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Autism Awareness Month in April has now become a regular event. Famous landmarks have been lit up in blue, people wear blue and events are organised.
You might think, isn't this good for autism? The more people are aware, the better it is for the 1 in 68 of our children and the adults on the spectrum? When it is done well, it is really helpful. But in this blog, I want to make us think about whether understanding autism people with autism (or autistic people) needs more acceptance than awareness.
The trouble is that awareness is hard to measure. Most people have now heard of autism…is that 'awareness'? But having heard of autism creates many problems in my experience. Suddenly, people thinking they know what autism is, creates more misunderstanding and wrong expectations than you might expect. For example, there are still people who think every autistic person is like Rainman. They are expecting the child's exceptional ability to memorise the phone book or do complicated maths and are left disappointed when there is nothing of the sort. People still believe that autism needs to be cured (to the point they will make them drink bleach), or that an autistic person doesn't want friends or they cannot live a full and fruitful life....