It's Time to Take Back April! Autism Acceptance Day and Month. https://www.facebook.com/events/314081628698619/ ACCEPTANCE, not "tolerance," not "I accept you but not your autism." We require complete acceptance. Pro-neurodiversity, pro-supports and services, against "cures," Autism Acceptance Day was started to counter April "awareness" stunts that demean Autistics. It has since expanded to become a way of viewing Autism in a positive and accepting light.
It’s the beginning of Autism Acceptance Month. (Autism Acceptance Day is officially April 2).
accepting yourself as you are, even in the face of persistent attempts
throughout your life to get you to be what you are not. Especially in
the face of persistent attempts throughout your life to get you to be
what you are not. The best you can be is Autistic. Let me explain. “The
best you can be is Autistic” means that you are at your best when you
are being fully who you are, able to express yourself and move through
the world in ways that are right for you, comfortable for your body.
“The best you can be is Autistic” does not imply impairments, “less
than,” “can only do so much.” On the contrary, it means that you are who
you are- your pervasive Autistic self (which actually includes those
parts that observers might think are "typical" just because they can't
see anything that looks unusual to them), and that encompasses all of
who you are, not just the parts that have been “permitted,” and not
just the stuff that whatever the DSM of the moment says are your
You have the right, or should, to grow in ways that are good for you, that you think are good for you. You have the right to make changes in your life that you think
are the correct ones for you. If stimming helps you get through the
day, you have the right to do it. If making eye contact is a goal of
yours, go for it! You get to choose. When others choose for you
(in the case of children or in some support roles) let it be not in the
vain attempt to “normalize” you, but to help you be your best, Autistic,
self. This is no different (speaking in my parental role) from helping any child
learn and grow to be the best person possible. This is no different
(speaking as an Autistic adult and former Autistic child) from learning
at a pace that is both challenging and not way outside the “envelope” of
what works for you.
Acceptance Day is for: Autistic people reading this blog, Autistic
people who can’t read this blog, Autistic people who will never read
this blog but whose lives might be impacted by those around them
learning to embrace and cherish all of who they are. Autism
Acceptance Day is not limited to acceptance for the “high end” (whatever
that is) of the spectrum. Autism Acceptance Day is for the Autistic
children in the JRC (and let’s not forget other children who are there
as well). Autism Acceptance Day is for the Autistic adults (and others
with disabilities) in institutions and for their family members who are
working for the change that will allow them to live in their communities
with appropriate supports. Since it always gets brought up, Autism
Acceptance Day is for adults who wear diapers, don’t speak, and smear
feces. Autism Acceptance Day is for the children who get put into
restraint and seclusion when school should be safe. Autism Acceptance
Day is for the kids who get bullied; and it’s for the toddlers whose
parents are already trying to prevent them from showing any Autistic
characteristics. Autism Acceptance Day is for kids who spend 25-40 hours
a week doing ABA instead of getting some time off to be kids. Autism Acceptance Day is even for Autistics who don’t want to be Autistic (they need feel no pressure to celebrate the day!)
Acceptance Day is for the Autistic activists who work hard to bring a
gleam of understanding to beleaguered parents who have heard one too
many versions of the “horrible news” story. Autism Acceptance Day is for
Autistic parents who are raising our children (Autistic or not) in the
face of other people's doubts and our challenges. Autism Acceptance Day
is for our non-autistic allies, remembering that we and we alone get to determine who our allies are ,
who support our right to be the Autistic people we actually are and
always will be. Autism Acceptance Day is for non-autistic parents who
try to understand their children, even if they don't really, and strive
to make the world a better, accepting, place for them.
Acceptance Day is for Autistic children, and Autistic adults, who might
be: sad, afraid, confused, worried, anxious, happy, ecstatic, joyous,
and every other condition that is part and parcel of the life and world
of any human being.
Happy Autism Acceptance Day!
(April 2 for Autism Acceptance Day, the entire month for Autism Acceptance Month)
April 4, 2013- while desperately looking for my W-2 form, I found the original notes for "To My Beloved Community..." On the back of an envelope, of course!
I am interviewing Brandy Nightingale, who has recently written her memoirs. Links to the memoirs are below.
Name: Brandy Nightingale. Age: 38. Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome
in 2010. Though I’d always been curious as to what planet I'd migrated from and
seriously questioned the inconveniently lengthy wintering period, I had no idea
I had autism until my social anxieties and sensory overload pushed me to seek a
diagnosis. Before then I’d worked behind the scenes on feature films such as Evan
Almighty, The Last Airbender, and Journey to the Center of the
Earth. I’d done stand-up comedy for eight years, worked as a personal
assistant to two well-known actors, trained dogs, and lived a semi-normal life.
I recently completed my first book, EVERYTHING’S HUNKY DORY: A MEMOIR, a
sometimes humorous, sometimes shocking exploration of living with and
attempting to rescue my alcoholic, drug addicted mother from
self-destruction—through the eyes of an autistic child.
What is your life like as an Autistic person?
From the outside, my life looks fairly normal; I live in a house in an
artsy town with my husband, three rescued dogs, and two happy hens. I grow my
own veggies, own a pet care business, write, travel. What others don’t see is
how I need to be alone after a visit just to breathe and reclaim my identity;
how I have to fight daily to stay on a schedule so as not to completely
overwhelm myself with my work, writing, random studies, and attempting to keep
my marriage intact and friendships from disintegrating. Getting people to
understand I need time to process large amounts of information can become
really frustrating. A quiet walk on the beach with my thoughts is all it would
take; yet others sometimes demand answers straight away.
What is the most joyful, fun, exciting thing about being
I absolutely love that I can research any subject I fancy in a matter
of hours and come out quite the expert. I love that I can use my natural
instincts to build trust with animals. I love that my brain is so consumed with
learning—the greatest natural high. I love that there are others in the world I
can relate to and connect with thanks to Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/everythingshunkydory),
Twitter (@bnightingale11), Wrongplanet.net, and the many blogs I’ve discovered.
What is the most difficult about being Autistic, for you?
For me, relationships are the most difficult aspect of having autism. I
require a lot of alone time and others don’t understand that concept so take it
personal when I need to take a break. I don’t read between the lines and I
don’t have the capacity to play emotional games, but others do and I often
don’t catch on or am accused of playing them myself, which is always a shock. I
am fascinated by people’s minds, experiences, and spiritual lives, and often my
intrigue is taken as flirtation and either becomes rather uncomfortable or I
never hear from the person again. That is the worst, as I’d love to have
friends that I can have fulfilling discussions with. Chit-chat and I never did
get on well.
How has the Autism Acceptance Day/Month effort over the past
three years affected you personally? If you were not aware of it until
recently, what meaning does Autism Acceptance Day/Month have to you now?
I only recently learned of Autism Acceptance Day/Month, and was
instantly100% on-board with the idea. Truth be told, I went from being elated
with my diagnosis in 2010 (ah, relief!), to ashamed (who will hire me now?), to
acceptance (OK, so I’m an introvert to an extreme.), to more recent confidence
(I’m, like, totally stalking myself on Facebook . . . OK, well, maybe I need to
tone it down a bit). In the past few years I’ve had to learn to accept me. I’ve
always had respect for those I’ve met and read about on the spectrum. Many of
these people are my heroes. But somehow, at certain points in my life (such as
being jobless for two years) I had become ashamed of my social anxiety, ashamed
of my sensory sensitivities and my fear of meeting new people in an interview
setting. Somehow along the way I forgot about my extreme organizational skills,
my loyalty, my attention to detail, my knack for finding solutions others
hadn’t been able to find. Now I hope to continue on this journey of
self-acceptance and share what I’ve learned with others on the spectrum, as
well as with parents and teachers.
What is one thing about acceptance that would make a
difference in the world?
I believe acceptance of Autism in the workforce and education system
would bring about a complete change in the way the world is run. We’ve had
years of experiencing the wonderful multi-talented, multi-tasking generalist. I
believe Autistics are specialists—specializing in whatever gift or interest
they’ve acquired. The world has very specific needs now, with issues in the
economy, with climate change, with the creation and storage of energy, with
finding new ways to power and simplify our lives. This is where the specialist
comes in. The need for finding specific, innovative solutions to today’s
problems is critical. Those who can sit down, in silence, and think outside the
box by utilizing their genius can give us fresh results.
Do you have children or other family members who are
I am the only person in my immediate
family who has been diagnosed, though I have had my suspicions. My
grandfather (who is now retired) worked as a computer geek for NASA. My
brother is a musical savant. He’s also an incredibly talented artist
with a brilliant mind. Mum and I had our differences throughout life—she
was an addict and never seemed to want to be a mother. She was a David
Bowie impersonator, artist, and paranormal investigator. After I
received my diagnosis she took an online AQ test and scored almost as
high as I had. I pondered us sharing the same migratory period and what
fun it might be to be floating in a tin can, far above the world . . . ॐ Links to Brandy's sites: Everything's Hunky Dory: A Memoir Everything's Hunky Dory- Blog
I am interviewing Gary, who lives on Vancouver Island.
I am a middle age male of East Asian
descent. I live on Vancouver Island on the west coast of Canada with my
cat and work in the printing industry.
What is your life like as an Autistic person?
I often feel different from others, including my friends and
relatives. It’s like being a square peg in a world of round holes. A
world I find overwhelming much of the time. I find it exhausting trying to pass
as neural-typical in order to fit in. That is why it was a big relief to know
that I am not the only one. It’s as if there is suddenly this big community of
individuals who I share a common bond with.
What is difficult for you about being Autistic?
For me the difficulties of being Autistic are being misunderstood
by others and judged because of things I have difficulty controlling and that
are hard to explain. Because I seem so “high functioning”, it’s hard for others
to believe I have problems. It’s frustrating when there isn’t much in the way
of support available for adults on the spectrum. Growing up I was a magnet for
bullies, as well as constantly criticized by my parents for being dumb and
stupid (as well as looking weird because of my stimming) because of their lack
of understanding of Autism.
What are the positive and joyful aspects of autism for you?
On the other hand, there are many positive aspects of being
Autistic. For example, I am not a slave to fads and fashion or trying to have
as much material wealth as possible. I value honesty and find joy in the
simplest things (patterns and textures in nature, things that move by
themselves, reflections of light on shiny objects, SpongeBob). I am
knowledgeable in the subjects of my obsessive interests and have a desire to
help others on the spectrum.
How has the Autism Acceptance Day/Month effort over the past three years affected you personally? What meaning does it have for you?
To me, Autism Acceptance Day/Month means being proud of my
differences despite what others might think. Also, it means joining with others
to fight against stereotypes and negative portrayals in the media. To change
attitudes in society and to try to make life easier for the younger generation
of Autistics in a world not design with us in mind.
What is one thing about acceptance that would make a
difference in the world?
Acceptance would lead to real understanding and accommodations
that allow Autistic individuals to function and thrive in society in all parts
of the world.
Could you say something about Autistic children and parents?
I would like to add that because we live in a world
unfriendly to Autistics, parents should give as much support and unconditional
love to their Autistic children as possible.
Gary, thank you for taking the time to interview with the Autism Acceptance Day blog. It has been interesting to learn about your experiences and your forward-thinking ideas about where we will go with the Autism Acceptance movement.
There has been some concern on another site that I am not really Paula, and that "Autism Acceptance Day" has been hacked. Well, it has not. Thankfully. Now, someone reading this could think "It's just the hacker posting this," but, um, it's me. Not sure how to prove that, though! LOL. I know. I could post a photo of me that has not ever been online before so that people will know it is me and could not have copied it from the internet. Here goes....
Today's interview is with Bill Peters. Bill is 31 and does quite a bit of advocacy work. Tell us a bit about yourself and your work, Bill.
I have know
that I have ASD sence 1991, I became a Autism Advocate in 2003, I Run Three
Rivers Autism Outreach a Social and Support group in my area.
What is your life like as an
My life as an Autistic Person at times can be a roller
coaster ride, it has more ups then downs most of the time but there are days
when it can be really tough especially when your trying to get people to
understand what life is like for you or ask people to help you out in
area's you need help in.
What is the most difficult about being Autistic, for you?
The Most Difficult
thing for me is often wanting to be more Social but not having much of a chance
to go out and do stuff and also having people Misunderstand about what my
Challenges are cause I "look" Perfectly fine.
What is the most joyful, fun, exciting thing bout being Autistic?
Memory, my Abilty to try new things and often make Friendships that others
would find hard, Also enjoy my special Intrests and being able to learn new
How has the Autism Acceptance Day/Month effort over the past three years
affected you personally?
It has given me a chance to speak up and tell
people what having Autism is like and the Importance of being Included and
given a chance to live life to the Fullest.
What is one thing about acceptance that would make a difference in the
IT would make it so that we can live our lives to the Fullest.
Do you have children or other family members who are Autistic? No not
that I know of.
Thank you for interviewing with me, Bill. It has been a pleasure getting to know you a bit better here as well as on Facebook.
I am interviewing Michael Forbes Wilcox. Michael has quite an
impressive list of advocacy efforts.
Forbes Wilcox, 67. I'm retired from a career in finance & investments. I
self-diagnosed Asperger Syndrome at age 59, and had it confirmed clinically a
year later. Since that time, I have become very involved in disability
advocacy, and serve on the Board of the Asperger's Association of New England (AANE), the Massachusetts
Special Commission Relative to Autism, and the Massachusetts Cross Disability
Advocacy Coalition (CDAC),
to name just a few. A more detailed bio is on my website.
While serving on the Autism Commission, I was a member of a small group of
Commissioners who drafted the report and recommendations that have now been published.
(The Commission is still active, but will meet less frequently now, to review
progress on our recommendations.) A couple of years ago, I took it upon myself
to round up a small group of people to review and suggest changes to the annual
Autism Awareness Month proclamation issued by our Governor. It was undoubtedly
the first time that any autistic people had been involved in the process. Most
of our suggestions were taken, but there were a few editorial changes that
didn't sit well with everyone. So, a year ago, I became more insistent, and
also added the word "Acceptance" so that the proclamation became one
of "Autism Awareness & Acceptance" -- this added word
was greeted enthusiastically in the community, and not just among autistics.
One mother of an autistic boy commented,
"We need to go beyond awareness; if you're not aware of autism, you've
likely been living under a rock for quite some time now!"
What do you think about autism acceptance and awareness, other
than your efforts with the Massachusetts Autism Commission?
Awareness has played a huge role in my own life in recent years. Life is much
better for me now that I am aware that I am autistic. For me, too, awareness
has led, slowly and painfully at first, later with much enthusiasm, to
acceptance. I now embrace being autistic, and realize that my difference has
been a source of much of the joy in my life, and not just some of the sorrow.
I'm still a bit buffaloed by the Executive Function thing, and am working hard
to improve my abilities there.
In many areas of my life, awareness and acceptance have led to an inner peace
that had always been elusive to me. I had always wondered why so many of the
sensory experiences that bothered me didn't seem to affect those around me. Now
that I understand that these annoyances arise from the way my autistic brain
processes things, I have learned to either shrug them off (acceptance) or to
take steps to reduce the anxiety and stress they produce. I can, for example,
avoid places with bright lights or excessive noise. I now feel different,
instead of weird, or that there is something "wrong" with me.
I can see, looking back on my life, that I gravitated to activities that were
solitary in nature. Although I am a highly social person, and have a wide
network of good friends, I enjoy being alone. I need both. My career involved
much travel, public speaking, and contact with clients and colleagues; yet the
essential nature of my work was solitary. I was a research analyst who used
computer models to make predictions and develop pragmatic solutions to
investment challenges. I did a lot of writing for publication. In my private
life, too, I always had a mix of the social and solitary. I was a stamp
collector, and spent many hours peering at small pieces of paper. I am an
enthusiastic horseback rider, and although I never ride alone, it is
essentially a solitary activity in which I commune with my horse on lovely
trails through the woods near my house. I enjoy ashtanga yoga, either by myself
or in a class, but even when I am in the company of other people, it is
essentially a personal experience. The same goes for hiking. I love being with
friends and dogs, but it is also a personal accomplishment to climb a difficult
peak. I don't run as much as I used to, back when I trained for Marathons, but
I still enjoy it very much; again, even when in the company of others, running
is a solitary sport.
In my advocacy work, I encounter myths and misunderstandings about autism and
about disabilities in general, and these can be painful. I try to be a
countervailing force by speaking out, to politely change the conversation. I
enjoy speaking to groups or individuals about my experiences, and I find that
it the most effective thing I can do to promote understanding, awareness, and
acceptance of autism. A short time ago, I gave a presentation to a conference
with over 500 people in attendance. I also have conversations one-on-one with
parents. For several years now, I have co-led a series of support groups for
neuroexceptional couples (where one or both partners is not neurotypical). I
have learned as much as I have taught, and I have been delighted to witness how
awareness can lead to acceptance and all of that can grease the skids of life
for other people, as they have for me. Michael, thank you so much for sharing with us both your
exhaustive advocacy work and your insights about the importance of autism