Over the past ten years, I have spread the message of autism awareness and acceptance. I was diagnosed with autism at two years old, so World Autism Month is extremely important to me. As a self-advocate, since I speak all year round, my wish is that we will reach a point where everyone in the whole world will spread autism awareness, acceptance and inclusion, not just during the month of April, but each and every day. Over the years, I have spoken to both children as well as adults, and I am always amazed how the very young understand the struggles of being on the autism spectrum, and are willing to accept others just as they are, yet as children grow older, they seem to be already set in their misconceptions of this disability. Although you would think that the older you get, the more understanding you have about those with autism, I have found that adults seem to have the hardest time. Understanding both the struggles and abilities of those on the autism spectrum takes a great amount of effort, listening, being open-minded, and thinking outside the box. That is something that adults have a difficult time doing with many things.
So maybe, in order for everyone, including adults, to truly embrace autism, and understand what makes people with autism unique, we need to be more like children, ready to learn more about autism, and be more caring towards those with disabilities. I am finishing up my senior year as a vocal music major in college, and I will be entering the real world, where I know I will face unimaginable obstacles. Although it will be a long and difficult struggle, I hope that each and every barrier I break through will inspire others on the spectrum that they can achieve anything. I don’t know where my future will lead me, but I know that every April, I will use World Autism Month to bring awareness and change perceptions of autism, one song at a time, and I will continue my efforts each and every day.
As I tell the many classrooms of third graders, “acceptance and inclusion is a beautiful thing, and don’t be so quick to make a judgment; be a friend instead”. May this Autism Awareness Month make us all more like little children, and be more open, both in mind and in action, to those with disabilities.