Is it autism awareness month or autism acceptance month? You’ve probably heard both this year, and depends on who you talk to!
Over the last several years, you have probably heard about Autism Awareness month each April. April 1972 was the first national recognition of autism, and this was originally National Autistic Children’s week, which later expanded into Autism Awareness Month. Autism groups promoted understanding and recognizing the signs of autism.

In 2021, the Autism Society of America, along with several other disability organizations, announced a shift from Autism Awareness Month to Autism Acceptance Month. This recognizes the growing recognition in the community that autistic individuals should be accepted, integrated, and appreciated. There has been growing concern that the idea of autism awareness was not necessarily helpful to autistic individuals, and actually may alienate some of them.

Along with the Autism Society, the Administration for Community Living, Association of the University Centers of Disabilities, Autistic women and Non-Binary Network, Easter Seals, First Place AZ, National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, and the Arc have adopted the language of acceptance rather than awareness. This move echoes the need to understand and accept neurodiversity in the community and improve the lives of autistic people. Many of these organizations work with both children and adults and put a focus on the inclusivity of autistic individuals in their organizations.

In contrast, many of the organizations who are celebrating autism awareness may be doing so for any of the following reasons:

  • They are simply not aware of the shift, and are going with the events or marketing that they have done the last year or two. (Let’s be honest, 2021 was kind of a crazy year, so it could have been easy to miss the announcement last year)
  • They are unaware of the distinction and the importance of this for autistic individuals. (Many programs, especially those that work with young children, still put a large focus on early identification rather than accepting and appreciating differences)
  • They are caught in the middle, trying to speak to both those who are aware of the shift and those who are not. (I’m seeing this a lot—I got an email from a psych testing company yesterday that used both seemingly interchangeably within the same paragraph)

Like anything else, change takes time, and I suspect you will see more and more about autism acceptance and less about autism awareness. If you notice someone talking about autism

awareness week, they might be unaware of this shift. It’s more than semantics, but a shift in the field and one that is important. If you are a professional, this is important for you to know. If you are autistic or a family member of an autistic person, it is not your responsibility to educate the professionals you work with, but it can be a nice thing to share if they are unaware!

Dr. Jessica Myszak has had over 10 years of experience performing psychological evaluations with children and adults. She offers both in-person and telehealth evaluations. In addition to seeing clients on the Chicago North Shore, she is able to work with families who reside in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, DC, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin! If you are interested in learning more about potentially working with her, you can visit her website here or email her here to get the process started.