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April is a time of year to celebrate autism acceptance. During April, you’ll see people and businesses openly supporting autism and advocating for the autism community. However, what happens to these advocacy efforts once April is over? It is important for us to promote autism acceptance after April. Besides, autistic people don’t magically turn into pumpkins and disappear when the month is over. We need people to accept and understand autistic individuals year-round to show our support.

Last November, I attended the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) conference about people with disabilities. During one of the panels, the question of what autism acceptance looks like was brought up. We often hear about autism acceptance, but what does it look like? Below, I have listed a few ways to practice autism acceptance because I think if we have a clear idea, that’ll help us create a more accepting world.

Learn About Autism from other Autistic Perspectives

There are many great autistic self-advocates speaking about their experiences on the spectrum. I recommend reading Chloe Hayden’s memoir Different, Not Less or Temple Grandin’s book The Autistic Brain. There is no better way to educate yourself on autism than through the perspectives of those who have experienced it. Please remember that each of our experiences is unique. So, if you meet one autistic person, you’ve only met one autistic person.

Treat Us Like Equals

Picture this: You’re in a group of people and you mention that you’re autistic. Then you become an outsider to the group. You can feel the divide between you and them. You can feel how the other people in the group start connecting and talking more and leave you out of it. Or when they find out you’re autistic, they start talking to you like you’re a child. It feels like it would’ve been better if you didn’t tell them you’re autistic because they would still treat you like one of them, instead of an outsider.

We’re still the same people before we told you we were autistic. We didn’t magically turn into a three-headed dragon with green skin. We just want to be accepted and treated as equals. Being autistic doesn’t change who we were beforehand.

Create Sensory Friendly Spaces

Sensory friendly spaces are environments that lower the risk of sensory overload for autistic individuals. For example, some Chuck E. Cheese locations have Sensory Sensitive Sundays where the music is turned off and the lights are lowered, so that guests can have fun without becoming overwhelmed.

Autism acceptance is widely celebrated in April, but it shouldn’t stop once the month is over. We should continue to learn about autism and push for acceptance. I feel proud of the progress we’ve made, but we need to continue striving for acceptance and understanding of autism.

Tiffany Richard is a self-advocate for disability rights. She is autistic and passionate about changing the narrative of autism. She resides in Louisiana with her three cats. In her free time, she enjoys coloring pictures, playing with her cats, and reading.