For the month of April and Autism Awareness / Acceptance Month, I have been writing on how the acceptance of the autistic community has increased in the 23 years since I received my diagnosis under the autism spectrum. This past week, I learned that even more acceptance has been seen, but yet we still have a ways to go.
Yes we have gone a long way from the words of institutionalization, although there are still places for such care of that level, should no other manner be an option. I constantly remember almost on a weekly basis that there was a time that it was being considered for me. I am continually thankful for the supportive parents and those that helped in my care to see that did not happen. While the care that I did receive may not have been optimal and caused some trauma, I have learned to cope better and process the emotions I had then.
Even after going through all that, I still had a ways to learn to be myself and become an adult and while at times my parents were at the brunt of my anger, angst and pain, they continue to be supportive to this day. They have seen me at all stages of my behavior and know me best and when they need to reach out to those that can help. They do not just want to kick me to the curb, although I feel during my last relapse they may have done so and I would not have been able to get back on my feet to where I am today.
We have come a long way since understanding autistic traits included more than the ones of the nonspeaking, although they should be as equally valued as those able to communicate in the standard formats. I have seen accommodations be more accepted in the public eye for sensory needs than I have years ago. It has become more understandable in many places when someone may need to wear a set of headphones in a venue that may have a high amount of noise pollution that can cause sensory overload. That has been something that at one point earlier in my journey that may not have been accepted in the public arena.
It personally feels good when going to many places that are more accommodating to the sensory needs of the individuals that they serve. I have gone through a lot of times growing up that many did not understand why I was acting the way I was, many times I was associated with being a spoiled little brat and as such missed out on many things in the course of my life. There were also many times because of the behaviors that I exhibited that I was excluded as a precaution of acting out and making the experience unpleasurable for others. While I do admit that we have some ways to go in the arena of including autistics more, we have indeed been more accepting of the needs of the autistics that have the inability to prevent themselves from not acting out of something happening.
Part of having autism or having any other need that may be felt to need accommodation to have something provided to you must be acknowledged, accepted and understood. It doesn’t make you any less of a person than who you are. It just is that you need a little extra help with something and you should not be ashamed of needing help. For many years, I was ashamed of asking for needed accommodations and now having a few been provided to me, I feel proud of being able to have what I need without feeling as if I am a burden. I am truly grateful for the opportunities I have been provided over the years, although at times I feel I should have asked for more accommodations when I needed them instead of accepting what I got as a result of not asking for them. I cannot also be angry with others alongside me who may need an accomodation. It doesn’t make them any less or a person for doing so and they shouldn’t be treated as such.
We must understand that while we have came a long way of accepting autistics for who we are, we must also understand the need to further educate and work toward making all environments acceptable for not only autistic individuals, but for all who need accommodations.