Are We Doing Autism Awareness All Wrong?


Yesterday was Light It Up Blue day for Autism Awareness, but today in Forbes, science, health and parenting columnist Emily Willingham writes that we should forget about the gesture. One, she says it supports Autism Speaks which Willingham has claimed in the past stigmatizing and demonizes autistic people.

Second, beyond Willingham’s personal and controversial thoughts on this matter, she has a point about awareness campaigns in general that aim to accomplish the basic minimum: Awareness but nothing more. She writes:

In the case of autism, the exhortation of the day, courtesy of Autism Speaks, will be to “light it up blue,” and powers that be around the globe will cause world-famous landmarks to do just that. Because nothing says, “I really care about autistic people,” like going to the trouble to install blue lights on tall buildings and then flipping them on for a few hours. Presumably, the world will then be led to wonder, “Why is the Leaning Tower of Pisa blue today?” and eagerly turn to the Internet for answers, learning for the first time that a condition called “autism” exists. Awareness achievement unlocked. All done.

But you can do some real work that can make a real difference for autistic people (read here on using “autistic”), something that goes beyond sartorial expression, social media tricks or light bulb purchases….

..you will encounter many a call for “autism awareness.” Have you heard about autism yet? OK. So you’re aware. Step one is low, and you’ve mastered it. Now for the steeper climb. For autistic people, awareness is not the goal at this point–acceptance is.

We can see her point.

A lot of adults without children with Autism do not really understand it. A recent survey of parents reveal that 92% of parents without learning disabilities harbor severe misconceptions. It’s unfortunate given the fact that 20% of Americans have a learning disability, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

The survey of 1,000 parents conducted in March 2017 compared the responses of parents of children with and without difficulties. The study was released by Brain Balance Achievement Centers,a holistic, non-medical, drug-free approach to addressing behavioral, social, or learning difficulties

Asked what they think causes these difficulties, 46% of parents of children with difficulties say nature is the root cause of the difficulties while 24% think their child’s difficulties are hereditary, and another 22% think they arise from developmental delays. Only 7% say they’re caused by bad parenting.

Compare this to what parents of children without difficulties think:45% think that parents are to blame for difficulties and  27% of parents whose children don’t have learning difficulties think they’re caused by a lack of discipline, while 18% think they come from bad parenting. (In reality, learning, social, and behavioral difficulties can have many sources, including neurologically based processing problems.)

Parents who are curious about learning, social, and behavioral difficulties, or who think their child might have one, can take this online assessment:  After years of helping children with behavioral and social challenges, the experts at Brain Balance have developed a cutting-edge (and drug-free) program combining sensory motor stimulation, academic stimulation, and nutrition to correct brain imbalance and improve achievement.

Given that 7% of children with difficulties are bullied at school, it leaves one to wonder if kids are getting those misconceptions from their parents at home.

Correcting wrong perceptions is essential as is moving past basic awareness and more towards acceptance.

Check out the rest of Willingham’s piece HERE! 

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