April. Autism. Awareness. Acceptance.
By Brock Sheppard, Program Manager
AutismBC’s mission is to empower, support, and connect the autism community in BC. We build supportive, inclusive programs for autistic youth and adults and their families. We are a small team of parents, self-advocates, and professionals who are all driven by the same vision: an inclusive society where people on the autism spectrum are living their best life. We are here to listen, we are here to provide expertise, and we are here to empower our 5000 members across the province with tools for success.
Over the past few months, we’ve had many internal discussions about our use of language for Autism Awareness Month. With a growing public debate on the topic, we held a staff meeting to discuss the options and what each of them means: Autism Month vs. Autism Acceptance Month vs. Autism Awareness Month vs. Autism Awareness & Acceptance Month.
The complexity of this conversation and the diversity of the groups concerned means that dialogue can be challenging at times. Still, two key things resonated with all of us: the value of listening and learning, and the need for sensitivity. Following the motto ‘to know, to care, to act,’ we concluded that the most valuable thing was to spark interest in this conversation. We all agreed that once people knew the issues, they could care about them, and once they cared, they could engage in meaningful action.
We recognize that the autism community is unlikely to come to a complete consensus on the title of Autism Awareness Month, and that is okay. What is important is that everyone understands and respects the conversation. It can be easy to follow the loudest voice or attack other points of view; it is much harder to listen to different perspectives and ideas equally.
Some communities are pushing for Autism Month – that is great – they believe in having an all-encompassing term that will bring people together.
Some communities are pushing for Autism Acceptance Month – that is great – they are urging others to take a more active role in focusing on what they can do to be accepting.
Some communities are pushing for Autism Awareness Month – that is great – they are calling on everyone to learn something new this month. Read a blog, check out a book, attend a workshop, listen to a podcast, or have a conversation with someone with a different lived experience.
This April, we invite you to share your ideas, experiences, and feelings on this topic by joining our online poll. We also ask you to listen to other voices and consider their perspectives as valid, even if different. Autism touches all of us in different ways. To build an inclusive community, we need to create a space for these differences. Help us create this safe space for discussion, join our poll today. Click here for the poll.
Brock Sheppard has managed teams and developed programs for over seven years in Ontario and British Columbia. After graduating from the University of Toronto, Brock began working with children and youth in outdoor education. His passion for working with people, getting outside of comfort zones, and constantly seeking fun is seen in Brock’s patient teaching style. Brock worked as a Behavioural Support Worker in North Vancouver before joining the AutismBC in 2019. Brock is excited to support the programs and staff working across the province.