April has been Autism Awareness month for some time now and it's time to move into acceptance. I don't mean acceptance of increasing rates of autism, but acceptance and understanding of their need for friends.
For years it was assumed that those with autism did not feel emotion because they did not show emotions the way neurotypicals do. It was assumed they did not want friends because they didn't know how to make friends.
Yet, we hear more and more from young people on the spectrum that they want friends and relationships; they want connections. When asked to write a statement to be read at the United Nations during World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, my son Jeremy included this:
"Realize the importance of community. Truly we need more people to connect with besides paid service providers and family members. It is hard to initiate contact for many of us ... We all need more friends. We may look like we are not interested due to our lack of eye contact. It is hard for us to initiate friendships as well. Kindly this is due to motor differences or anxiety for many. Kindly we really want love."
In September 2012, I wrote a blog post about The Story of Luke, a movie I had seen at the San Diego Film Festival. Luke is a young man on the autism spectrum who wants a job and a girlfirend. The movie is funny and real, and I highly recommend people see it to get a feel for what it's like to be a young perosn with autism in a world that is not always accepting or understanding.
I'm thrilled to say that the movie has been picked up by a distributor and it's opening in some cities on Friday and is available on itunes (more information here) just in time for autism awareness month.
This month, let's not just be aware. Let's be accepting.