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Welcome to the Rest of International Autism Acceptance Year!

by Paula Durbin-Westby

Time marches on! Welcome to the rest of International Autism Acceptance Year! International Autism Acceptance Year (IAAY) is a continuation of the remarkable success of Autism Acceptance Day and Month, started in 2011 and currently in its second year. Autism Acceptance Day was started within the Autistic community, building on the efforts of Autistics and our allies over the years. April 2012 featured many new contributions from bloggers and other writers, including a comprehensive feature article at Steve Silberman’s NeuroTribes, a “slice of life” series at Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, ASAN’s ongoing blog posts, and over 1300 people joining the Facebook event. Other media were used to get the message out, including Autism Women’s Network radio show, presentations, signing up for awards activities and promotions. Some name changes for the month occurred, such as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts proclamation of April as Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month and the Autism Society of Northern Virginia’s Autism Acceptance Walk. At the end of April, an Autism Positivity Flash Blog was created so that people searching for autism online can find more positive images of autism. All of these initiatives and changes were brought about by Autistic activists’ insistence that “autism awareness” take into consideration the opinions and preferences of Autistic people and our supportive allies rather than the cure-focused rhetoric of the past.

The need for a continuation of the Autism Acceptance Day and Month idea is clear. In the last weeks of Autism Acceptance Month, we were exposed to studies that purport to “treat” the “core symptoms” of autism with untested drugs based on “autistic mouse” models, multiple news reports of bullying incidents, and the hearings and eventual settlement of a case against the Judge Rotenberg Center. Autism has recently been compared to the Oklahoma City bombing and planes falling out of the sky. An “I Hate Autism” Facebook page was added. Research initiatives that specifically leave Autistic people out were announced, and there was a resurgence of yet more misinformation about autism and divorce, among other inaccurate “information” and opinions. And those are just the ones that made the news. Because the sorts of actions that make life harder (whether intentionally or not) for Autistics and other people with disabilities will not stop after April, neither will we. An International Autism Acceptance Year steering committee has been formed for the promotion and coordination of year-long projects and events to further the acceptance of Autistic people in society.

International Autism Acceptance Year is committed to the principles of neurodiversity- the full acceptance of people of all neurological differences and disabilities. The neurodiversity movement is in line with such international documents as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. In addition, International Autism Acceptance Year does not seek “cures” or normalization for Autistic people or people with other disabilities.

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