Autism Awareness – What does it really mean?

Just to clear up confusion first, Autism Awareness Day is April 2nd around the world and Autism Awareness Month is April for most countries. However, in Canada, Autism Awareness Month is actually October. And being that this is October, I thought I’d write out what Autism Awareness really means, at least to me.

When you hear the phrase, and many others like it (Breast Cancer Awareness, AIDS awareness, etc), you sort of laugh to yourself and think “awareness? Who hasn’t heard of them by now??”

There is obviously a lot more to these things than simply being ‘aware’ of it’s existence. It’s about being aware of the facts, aware of the people who are involved and aware of the struggles those people face.

Autism Awareness is about making people aware that it affects 1 in 110 children around the world, even more scary than that, 1 in 70 boys! I bet most people who are ‘aware’ of Autism had no idea that it was that prevalent.

Autism Awareness is not just answering questions from people but volunteering information they never would have dreamed of. For example, just last night I was talking to someone about how someone with Autism might not be able to distinguish facial features from person to person and will very likely be unable to recognize emotion from facial expressions.

They immediately asked if it’s common for all people with Autism.

The simple answer is no, but instead I proceeded to tell him that the ONLY commonality between all people with Autism is that there is no commonality between all people with Autism.

You can be sure that answer sparked up a conversation and he left informed and I left feeling a little better about how he’ll treat his neighbour’s child that has Autism.

On that note, Autism Awareness isn’t just about scary numbers either, like the ones found here, it’s about helping people to recognize things they might never have thought of before… like that strange child at all the family reunions that absolutely refuses to hug anyone, and just sits at a table by themselves… they’re not loners, they’re not strange, they’re not the odd one in the family.  They’re very much aware of everything happening all around them and they really do want to be part of it all, they just can’t. Stop judging them.

Autism Awareness is much more about understanding than it is awareness. It’s about understanding leading to acceptance.

The truth is, at 1 in 110, you’ve already met at least one person with Autism and likely didn’t even realize it. The question is, how did you perceive them. Did you judge them? Did you judge their parents? Did you dismiss them? Did you take the time to consider their thoughts and feelings?

Perhaps it would be more clear if Autism Awareness was changed to Autism Understanding and Acceptance… because, to me, that’s what this is all about.

Awareness is great for diseases, viruses, contagions… step up, learn the numbers, donate and help out.

But for Autism, and many other childhood disorders, what is truly needed is understanding and acceptance. Research, treatments, therapies… maybe even cures (in some cases and for some people)… these would be nice, but for now… right now, we need understanding and acceptance.

Only then will children and their parents not be judged, only then will there be jobs and opportunities, only then will there be funding available, more schooling options and only then will those with Autism not feel like an outcast looking into a world where they don’t belong.

Whether you are in Canada, reading this in October, or elsewhere reading this in April… speak up, inform and help to raise more than just awareness, help to spread ‘Autism Understanding and Acceptance’.

About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of http://www.stuartduncan.name. My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.

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7 Responses to Autism Awareness – What does it really mean?

  1. Big Daddy October 5, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

    I think your blog does a good job of raising awareness.

    • Stuart Duncan October 5, 2010 at 3:19 pm #

      Thanks bud. I sure am trying as best I can.
      You are doing a fine job yourself!

  2. Lou October 5, 2010 at 9:49 pm #

    Yes I agree. I look at the idea of autism awareness as just the first step, it is getting your foot in the door. Ultimately I would like to spread knowledge of autism because with that understanding will bring about acceptance. It is the reason I share our family’s story…

  3. Amanda Broadfoot October 7, 2010 at 1:50 pm #

    I like the way you redefine “awareness.” I have a love/hate relationship with awareness campaigns in general, as it kinda grinds my gears to see all the money spent on big productions around the world when average families dealing with autism can’t afford the therapy their child needs. But then again, THAT could be the focus of a campaign of awareness.

    And I like the idea that awareness is something we work at day-to-day, month-by-month, rather than on one day or month out of the year 🙂

  4. Andrew October 7, 2010 at 4:08 pm #

    Stuart, you nailed it. What is needed more than anything is understanding and acceptance, and empathy.

    Almost all the problems I encounter with school admin, teachers, and anyone who provides me with resistance based on my son’s behavior could be avoided with some effort on their part to understand what it might be like to live in his world.

  5. Nicole Espinosa October 11, 2010 at 3:46 pm #

    Hi!
    I am an intern at WEGO Health and I was recently looking for the best autism blogs. I love your blog and I featured you in my post about great autism bloggers. I love reading your work, and I find that you always shine a light on autism that I’ve never seen before. I hope that when you get a chance, you can take a look at the WEGO Health community!
    Nicole

    • Stuart Duncan October 12, 2010 at 9:02 am #

      Hi Nicole,

      Yes, I have checked, you have a lot of great articles about Autism there. Keep up the good work and I’ll keep reading.
      And thank you so much for your kind words and for recommending both my blog and twitter. I really appreciate it.

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