This is not my first April; in fact, it’s my 43rd. It’s not my first “Autism Awareness Day,” either; I’ve been around for all of them so far. But this will be my first April knowing — or shall I say, being aware — that I am Autistic myself.
Interestingly, all of those earlier “Autism Awareness” campaigns I’ve seen didn’t help me come to this understanding, this awareness, about myself. None of them helped me understand that they were talking about me. This should raise some questions about how well these “awareness” campaigns work, or at least about what kind of awareness they are raising.
I’m not looking forward to experiencing these campaigns this month. For one thing, I’ve come to understand just how misleading they are, and my impulse to correct inaccurate information will certainly be rearing its potentially-inappropriate head. For another, I am only just starting to approach the issue of disclosure with my family, so it’s hard to know how to address this topic at all since I’m not yet “publicly” Autistic. This leads to anxiety and a whole lot of second-guessing of myself.
Some frustration is really due to impatience, I know. It’s hard, sometimes, to remember that other people haven’t magically acquired the same understanding I have. It has taken me months of intensive reading, discussion, and self-observation to learn what I’ve learned — and I’m still learning more. Other people, even those close to me, are not going to have the same level of motivation that I did…and they also won’t have my Aspie focus. *grin*
So mostly I’m just reminding myself to breathe, and not feel like I have to single-handedly inform everyone I meet. I can’t instantly “fix” everyone’s mistaken impressions. I can’t hold up my hands and stop everyone from listening to the (very well-funded and widespread) misinformation being propagated by groups like Autism Speaks — and it’s most likely counter-productive to get mad at people for not already knowing that it is misinformation when they may not have been exposed to good information.
Changing attitudes takes time and repetition, so I am grateful to everyone who has been speaking up, over and over, in support of the acceptance, value, and equality of Autistic people instead of some limited concept of awareness. It has been your stories that have led me to true awareness and understanding of my own neurology and how it has shaped my life. Thank you.