Reminders for Allistics Throughout April (and every other month)

by Kat Harhai on April 19, 2022

*Content Warnings: Puzzle pieces, mention of Autism $peaks, ableism, and person-first language

Are you allistic (not an Autistic person)? This blog is for you!

April is Autism Acceptance Month and you’ve likely seen a lot more about autism in your feed. Unfortunately, a lot of what is shared is harmful to Autistic folks.

Below we’ve compiled a list of what is commonly shared during the month of April, why it’s harmful, and where should you focus instead to be a true ally to the Autistic community.

 

Instead of the puzzle piece symbol, use the gold infinity symbol

What’s the harm? Alternatives
This symbol is deeply offensive to the majority of the Autistic community. It is a symbol that non-Autistic people have used to represent Autistic folks. It is intended to represent autism as a “puzzle to be solved.” Autism is an identity, not a malady or ailment, and any insinuation that autism should be “treated” or “cured” is eugenicist and deeply harmful. The preferred symbol to represent the Autistic community is the gold infinity sign.

The rainbow infinity sign is the preferred symbol to represent the neurodivergent community at large and is inclusive of both Autistic and neurodivergent folks.

Instead of person-first language use identity-first language

What’s the harm? Alternatives
Many Autistic folks feel that person-first language contributes to dehumanization of Autistic people. Person-first language implies one needs to be reminded that Autistic folks are people before acknowledging that they are simultaneously Autistic. Autistic is an identity, and identity-first language reflects this. Many Autistic people prefer identity-first language (i.e. “Autistic person”) to person-first language (i.e. “person with autism”).

Although identity-first language is the majority preference, there are folks who prefer person-first language. It is always important to ask when talking about a specific person. In doing so, you defer to the Autistic person for how to refer to them, not the people surrounding them.

 

Instead of supporting Autism $peaks (A$ for short), support Autistic-led organizations

What’s the harm? Alternatives
A$ is one of the most well-known autism related organizations, and it is despised by the majority of the Autistic community. Until 2016, a large part of the mission of A$ was to find a “cure” for autism. To rid a population of Autistics is to rid that community of a natural form of human diversity. Support Autistic-led organizations. NeuroClastic, Autism Women & Nonbinary Network, and Autistic Self Advocacy Network are a few examples of the many phenomenal organizations doing work BY and FOR the Autistic community. See below for a more extensive list of organizations.

 

Instead of “Light It Up Blue,” go #RedInstead

What’s the harm? Alternatives
The Autism $peaks campaign for April is “light it up blue” for autism awareness. This campaign is disliked by the majority of the Autistic community because it is led by A$ and because the choice of “blue” is meant to represent that boys are more commonly Autistic than girls. This is problematic for a multitude of reasons, including the implication that gender is binary, and the erasure of the very real and by no means small population of women, girls, nonbinary, trans folks who are Autistic, and who are often missed because the diagnostic criteria is heavily gendered towards cis boys. Boycott A$ and any company or organization aligning themselves with “light it up blue” and any organization “for” Autistics, led by non-Autistic voices.

The campaign to counter “light it up blue” BY and FOR the Autistic community is #RedInstead.

 

 

For most of history, our culture has deferred to non-Autistic people adjacent to the Autistic community, including allistic parents, therapists, doctors, researchers, educators, etc., as the foremost experts on all things “autism.” As you might imagine, an enormous amount of information gets lost when autism is completely defined by those around the Autistic individuals rather than Autistic folks themselves. Lived experience is a crucial form of expertise, and if we don’t value it, we cannot truly support the Autistic community and the neurodiversity movement.

So, this April (and every other month), instead of getting your information on all things autism from non-Autistic folks, consider turning to the plethora of Autistic parents, therapists, researchers, advocates, writers, educators, artists and more who share information and create content from an #ActuallyAutistic perspective.

Here are a handful of Autistic-led organizations to get you started!

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