By Shelley Harris, Children’s Librarian
April can be a challenging month for many autistic people. Many organizations that aren’t run with or by autistic leaders have campaigns about “lighting it up blue”—furthering stereotypes that autism only affects boys—or about curing autism. These organizations often push for autism awareness.
Many autistic people, however, prefer to celebrate autism acceptance. Created 12 years ago by advocate Paula C. Durbin-Westby, Autism Acceptance Month month is devoted to celebrating autistic people and autistic experiences.
In this interview, Durbin-Westby explains, “The word ‘acceptance’ is much stronger than ‘tolerance,’ especially the begrudging sort of tolerance I saw so often. One of the definitions of acceptance is ‘positive welcome and belonging.'”
Whatever you call April, or what color you wear, the most important thing is to listen to autistic people about their experiences and preferences. They are the experts in advocacy and supports!
Watch these videos
We’ve created several videos that use visual supports for activities and storytimes, just like we do in in-person supported classes.
In this video, I use Proloquo2Go to retell one of my favorite books, The Seals on the Bus.
My colleague Genevieve and I have created a field trip for elementary students about disability understanding and advocacy, using framework and activities from The Nora Project and We Move Together (pdf). This is a short introduction to it, called Disabilities Are Normal.
Learn from these autistic experts
- Autism Acceptance Month creator Paula C. Durbin-Westby talks about her life and experiences as an autistic adult and mother.
- Cole Sorenson is a non-speaking autistic public speaker and educator. He wrote a post about autistic people finding personal acceptance for themselves and starts with these strong words: “There is nothing inherently broken about you. The way you exist in the world is different, and people are going to tell you that that difference means that you’re broken or wrong somehow. You’re not. You don’t need anyone’s permission to exist in the way that you do.”
- Jordyn Zimmerman is a non-speaking autistic educator who works for The Nora Project and Communication First. She has a number of wonderful videos and speeches available on her website. She is also the subject of the documentary This Is Not About Me, which the library will be screening with a discussion on July 29, 2023.
- Emily Hammond of NeuroWild is an autistic mother, illustrator, and speech-language pathologist, with a strong social media presence. She creates great and simple graphics and memes about autism supports and advocacy on Facebook and Instagram.
Read these books
- I Will Die on This Hill: Autistic Adults, Autism Parents, and the Children Who Deserve a Better World is co-written by an autistic woman and a woman with autistic children and unites the sometimes adversarial relationship between autistic advocates and parent advocates.
- Samantha Cotteril is an autistic author and illustrator with great books for and about autistic kids!
- Nicole Fillipone is an autistic mom and author who writes books about kids with sensory processing disorders that are fun and accessible.
Shelley is a children’s librarian with a passion for early literacy, serving and celebrating the disability community, and exploring technology. She can often be found practicing storytime songs with her black lab, Bingo.