04 April, 2011

Autism Unawareness

As you're unfortunate enough to already know, it is Autism Awareness Month. I've written a tumblr post and a facebook status encouraging "autism unawareness," which is kind of an attempt to make fun of Autism Awareness Month in as few words as possible, but I'm also wondering if Autism Unawareness is a reasonable goal, joking aside.

First off this would seem like a ridiculous thing to say. Obviously disabled people need help with things, or at least need someone to recognize they will be doing things differently, or that things feel different. This is something that non-disabled people should be "aware" of. Right?

I more or less agree with this sentiment, and I also find that when, in my Autism Unawareness posts, I have suggested that people without autism get to know people with autism without thinking about their disabilities, I am beginning to resemble a line of thinking that many disability groups use, but which the Autistic Community tends to dislike and reject. Basically this is just the idea that people with our disability are just like everyone else and should be treated as "people not disabled people" whatever the fuck that means. The problem with this attitude is that's it like: a)disability isn't important, b)disabled people should be accepted and included in society because disability isn't important, c)if God forbid some disabled person's disability is important, then...where does that leave that person? If they really, really aren't like everyone else, can they be accepted too?

However, I think it is possible to say that you should be "unaware" of someone's autism, in the sense of not having Autism Awareness about their autism, without saying that you shouldn't accommodate people or that you should ignore the important of their disability to their life and identity. I think part of being a decent person is the sensitivity to understand what other people need and experience, and what's important to them. A person who treats everyone as an individual, instead of assuming people are like them, and also has knowledge of different oppressions, knows most of what they need to know to live in a world with people who have autism. Much more than any Autism Awareness brochure could ever teach them.

And personally I think it's better that someone be 100% unaware in every way than that they have Autism Awareness, if I had to make a choice--although I'd rather they be Autism Unaware, and also be sensitive and decent.


  1. Agreed agreed.

    In my experience, people's Awareness of autism doesn't predict whether they will treat me with respect. Some of my best interactions have been with people who have autistic relatives, but so have some of my worst.

    Ash and I were brainstorming better kinds of Autism Month to have. So far we've come up with Autism Calming Down Month and Autism Giving Us Our Fucking Rights month.

  2. Autism Calming Down Month is a BALLER idea. We should have it. It should be May.

  3. That would be cool! Because then we could tell other people to Calm Down about autism, but it could also be about us Calming Down after being stressed-out by April.

  4. I think people need to de-tragedify disability in general. Like stop thinking of disabilities as things that are Tragedies that need Miracles, but just as things that need understanding.

    I learned a lot more about autism from autistic people themselves than NT descriptions of it.

  5. Good post.
    i think people confuse "awareness", what could be a nice concept, with "Pretending disability means nothing", what is, like, absolutely stupid.
    so May means "Autism Calming Down"! cool, i'm writing that down.

  6. I have an "autism (un)awareness" tag on my own blog, where I use it to mean that Autism Awareness really doesn't give you useful knowledge of autism, or of autistic people's lives, but just tries to scare you about it.