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Autism Acceptance: Embracing #RedInstead

In recent years, the autism community has seen a significant shift from mere awareness to a deeper understanding and acceptance of autism. This transition is visually and symbolically represented by the change in color from blue to red, embodied in the hashtags #LightItUpBlue and # RedInstead. But why this shift, and what does it signify?

LightItUpBlue: A Controversial Beginning

# LightItUpBlue was initiated by Autism Speaks, an organization that, despite its name, has been controversial within the autism community. The campaign was primarily focused on awareness, which is undoubtedly essential. However, many in the autism community felt that it over-emphasized the challenges of autism, often portraying it as a disease needing a cure rather than a difference to be understood and accepted.

Critically, Autism Speaks has been criticized for not representing autistic individuals on its board and in its decision-making processes. This led to a feeling that the # LightItUpBlue campaign was not truly representative of the needs and perspectives of those it claimed to represent.

The Emergence of # RedInstead: A Response from the Autistic Community.

In contrast, # RedInstead emerged as a grassroots movement led by autistic individuals themselves. This movement advocates for acceptance rather than just awareness. The color red was chosen to stand in contrast to the blue of Autism Speaks, symbolizing a break from the past and a move towards a future where autistic people have a leading voice in the conversation about their lives.

Why Acceptance Over Awareness?

1. Empowerment: Acceptance implies not just knowing that autism exists but understanding and valuing autistic individuals as they are. It’s about creating a world where autistic people are empowered to live full, meaningful lives.

2. Inclusivity: Acceptance focuses on inclusivity and belonging, acknowledging the diversity within autism and recognizing each individual's unique strengths and challenges.

3. Self-Advocacy: Encouraging self-advocacy is central to the acceptance movement. Autistic individuals are the best experts on their own experiences, and their voices are crucial in shaping policies and practices that affect them.

4. Reducing Stigma: Awareness alone can sometimes unintentionally perpetuate stereotypes and stigma. Acceptance works to combat these by promoting a more nuanced and positive understanding of autism.

Supporting Autism Acceptance

As a society, and especially as mental health professionals, educators, and parents, embracing autism acceptance means listening to and learning from autistic individuals. It involves advocating for policies and practices that support their needs and rights. It means providing resources and environments that accommodate and respect neurodiversity.

The transition from # LightItUpBlue to # RedInstead is more than a color change—it's a paradigm shift in how we view and support autistic individuals. It's a movement from awareness to acceptance, from speaking about it to listening to and seeing autism as a disorder to embracing it as a valuable aspect of human diversity.

Let's wear red to support and signify our commitment to learning, understanding, and accepting the autistic community.

World Autism Acceptance Day is April 2nd.

# RedInstead



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