We are just days away from Autism Awareness Month, and I should be ecstatic. I am supposed to be very excited that for one month the whole world turns its sights towards inspirational stories of inclusion and feels good because they “light it up blue” for awareness on April 2nd each year.
But can I just say, please don’t. As the mother of an autistic son, and an autistic person myself, I cannot express to you enough how frustrating it is when I see everything blue on April 2nd each year. Honestly, I do my best to stay off of social media that day, and my poor husband hears me rant at least 3 times throughout the day. Listen, I get it. It feels nice to do things that we can consider activism without really thinking about the impact, or lack of impact, that it may have. So this April, check out these 5 shocking reasons NOT to light it up blue for Autism Day.
5 Shocking Reasons NOT to Light it Up Blue for Autism Day
“Light it Up Blue” is from Autism Speaks
I know, I know. I can’t talk about autism speaks without getting a bit rant-y. I’ve written a whole post about it here, but the long story short is this. They’re a horrible, disgusting organization. Their main goal is to “end autism” and almost none of their massive budget goes towards actually helping autistic people and their families.
A huge portion of their budget goes towards research for a “cure” or a pre-natal test for autism so that women could choose to not have their autistic babies. They also spend an insane amount of money on their marketing, including some terrible marketing materials that paint autism as some evil monster that wants to come steal your children. It’s absolutely crazy. Just don’t support them. Just don’t. (An alternative organization, if you’d like to donate is the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.)
Social Media Activism Without Understanding Doesn’t Help Anyone
Here’s the thing. I’m sure Facebook will make some nifty app that lets you change your profile picture blue, and I’m sure #lightitupblue will be trending on twitter. Guess what? Being a social media activist who doesn’t understand the cause truly doesn’t help anyone. It certainly doesn’t help autistic people or their families.
Instead of posting a status or using that hashtag, why not donate to an autism organization? Why not actually support a local family who has a child with autism? Posting on social media about “awareness” does absolutely nothing to help anyone. Sorry to break it to you.
[Editing to clarify, social media can be an effective part of activism. I am referring to people who do nothing for a cause and don’t care about a cause until it’s the popular thing to do on Facebook.]
Light It Up Blue is Based on Harmful Stereotypes
Did you ever wonder why blue is the color of choice for the autism awareness day? You may have heard that autism is much more likely in boys than girls. This is actually a widely debated statistic that’s come about because the diagnostic criteria used to diagnose autism is written towards boys typical behavior.
Autistic girls often go without diagnosis and when they are diagnosed people tend to ignore their differences and needs. I learned that I’m autistic as an adult, and only because we got the diagnosis for my son who has more “classic” autism signs.
The fact is that girls can be autistic, it isn’t just a “boys disorder”. It isn’t something to be cloaked in blue and stereotyped.
Everyone is Aware of Autism
I get it. Posting on social media helps to spread “awareness”. I would be willing to bet that 99.99% of people on your social media lists are aware of autism. In the 80s? It wasn’t so well known, but nowadays not only does nearly everyone know what autism is, they’re typically connected to someone with autism in some way shape or form.
We don’t need more awareness, we need more understanding. We need to hear and learn more from disabled advocates. We need to fight for more accessibility and fight against discrimination. We’re all aware of autism, but it’s time to accept it.
What Do You Do All Year?
Did you know that autistic people are here all year long? Their struggles and their triumphs don’t begin and end in the month of April. How are you being more aware and accepting of autistic people and their families all year?
Does your church have a special needs ministry? Have you ever even thought to check if your church has a special needs ministry? What types of adaptive programs are available for children with disabilities in your area? How many disabled adults are employed where you work? Is there a kid in your child’s class that doesn’t get invited for playdates? How can you reach out and help them connect?
These are the things that we need to be more aware of, and we need to do things to fix them. Don’t light it up blue, do something. Make a difference.
I’m honestly sorry if this post ruffles some feathers. Like I’ve said, I’m not a popular autism mama. I don’t support autism speaks. I support my son. I will fight for him to be accepted. I will fight for him to have opportunities. I will fight for him. I will not light it up blue.
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