GUEST BLOG: Strengthening Understanding and Moving Towards Acceptance of Individuals with Autism — Team OCALI
By: Guest Blogger
April is Autism Awareness Month, and Ohio has a longstanding history of promoting awareness about autism spectrum disorder. Throughout the month, you’ll likely see hundreds of blogs, articles, commercials and social media posts that share information, facts and stories about autism. While sharing this information is important and has significantly contributed to society becoming more aware of autism, we must continue to push ourselves toward a culture of acceptance and inclusivity.
Awareness vs. Acceptance
Acceptance is about taking conscious action and shifting from not only seeing and recognizing that autism exists, but seeking to listen and learn and then adapting our perspectives and behaviors. What does that look like? Understanding and being aware of autism means knowing that autism is a developmental disability that impacts each person differently. This commonly includes a wide variety of unique strengths and challenges in the areas of behavioral, sensory processing, social and emotional regulation. You also may be aware that students with autism may separate themselves from a group of peers or exhibit repetitive behaviors from time to time. But do you know what triggers certain responses from individuals or how to help a student based on his or her needs? Just knowing the facts will not necessarily lead to acceptance or creating inclusive and supportive environments in our schools, communities and relationships.
Acceptance exemplifies the Platinum Rule — treating others the way they want to be treated — which accounts for accommodating the feelings of others and accepting our differences. By moving toward acceptance, we can inspire new ideas that motivate us to continue to ensure students with disabilities can live their best lives for their whole lives. While progress is being made in schools across Ohio and the country, we know there is more to do — more doors that need opened and more perspectives and approaches that need shifted.
What Educators Can Do to Promote Acceptance
1. Share resources with colleagues and families. The Many Faces of Autism is a free, online video designed to dispel common misconceptions through the experiences of people with autism.
2. Gain insights from people with autism. Encourage people or students with autism to share their various perspectives on what is important for them to be part of the community or school. Or, invite the parents of students with autism to speak at a professional learning session with your staff. Many times, hearing varying perspectives firsthand is powerful and eye-opening.
3. Dispel labels. Encourage inclusivity by having staff and students address a person by his or her name, not a label. This is equally important when support teams are talking about a student who isn't in their presence.
4. Continue to listen, learn and share. The more information and knowledge you can learn and intentionally share about autism spectrum disorder, the better.
At OCALI, our mission is to inspire change and promote access to opportunities for people with disabilities. Over the years, we have been committed to working hard to promote and embrace a culture of awareness and acceptance — with our staff and those we serve around Ohio. While we have made significant progress, we have more work to do, and we continue to explore and learn new ways of listening, understanding and modeling.
As educators, parents and family members, we ALL play a role in inspiring the change we wish to see. Throughout the month of April, we encourage you to seek opportunities that promote acceptance in your own schools and communities. Let’s learn, grow and build a culture of acceptance together.
For additional resources, visit the Autism Center and OCALI’s Lending Library. You also can check out the following resources:
This post was developed by the team of experts at OCALI, under the leadership of Executive Director Shawn Henry. OCALI, which is based in Ohio, is a recognized global leader in creating and connecting resources and relationships to ensure people with disabilities have opportunities to live their best lives for their whole lives.