Tag Archives: community

The Allistic Guide to Autism Acceptance Month

Take off the blue shirt. And put the puzzle piece away. You won’t need that here.

It’s April, officially making it Autism Awareness Acceptance Month (AAM). You see many events for “Light it up Blue” throughout the month with puzzle piece ribbons and blue-colored snacks of some sort. But what many don’t know is what the puzzle piece symbol means, where it comes from, and why it’s harmful to the Autistic community.

Autistic people exist wherever people exist. In your classes, at your job, and yes, even the person writing this article. AAM is your chance as an Allistic (non-Autistic) person to learn a little more about Autism, the history of common Autism symbols, and how you can be a better ally to the Autistic community.

What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder, most commonly known as Autism or ASD, is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate, behave and interact with the world. Autism manifests in each person differently, and some people require more support in certain areas than others. And that’s the beauty of a spectrum. It won’t look the same from person to person. 

What matters when it comes to Autism is getting to know the person and their support needs—generalizing all Autistic people to one stereotype does more harm than good when it comes to connecting with Autistic people. On that same note, Autism doesn’t fit a one-size-fits-all mold. Any person of any age, race, or gender can have Autism, so it isn’t right to stereotype us based on one person you may know. We are like any other person. We have interests, stories, likes, and dislikes. We are human, and we want to get to know you too.

History of Autism Acceptance Month

Autism Acceptance Month, then named National Autistic Children’s Week, was first started by The Autism Society in 1972 to promote Autism awareness and ignite change for Autistic people. 

While the origins of AAM seem relatively tame, perhaps even beneficial for Autistic people, many organizations involved in Autism awareness did not try to promote the well-being of Autistic people but instead tried to “cure” them of their Autism.

If you’ve ever seen Autism symbols or been to events for Autistic people (mostly aimed at children), you’ve most likely seen puzzle pieces. Ah yes, puzzle pieces. Because nothing screams Autism Acceptance like “my autistic brain doesn’t fit into your neurotypical puzzle!”

To understand why many Autistic people dislike the puzzle piece symbol so much, we have to take a step back into the history of the puzzle piece, who created it, and what role they have in the dark history of eugenics within the Autism community.

The puzzle piece symbol was initially created in 1963 by the National Autism Society. Created as a logo to represent Autistic children, the symbol was meant to say, “a puzzling condition handicaps our children.” Thus, the puzzle piece was born. However, the most recognized use of the puzzle piece symbol was co-opted by the organization Autism Speaks, another horrendous voice in Autistic lives.

Autism Speaks is a nonprofit organization that claims to support autism research and outreach activities for people with Autism. However, this can’t be farther from the truth. Autism Speaks has a dark history of eugenics and abuse towards the Autistic community. From siphoning donation money for personal gain to funding electroshock therapy for children, Autism Speaks doesn’t let Autistic people Speak. Through the lens of Autism Speaks, Autism is nothing more than a disease that needs a cure. A blemish on the world that needs fixing. But Autism is much more than that − we are people, artists and teachers and creators, and worthy of love and support. 

How to ~Actually~ Support Autistic People

Autistic people exist outside of AAM. Surprising, I know. If you care about supporting Autistic people outside of AAM, there are many ways to help out within your community and on a one-on-one basis to improve the lives of Autistic people.

  1. Support Autistic-run organizations! Nonprofits such as the Autism Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) and the Autistic Women & Non-Binary Network (AWN) are two organizations made for Autistic people by Autistic people! We deserve to have our voice heard, not through the filter of an allistic person. By supporting Autistic-lead nonprofits, you can help Autistic people get their voice into the world and get the resources they need to connect with their environment.
  • This AAM, consider going Red Instead and using the rainbow infinity symbol in your support of Autistic people! The rainbow infinity symbol is used as a better alternative to the puzzle piece. Autistic people create it for autistic people, is it used as a symbol of Autistic pride and neurodivergent solidarity.
  1. Support Autistic people in your community! There are thousands of autistic artists, musicians, and creators right in your area. If you want to help an Autistic person right at their front door, consider purchasing from their store, donating to their fundraisers, or participating in mutual aid.
  2. We are just people! Again, another shocker. Autistic people aren’t special charity cases or people who can’t fend for themselves. We are whole humans and should be treated as such. So the easiest way to support us is just to get to know us. 

When I went into this article, I was frankly worried about publishing it. But, for you, the reader, to learn about something that I am still learning about myself. So I ask you to come along on this journey with me as we get to learn a little bit more about Autism together. 

Featured Image By Talisa Trevino

5 Austin organizations you should know about

With so many in-person events and opportunities growing, it can be easy for people to feel like things are returning to “normal.” However, it is undeniable that many people have had an especially difficult time these past two years. Yet, we have seen the worst of situations and the power of compassion.

Here are some charity and nonprofit organizations that you should check out and lend a helping hand if you find yourself in the position to contribute to something you support.

Mobile Loaves and Fishes

This organization supports the homeless community in Austin by reconnecting each person’s sense of self and community. They also have volunteer opportunities available, so be sure to check them out and learn more!

CASA of Travis County

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) of Travis County connects volunteer advocates to a Hispanic child in the child welfare system. Their aim is to protect the children’s best interests by training volunteers to advocate for them in the legal system and community.

Casa Marianella

This nonprofit provides shelter and support for immigrants, and they report to shelter an average of 325 people each year. Residents live in home-like facilities until they can become independent again.

Out Youth

Out Youth is an organization that serves Texas LGBTQIA+ youth by providing a safe space for the youth and resources for parents and other community members. They also have a therapist network that follows something close to a “pro-bono” model to give youth an opportunity they would otherwise not be able to afford.

Inside Books Project

Inside Books Project sends free books and other reading materials to prisoners in Texas in order to promote literacy and education and teach the general public about incarceration issues. Once the books are received, incarcerated individuals can keep the books. This organization highlights the benefits of literacy post-incarceration, especially since prison education programs have received less funding in the past.

If you would like to give to any of these organizations, click on the title name of each organization to be led to their web pages for more information about how you can help, and check out the rest of their social media!

Remember that there are tons of other organizations meant to help various communities in Austin, and learning about how they change people’s lives is a great way to get started if you cannot help them right now!

Visual created by Briana Martinez