The brief history of Autism Acceptance Month

The brief history of Autism Acceptance Month

April is Autism Acceptance Month. This month of recognition was referred to as Autism Awareness Month from its creation in the 1970s, up until its renaming in 2011.

Paula C. Durbin-Westby is the one of the founders of Autism Acceptance Month. In an interview conducted by AssistiveWare, she explains that the historically negative outlook on autism caused her and many others to desire acceptance over awareness or tolerance.

“The word ‘acceptance’ is much stronger than ‘tolerance,’ especially the begrudging sort of tolerance I saw so often,” Durbin-Westby said.

Understanding acceptance is key to supporting autistic people, not just during Autism Acceptance Month, but any time of the year. Acceptance involves a focus on supporting disabled people rather than trying to fix them.

“Acceptance is: pro-neurodiversity, a focus on supports and services tailored to the needs of the Autistic individual, rejection of cure-oriented projects,” Durbin-Westby said.

There are many resources online to learn more about autism. A notable one is the Autism Self Advocacy Network, an organization run by autistic people who directly support disability rights and offer details about how to contribute. The ASAN has a website about Autism Acceptance Month with information available throughout the year. Another resource is the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network. They aim to support autistic people of marginalized backgrounds and fight harmful stereotypes.

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