What Does Acceptance Feel Like?
As children, many of us felt the warm welcome of a cardigan-clad host who invited us into his neighborhood and gave us a taste of acceptance. At the end of an episode, Mr. Rogers would say with a genuine gaze, “You’ve made this day a special day, by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are.”
These simple but powerful words sparked a feeling that every human being craves – the feeling of being accepted. This feeling, of being embraced as your full self, is important for children as they grow and develop. Still, many young people who have been diagnosed with autism struggle to feel accepted. In the past, autism has been viewed as a diagnosis to fear or a disability to change. This mindset has led to children, teens, and adults feeling the pressure to hide their autism in order to be accepted. Thankfully, the tides are beginning to turn.
Moving From Awareness to Acceptance
Since the 1970s many community groups and autism service providers have recognized April as Autism Awareness Month, using it as an opportunity to educate and raise awareness. However, as the prevalence of autism has grown to a staggering 1 in 36, the perspectives on autism and autism services have shifted. That’s why this April, we are celebrating Autism Acceptance Month. While awareness matters, we recognize that words also matter as we continue to serve individuals with autism in Michigan.
If the past was about raising awareness, the future is about embracing autism and celebrating the differences of each person. As Sarah Sorise, Director of Autism Connections explains, “For too long the focus has been on fixing or finding a way for individuals to act “normal” by society’s standards. But, it’s now widely understood that this approach hurts people with autism. Thankfully, once we know better, we can do better. We don’t see our client’s autism as a problem to be solved. Instead, we embrace them, and help give them tools to flourish, autism and all.”
So, as we celebrate Autism Acceptance Month, we echo Mr. Rogers’ sentiment and say to every person with autism:
You make the world a special place,
by just your being YOU
There’s no person in the whole world like you
and we like you just the way you are
To learn more about how you can help embrace autism and foster acceptance, visit our blog, Embracing Autism: Everyone Can Foster Acceptance!
By Hannah Gregory