Autism Acceptance Month and Representation on Campus

Autism Acceptance Month has recently come to a close. Autism is a neurological disability in which an individual is unable to automatically pick up on social cues. Other symptoms may include sensory sensitivities, language delay, issues with motor skills and executive functioning issues.

As with all disabilities, people have stigmatisms and stereotypes for each ailment. Most people assume that people with autism are awkward, anti-social, abrupt and love math. Despite all of these assumptions, the truth is, all of these conclusions are false. People with autism are actually loving, caring and compassionate people who just want to be accepted into the community.

Many people associate Autism Acceptance Month with an organization called Autism Speaks. Most in the autism community do not support this organization. Autism Speaks has had a history of supporting the ‘cure’ for autism, as well as not having people with this disability on their executive board and supporting the Judge Rodenburg Center; which has a lengthy reputation of torturing people with disabilities. They also endorse applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy.

ABA therapy is a type of ‘treatment’ for people on the spectrum. This therapy attempts to teach these individuals the proper social skills. However, this is often done in abusive ways. So abusive in fact, that some people in the autism community have compared it to other extreme conversion therapies. Recently, career services held their annual job fair in Balfour. One of the companies that attended did ABA therapy.

This event is just one of the many prime examples as to how disability is represented on campus, in particular, autism. Most of these issues can be addressed and solved in very standard methods. Procedures such as having sensory reduced rooms open in public places around campus, such as Chase Dining Hall.

Another critical practice that could be implemented on campus is training for staff and faculty on different disabilities. Within this system, the professor would try to make the group work experience less stressful for people with autism. This would consist of little details such as assigning groups instead of allowing people to choose their own. This way, the individual with autism does not have to stress about whether people want to work with them or not. Accessibility Services did offer a workshop for faculty and staff on the topic of autism, however, it was not mandatory..

Other details that would be involved are understanding that the individual with autism may not be fully invested in the content of the project. This is due to them having to act neurotypical–act socially normal–with their peers and try to focus on the academics. Little details such as knowing when to smile or nod at another person are incredibly difficult. They may also have trouble following directions and remembering names, as well as faces, as a side effect of this reason.

The campus has begun making an attempt to correct these issues. Student Government Association (SGA) has recently noticed that the treatment and representation of disabilities on campus was lacking. They made a position on their executive board called Accessibility Chair. This individual would ensure that all matters of potential discrimination against those with disabilities, in correlation with Accessibility Services, that these events are handled and solved fairly.

If you are moved or inclined to help with these issues on campus, or in society, come join the WheAccess club to learn more in-depth about autism and disability representation on campus and discuss ways to improve accessibility. If you would like to donate to an organization for Autism Acceptance Month, please only donate to organizations run by people with autism, such as The Autism Society of America.