Neurodivergent people should honor Autism Acceptance Month

Written By August Stephens, Opinions Editor

April is Autism Acceptance Month, previously known as Autism Awareness Month. For my neurotypical people reading this right now, being aware is simply not enough. I am not asking you to spend days, months or even years researching neurodivergent populations, but I am demanding you put in the bare minimum. 


As an example, I find that people are still under the impression that society believes Autism Spectrum Disorder is a cognitive disorder. In reality, it is deeply not. It is a developmental condition which affects how a person perceives and socializes with others, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. 


I would recommend, for those of us who still watch YouTube or TikTok, to dedicate a portion of your regular screen time to going down the #ActuallyAutistic rabbit hole. This hashtag is used by individuals who are autistic and want to communicate to the media that there is more to Autism than white, cisgender men. According to Psychology Today, the criteria for diagnosing Autism is based on the presentation of how it appears in boys, which results in girls and women being misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. 


Autistic children grow into adults. For a neurodivergent child to not have the resources necessary to understand why they are seen as different by the other children around them is unacceptable. If stimming, talking about my special interest, and more honest communication was socially acceptable when I was younger, my adolescence could have been much easier to navigate. Autistic adults tend to experience burnout in their early 20s due to “masking” their neurotypical traits. This is usually a matter of safety for neurodivergent people, because they are typically bullied or harassed for expressing themselves in a way which seems natural to them. Experiencing life without the typical built-in guidebook neurotypical individuals experience of social cues, sarcasm, and at times tonal inflections can be hard to understand. 


There are certain beliefs I will always stand by in life, and the concept that the world is anti-autistic is one of them. If the world was friendly towards autistic people, there would be less loud noises, bright lights, neutral smells, while in public. The National Aviary and the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium hold sensory friendly events for neurodivergent patrons. The Mattress Factory, which Point Park University students can attend for free with a Student ID, has sensory kits available while walking through all locations. 


Lastly, if you or a family member are looking to support the Autistic community, Autism Speaks should not be donated to. They are a hate organization who has advertised that neurodivergent people should not be treated respectfully as independent people. Autism Speaks had no autistic representation on their board before 2015 and continues to lobby for Applied Behavior Analysis, which has been proven to cause post-traumatic stress disorder in autistic adults. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network and the Autistic Women & Non-binary Network are two organizations which deserve support, as they are led by autistic people. 


As a reminder to all of my neurodivergent people reading this, you are loved. You are strong, patient, attentive, and empathetic, disregarding the stereotypes which actively affect autistic people everyday. We need to use April, and every month, to share how we live our lives.