Today is the first of April— April Fools’ Day. It’s also the start of Autism Awareness Month. An ironic combination, since I know plenty of autistic people who can’t stand April Fools pranks whatsoever, and since so many on the spectrum have trouble with untruths… but I digress.
Something I’ve noticed, as I keep an eye on Twitter searches and Google Reader, is that what counts for autism awareness is… rather shallow, honestly. One particular ‘awareness’ campaign I’ve seen referenced a lot lately involves putting blue lightbulbs in one’s outside lights, and wearing blue clothing. If I may ask… how does this even indicate that autism exists to someone who doesn’t know about it, much less indicate what autism actually is?
And that’s another thing. Many of these awareness-raising efforts that I’m finding describe more about the campaign itself than about, well, what they’re raising awareness for. At least one site I’ve seen people linking to describes the awareness campaign in great detail on the front page, but hides the actual description of autism several links deep, below the fold.
Surely I can’t be the only one who sees this as a problem?
Honestly, I think we need to move beyond mere awareness. With all the public service announcements and such that I’ve seen, I’d venture to say lots of people are aware that there’s some sort of condition known as autism, that it exists, and that a lot of people have it. But as someone who actually is on the autistic spectrum, I’ve also noticed that this awareness generally doesn’t make people any more clued in about autism.
What we need is understanding of autism—which automatically encompasses awareness as well; if you understand something, after all, you’re surely aware of it.