April is Autism Awareness Month — also called Autism Acceptance Month and Autism Appreciation Month. I want to encourage everyone to do all of these things this month (and all year round).
Become more aware of autism, and the autistic people you might encounter day to day. Be aware of their needs and pay attention to the way they may try to communicate with you. If someone tries to communicate in a form other than speech — embrace their form of communication. Speech does not need to be the default form of communication — we simply live in a society where that form is valued above all others.
Some examples of other forms of communication include communication boards with pictures on them, tablets and phones with AAC (Augmented and Alternative Communication) apps, text to speech apps, grunting, pointing, and sign language.
Accept people with autism/autistic people for who they are. Embrace their form of communication, and the topics or activities that bring them joy. Many people view an autism diagnosis — in a friend or loved one — as a reason to grieve. But people with autism are not broken. We have a different way of thinking than neurotypical people (meaning people without autism or another neurodivergence). However, this different way of thinking can be an asset. One reason I work in a library is because it plays to my strengths as an autistic person — I am detail-oriented, and my brain loves to organize and find information.
Appreciate autism and the autistic people in your life. I guarantee, even if you think you’ve never met an autistic person before — you probably have. We have strengths and joys to share with you if you’re open to listening to us, in whatever form that may take. Each autistic person is different — there’s a saying that if you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve done just that: met one autistic person. So appreciate each autistic person in your life this month. If you have autism — appreciate yourself and the brilliant way that your brain works!
The Riverfront library has an amazing Autism Month display on the fourth floor. It includes titles such as Fall Down 7 Times, Get Up 8 by Naoki Higashida, a non-speaking autistic man; We’re Not Broken, by Eric Garcia, an autistic author and journalist; and Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman, which details the history and legacy of autism, including institutionalization, how our modern idea of autism as a disorder arose in Nazi Germany, and past and current movements around disability rights and within the autism community. Find these and other books in our catalog and display!
Fifer Charlie Loftus