

While every teacher and professional’s circumstances are unique, we hope these tips have offered some baselines on what direction you may want to take in your own situation to best support and amplify the voices of the autistic people you are supporting. 


If you are interested in digging a little deeper into this topic with regard to activity planning we would love to hear from you! Just drop us a line at hello@autismgrownup.com.

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