SEEN Community Update: What is Acceptance?

Dear SEEN Community,

April is Autism Acceptance Month. Do you see a difference? When the Autism Society launched Autism Awareness in 1970, awareness – including knowledge about the diagnoses, or that autism is a spectrum disorder – was critical. More than 50 years later, in 2021, The Autism Society and other affiliated organizations shifted goals away from awareness to acceptance. In a country with a diagnosis rate of 1 in 54 people, it’s not a lack of awareness, rather one of acceptance.

Rather than just a nominal change, acceptance asserts neurodivergence and autism are part of life and community, and their campaigns now are to #CelebrateDifferences. Acceptance, or lack thereof, is one of the primary hurdles to individuals with autism in building networks and support in education, employment, healthcare, and housing. Mostly organized by parents and advocates, awareness campaigns cast autism as a disease, alongside chronic and fatal issues like cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, or even the all-encompassing “rare diseases.” Autism is not a disease though, and accepting autism and neurodiversity as a natural part of human experience is critical.

The other work that acceptance does is place the onus on the community instead of on the person with difference. It is not the responsibility of a person with autism to explain, but of the neurotypical (or neurodivergent, but not autistic) person to learn, to evaluate and eradicate their biases, and to truly accept difference.

May we do that this month and always, for autism spectrum disorders and for other differences within our community.


Actions

  • Board of Education. The Board of Education will be meeting on Tuesday, April 12, at 7 p.m. at the High School. Attending or streaming BOE meetings is one of the primary ways to learn about the work the Board does prior to the upcoming elections, and to track community engagement and Board leadership with respect to diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
  • Postcard Writing. With the upcoming Board of Education election, SEEN is not making any endorsements. We maintain that our organization is a network of individuals united in our support for diversity, equity, and inclusion. However, several members of the Steering Committee are actively supporting certain candidates. If you would like to join, we will be hosting a postcard-writing event for those candidates. It will be held on Thursday, April 28, 6-9 p.m. at the Palette Community. The event will include streaming and discussion of the concurrent Board of Education meeting, and then we will be heading to Pint Sized after for a drink!

Calendar

  • Saratoga Affinity Group. The Saratoga Affinity Group for teens ages 9-13 will meet Sunday, April 10th from 3-5 p.m. at Camp Stomping Ground. The youth will connect with their inner poet and take part in a slam poetry workshop. They will also be doing an easy hike around the camp to find the future home for our Affinity Group Mural.   
    • The address is 3430 Boyhaven Rd, Middle Grove, NY 12850 (formerly Boyhaven Boy Scout’s camp). Please contact us at saratogaaffinitygroup@gmail.com for further information.
  • Baldwin. SEEN & C.R.E.A.T.E. continue to collaborate on #BaldwinSaratoga, a reading, discussion, and art-making group that gathers every other Monday to discuss James Baldwin’s powerful writings and their provocations for Saratoga Springs. The next meeting will take place on Monday, April 18, from 5:30-6:45 p.m., at C.R.E.A.T.E. Books remain available at Northshire Saratoga (ask for it at the desk for a discount) if you’re one to mark up your readings, or copies are available to borrow at each meeting for the duration of the series. Upcoming sessions:

Resources

  • Project Implicit. If you’re wondering how you’re doing on acceptance, Project Implicit, a joint project of Harvard, UVA and University of Washington social scientists and now an independent nonprofit, has tests for assessing implicit bias. The tests are a provocative tool for evaluating biases around race, ability, gender, sexuality, and more. Put another way, their tool can help you to pinpoint areas of implicit bias on a personal level, and to reflect on the ways bias translates in culture and systems. And if you test as no implicit biases, does that make you unbiased? And because traditional bias training has been shown to reinforce biases rather than rebuke them, these tests give an assessment for personal reflection, and extension into ways implicit biases impact personal and professional relationships. Take a test, or two!
  • Language Shift Parallels the Move Away from the Puzzle. Just as autistic individuals have made the linguistic shift from awareness toward acceptance because of the association with disease, the visual language used to discuss autism is similarly changing. Because of its association with disease and the negative campaigns of Autism Speaks, infantilizing imagery, and the implication that autism is a mystery, autistic adults have been advocating for the discontinuation of the “puzzle piece” as a visualization or symbol for autism. Read more from The Art of AutismLearn From AutisticsAltogether Autism, and the blog In the Loop About Neurodiversity. A 2018 study in Autism found that negative associations with the puzzle piece are common amongst neurotypical and autistic people alike, and that the puzzle logo for autism should be avoided.

~ The SEEN Team

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