April is a special month in the Raman household. We prank each other silly on April fools’ day, and the rest of the month, we do our bit in talking about Autism acceptance.
As Nirav grows older, the uncertainty of his future as an adolescent and later an adult looms over us. I worry about societal support for autistic adults, job opportunities, and housing. And I wonder if he will still be accepted when he’s no longer this goofy kid with faint traces of baby fat. The statistics don’t paint a promising picture, so we must move past awareness and talk about acceptance.
All these years, I’ve focused on celebrating neurodivergence, sharing how it has positively impacted our lives, and debunking some myths surrounding autism. The best (and logical) resources are the people who know autism better than I ever could — adults on the spectrum. This year I’ve seen various messages coming from the autistic community — some serious and some cheeky. But the common thread linking every one of these is a desire to be heard without prejudice, seen without judgment, and accepted just as they are.
Modern media portrays autistics as either savant-like or having an “acceptable” quirk. Clickety-clacking up fantastic code, having perfect pitch, or drawing the entire New York city landscape from memory. Us non-autistics (aided by stereotypes) have chosen which traits we prefer and deem cool. In the process, we’ve ignored and alienated most of the autistic population. Autistics are white and POC, speaking and non-speaking, of different genders and sexual orientations. It’s disrespectful — and ridiculous — to club them all into one stereotype. As parents, caregivers, teachers, and neighbors, we must unpack our own subtle misconceptions and work hard to normalize being quirky, different, and weird.
Here are a few resources/accounts to follow to better understand the autistic perspective.
Instagram: @theautisticlife, @the.autisticats, @FidgetsandFries, @Laurazdan
Websites: autisticadvocacy.org, autismacceptance.com. PLEASE AVOID AutismSpeaks: the autistic community considers them a hate group because of their outdated doom and gloom approaches.
Plus, a cheeky message because who doesn’t love sass?
And since this month is not about me (or other Non-autistics), I will step way back over there and shine a light on my kiddo. Nirav is autistic, nonconformist, and an absolute treasure trove of train facts. For the next four weeks, I plan to share a daily peek into his world — his particular interests, the places he goes, and all the pretzel-like shapes he can contort himself into.
So welcome to the show, folks. Grab some french fries, an iced latte (or tea), and keep an open mind.
This is my Nirav — he is 10, unabashedly weird and loves surveying the local land from his perch.
He is exactly who he is supposed to be. He is autistic.