Historical background of National Autism Awareness Month

McKayla Clarksnodgrass, Photo Editor

April is a time for acceptance, and National Autism Awareness Month.

National Autism Awareness Month started, according to the Autism Society, as National Autistic Children’s week in 1972 by the Autism Society. In 1985, Congress passed National Autism Week. That week eventually became National Autism Awareness Month.

Over the past few years, there has been a shift from National Autism Awareness Month to National Autism Acceptance Month. This shift is due to “awareness” presenting autism as a threat, according to the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, whereas “acceptance” emphasizes that autistic people deserve welcoming communities and equal opportunities.

The color blue is used to represent awareness and acceptance. “Light It Up Blue” is an initiative started by Autism Speaks where buildings around the world shine blue on April 2, which is known as World Autism Awareness Day. That day was designated World Autism Awareness Day by the United Nations in 2008. On that day, people also wear blue to show their acceptance.

Blue isn’t the only color used to represent awareness and acceptance. There have been other colors and movements used to push back against Autism Speaks’ “Light It Up Blue,” such as “Light It Up Gold” and the hashtag “Red Instead.” “Light It Up Gold” comes from Au being the symbol for gold, which is also the start of the word autism, and the movement is represented by a gold infinity symbol rather than a rainbow infinity symbol, which is commonly seen in relation to autism acceptance and awareness.

The infinity symbol is used to represent the spectrum and diversity within the autism community. The symbol was created by Judy Singer, who is the person who created the term “neurodiversity.” The symbol is often seen with the colors of the rainbow to show the differences within the community. 

The puzzle piece has been previously used, but some people with autism find that it has negative connotations. The puzzle piece made it seem as though autism was a “puzzling” condition and something that could be fixed.

There are many organizations that are advocates for autism and are not harmful, such as ASAN, Autistic Inclusive Meets (A.I.M) and Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network (AWN), just to name a few. There are also other organizations, such as Autism Speaks, that are harmful toward the autistic community.

This is the month to become aware and accepting of people with autism. Take the time to learn and listen.