So traditionally April 2nd has been known as Autism Awareness Day with jigsaw piece symbols and the colour blue.
The autistic community do not believe in autism awareness as it’s a passive notion. You can be aware of anything and it not have meaning. Autistic people want acceptance because it means accepting autism as a natural part of the human experience. People are different. Everyone can be aware, but this doesn’t lead to acceptance in school, in employment and in the community.
Many autistic pupils and autistic teachers/professionals are scared to be different. So many times ‘awareness’ means that someone has met ‘one of them’ or had ‘training’ on autism. We just want to be accepted as a part of humankind as much as anybody else.
Acceptance is key to tackling the loneliness and isolation often felt by autistic pupils and adults. There are groups of autistic professionals out there who are scared to be ‘outed’ as this might be detrimental to their careers. By showing who we are, what obstacles we have faced or continue to face, this will help children and young people to have a voice. We are not saying we are better than anyone else, but we are different.
Gold as a colour for today is preferred as it is based on the chemical symbol for gold being ‘Au’, the first two letters of autism, but also because throughout history gold has been something that is strived for and of immense value – often missing from the lives of autistic people. Autistic people are often empathic, sensitive, caring people, but dominant narratives would suggest otherwise; and because of that we can spend our lives not being accepted and often not being valued for who we are.
Autism Acceptance was first organised by Paula Durbin Westby, in 2011, as a response to traditional ‘Autism Awareness’ campaigns which the Autistic community found distasteful and unhelpful. These campaigns were often about raising money for organisations rather than educating and many were not led by autistic voices.
The infinity symbol is used across the world by the autistic and neurodivegent community as it represents the spectrum of neurodiversity and possibilities that even now are still being discovered.
So on this Autism Acceptance Day, Go Gold!