Each person brings different experiences to World Autism Day. Autistic people, parents, teachers, direct service providers, and community members all have different views of what autism means to them. These differences often get hashed out on social media by opinions of what color to wear (red, gold, or blue), what symbol to use (infinity sign, puzzle piece, etc.), and what therapies to do (yes to ABA or abolish ABA). But after so many years of World Autism Day coming and going, I hope for a time when there is enough support, education, and inclusion in the world, that World Autism Day could be a time to celebrate the happiness of autistic people.
There are so many current barriers for children and adults with autism that prevent that happiness. Those barriers are systemic: A lack of funding, a lack of enough services providers, barriers to cover treatments due to cost prohibitive deductibles, not enough special education funding, not enough waivers, not enough understanding of autonomy and self determination, a lack of training and understanding for those that engage in severe behavior, and many, many more. Regardless of your views on what color to wear today, it is a crisis that our world is not equipped for all the people in it, especially those with autism.
So today, I don't wear a certain color. I am not going to put a certain symbol on this blog post, but instead I want to bring attention to a few things that we can do now to make a positive difference for autistic people. Because even if you are just starting your World Autism Day journey, there are actions you can take to make a big difference.
If you are a community leader or member, in addition to supporting a fundraiser for the autism community, reach out to others to find a person with autism that does not get many visitors. Many autistic adults are often home bound due to barriers with transportation and not enough services if there are behavioral needs. Go and visit.
If you are teacher, whether you work with children with autism or not, make an effort to bring children without disabilities into the classroom where the autistic children are. It can be a lot of fun during sensory time or talking about a special interest. And it shows that it isn't always the child with autism that has to make the journey to the general education classroom.
If you are an extended family member of a child with autism, volunteer to babysit. If you are nervous, the child's parents don't have to leave the home. Just let them go to another room for awhile. This can be true if you are a family member of an autistic adult that requires supervision for health and safety.
If you are a parent of any child, talk to your children about celebrating differences. It is okay to talk about how all children are working on learning certain things that are important to them. Teach your child that every person, disability or not, has strengths and weaknesses and wants to have fun.
The list of actions we can take go on and on. Even if you chose a shirt color to wear today, you can still do more to help increase the overall happiness of those in our world.