An organizing member of Autistics United Nova Scotia is saying “a lot more” must be done regarding advocacy for autistic people.
“There’s been some headway, but a lot more needs to be done — a lot more, significantly,” Alex Kronstein, who helped found Autistics United Nova Scotia, told NEWS 95.7’s The Rick Howe Show. “Especially this year, I find, because a big thing is autism awareness versus autism acceptance.”
While some may think it’s just a word, it’s the actions many continue to display that Kronstein says are harmful.
“This year, it’s been really rough seeing organizations switch to acceptance over awareness,” he said. “Yet nothing is different except they’ve declared acceptance and yet they continue to back problematic things like social skills training, genetic research and other problematic aspects. And it’s really, really harmful when organizations who do those problematic things say, ‘autism acceptance’ versus ‘autism awareness.’”
In 2018, Kronstein wrote a piece for the Nova Scotia Advocate about the difference between autism awareness and autism acceptance.
According to his article, both Autism Nova Scotia and Autism Canada adopted the term “acceptance” in 2017 creating “Autism Awareness & Acceptance Month” and “National Autism Awareness & Acceptance Month in Canada,” respectively.
Moreover, he wrote that the United Nations designated World Autism Awareness Day — which is April 2 — in 2007, but that it was created by non-autistic people.
“Many autistic people, myself included, find the traditional ‘awareness’ campaigns to be insufficient and harmful, because the effect of autism ‘awareness’ is that it ends up promoting fear and stigma against us, and encourages non-autistic people to think about ways they can make us more ‘normal’ or pass as non-autistic,” he wrote in the article. “Most importantly, awareness campaigns place a heavy emphasis on what non-autistic people think about us.”
A 2012 essay by Kassiane Asasumasu on Autistic Self Advocacy Network’s website further explains the difference between awareness and acceptance.
“Awareness is easy. Acceptance requires actual work,” Asasumasu writes in the article.
Asasumasu continues to say that acceptance comes from a place of understanding; it also requires people to feel uncomfortable about autistic people, question why that makes them uncomfortable and confront any prejudices that come from that discomfort.
On April 6, Autistics United Nova Scotia had its annual neurodiversity flag raising in Downtown Halifax’s Grand Parade. The month of April is Autism Acceptance Month.
Autistics United Nova Scotia was founded in late 2018, and it’s the local chapter of Autistics United Canada.
It’s a national grassroots advocacy organization run for and by autistic people; the organization now has five chapters across the country in Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Fort McMurray, Alta., Comox Valley, B.C. and Vancouver.
“Our main goal is to ensure that autistic people are heard in the political and other cultural conversations about autism so that any policies that affect autistic people have significant input from actually autistic people,” Kronstein said.
“We promote autistic culture, foster autistic pride and mainly our goal is to change the cultural narrative about autism.”
In March 2018, the National Autism Spectrum Disorder Surveillance System reported 1 in 66 Canadian children and youth between the ages of 5 and 17 are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
Autistics United Canada ensures autistic people have access to things such as healthcare, education, employment, support services and community networks.