It’s almost April, and you’re about to be inundated with posts about autism.
You’ll see posts that call you to Light it Up Blue, support Autism Speaks, and don puzzle pieces.
Then you’ll see posts telling you that all of those things are totally wrong and you shouldn’t do them.
(I know, I write many of those posts!)
But I’m trying really hard to balance out the posts about what *not* to do with posts that share things you *can* do, like this one about what to do instead of light it up blue.
And here’s the thing… I know that most people want to take time during Autism Acceptance Month to ally with the Autistic community, they just may not know how.
So I’m sharing three practical steps you can take to become a better autism ally this April (and always)!
3 Steps to be a Better Autism Ally This April
But before I jump in, I want to get really clear about what I mean by “ally”.
An ally is someone in a position of privilege, who makes an active choice to use that privilege to work against current systems of oppression and lift up those who are marginalized.
That feels really jargony, so let me try in more human terms…
An autism ally is a non-autistic person who actively fights against the discrimination and oppression of Autistics by working with the Autistic community.
That “working with the Autistic community” part is huuuuuge, friend.
See, there are a lot of people who are actively fighting against the discrimination and oppression of Autistics, but because they haven’t included Autistics in their fight they aren’t truly allies.
This key difference is why you see such a divide between those asking you to cover yourself in puzzle pieces and those telling you that puzzle pieces are harmful.
It’s confusing and sometimes overwhelming, I totally get it.
But when in doubt, if your goal is to be an autism ally, side with Autistics.
(Related: 3 Important Shifts That Happen When You Listen to Autistics)
#1 Listen to Autistics
I know I touched on this a bit above, but it’s worth mentioning again…
The first step if you want to become a better autism ally is to listen to Autistics.
It seems simple, but there’s a lot of noise out there on the interwebs.
So how do you actively listen to Autistics?
Well, you find Autistic-led spaces to hang out in so that you can listen and learn.
(Embracing Autism on Facebook is one of these spaces!)
You can also follow Autistic writers, YouTubers, and Podcasters.
You’re already doing that if you’re reading this blog (hi, I’m an Autistic writer!) and here are a few others I recommend…
Then you can also ask any organization providing resources or information about autism how many Autistics they have in leadership positions.
If they won’t answer, or give a vague answer, seek out another place to access your information.
#2 Amplify Autistic Voices
Now that you’ve been listening to and learning from Autistics, you can start to amplify Autistic voices.
Basically, you can use your own social media or even your own conversations, to point others toward Autistic resources.
This helps others to hear the message Autistics are sharing, who have only ever been exposed to doom and gloom narratives before.
The fact is, you have more pull with non-autistics than many Autistic people have.
When they see a resource from a non-autistic person, they’re more likely to click, read, and engage.
It’s sad, but it’s true.
So the more you are able to use your own circle of impact (those around you who you share things with) to amplify the voices of Autistics, the more people will start to listen and learn from Autistics.
And the ripple effect of that is huge.
#3 Support Autistic-Led Organizations
Okay, the final thing you can do to become a better autism ally this April is to support Autistic-led organizations.
Organizations & businesses that are led and run by Autistics are often completely drowned out by other organizations (like Autism Speaks) that don’t do anything to help Autistics.
So now is the best time to show support.
Personally, I recommend two Autistic-led charity organizations.
The first is the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN).
This is their mission from their website… “The Autistic Self Advocacy Network seeks to advance the principles of the disability rights movement with regard to autism. ASAN believes that the goal of autism advocacy should be a world in which autistic people enjoy equal access, rights, and opportunities. We work to empower autistic people across the world to take control of our own lives and the future of our common community, and seek to organize the autistic community to ensure our voices are heard in the national conversation about us. Nothing About Us, Without Us!”
You can donate directly to ASAN here.
The second organization I recommend is Autistic Women & Non-Binary Network (AWN).
This is their mission from their website… “The mission of Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network (AWN) is to provide community, support, and resources for Autistic women, girls, nonbinary people, and all others of marginalized genders. AWN Network is dedicated to building a supportive community where we can share our experiences in an understanding, diverse and inclusive environment. Our goal is to dispel stereotypes and misinformation which perpetuate unnecessary fears surrounding an autism diagnosis. We seek to share information which works to build acceptance and understanding of disability. Welcome to AWN Network!”
You can donate directly to AWN here.
Another way you can directly support Autistic-led organizations is by supporting those advocates you are following and learning from.
Click around on their website so that they receive the ad revenue, buy one of their books or products, contribute to their Patreon, or even reach out directly and ask how you can best support them.
I know that was a lot, so to boil it down, the three steps are…
- Listen to Autistics
- Amplify Autistic Voices
- Support Autistic-Led Organizations
If you loved this post, here are a few more you may enjoy…