Once again April is nearly upon us and along with it the baggage of Autism Awareness Month. Autistic people often dread April with it’s frequently dehumanizing rhetoric about us and a focus on Autism Charities that are often very unpopular with the people they claim to support. April often seems less about raising awareness for autistic people (whatever that actually means) and more a very pervasive fundraising campaign for Autism Organizations whose goals and actions are often in opposition to those of autistic people.
Autistic people exist, you are now aware, can we move on to acceptance and meaningful inclusion and support now?
Traditionally, April is full of people “Lighting It Up Blue” a campaign created by Autism org Autism Speaks. Puzzle piece imagery also abounds which is also largely associated with Autism Speaks but which has become so synonymous with autism that many organizations use it. It is a common feature in April Autism fundraising campaigns. I have seen puzzle piece pedicures which raised money for an organization that had no autistic representation in its governance.
Each year many autistic people protest the corporatization of autism initiatives. We protest the use of the puzzle piece to represent us as we believe it implies that we are broken and require putting back together. The negative associations of puzzle piece iconography has been backed up by research.
Autistic people tend to prefer the symbol of a rainbow infinity symbol which celebrates neurodiversity.
One of the most common issues of contention is the continued popularity and public support for Autism Speaks which is so unpopular in the autistic community that many consider it a hate group. We have been explaining why for years. There are many accounts by autistic people explaining their continued dislike of the world’s largest autism charity. There are even videos.
Yet, every year when an autistic person expresses dread of April and the inevitable inundation of Autism Speaks fundraising, we still get asked why?
This year is different though. This year we are heading into April in the middle of a global pandemic. This year might offer autistic people a brief reprieve from what many of us have renamed “Autism Bewareness Month”. It will be harder for organizations like Autism Speaks to roll out their huge campaigns in a world that is social distancing (something that autistic people are really good at by the way).
That does not mean that the world should look away from autistic people this April. This year is instead an opportunity to refocus on supporting autistic people more directly.
I know that I am not alone as an autistic person in experiencing a heightened state of financial anxiety as a result of social distancing. I also have a physical disability that adds nutritional anxiety as I cannot grocery shop on my own both because of physical barriers and that I am a higher risk for serious coronavirus infection.
Many of us might already be champions at social distancing but we are particularly at risk of extreme poverty and not being able to find the supports we need to get through this pandemic safely.
So this year I would ask that if you are able that you directly support autistic individuals and organizations that are run by and for autistic people.
You can support me by sending me money directly through paypal (I will include more ways to support me and my work at the end of this post).
You can also support autistic creator like Amythest Schaber (whose video can be viewed earlier in this post). Amythest is also an artist with a shop on Redbubble where they sell beautiful autism and disability inspired art.
There are also autistic authors who write beautiful autistic characters. I recommend On The Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis.
My friend and amazing writer Sarah Kurchak has a memoir coming out on April 18, and the book launch has been cancelled due to coronavirus but you can and should preorder her book I Overcame My Autism and all I Got was this Lousy Anxiety Disorder. Autistic comedian extraordinaire Hannah Gadsby is a fan.
You should also go watch Gadsby’s phenomenal comedy special Nanette on Netflix.
These are just a few of the amazing autistic people you could be supporting and learning from this April. We are sheltering in place after all, what else are you going to do?
Aside from directly financially supporting autistic individuals, you can also support better autism organizations whose leadership is full of autistic voices and whose goals more clearly support the wellbeing of autistic people. Organizations like The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, The Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network, and Autistics 4 Autistics.
In the midst of the stress and fear that this pandemic has caused please don’t forget autistic people this April. Use the opportunity of the time afforded by social distancing to learn more about autistic people from autistic people rather than making a shallow visual show of support that benefits a charity more than the people who require the support.
Let’s get past autism awareness and move on to autism acceptance and inclusion.
How to Support Me and My Work
The outbreak of COVID-19 has created a lot of financial precarity for me, so I would really appreciate any assistance you are able to offer
Please if you are able help the most vulnerable in your communities by practicing social distancing responsibly and by not hoarding resources.
I personally am experiencing financial difficulties as a result of Covid-19 and would appreciate any assistance you can offer, even if it’s just to share this blog post.
If you are able please consider helping me financially during this time. My situation is quite precarious.
You can support me on Patreon
You can buy me a coffee
Or send me money directly through Paypal