April is known for the rain, the beginnings of spring weather, Easter and Passover celebrations, and the promise of blooming greenery. And it also happens to be Autism Awareness Month.
Statistics are often thrown around when it comes to autism and, odds are, we’ve all heard them. We’re familiar with the stat that says 1 in 68 children in America are diagnosed with autism. We know that scientifically, the disorder is more common in boys than girls. We’ve heard the numbers. But the thing is, people with autism are so much more than just numbers or statistics. It would be remiss of us to use this post about Autism Awareness Month to focus on generalizing numbers. Because as advocates for people with disabilities, it’s our job (and our mission) to make sure we remind people that no two people with autism are the same. And that’s the case because no two people of any background are the same. So, we can’t just use figures to descibe autism, when it’s so much more than that.
It’s good to have a general idea of what autism is. But if you meet someone with autism, you might be surprised to learn that many of the stereotypical traits you expected aren’t there. You might expect that someone with autism will be withdrawn, but find that the person you meet is energetic and outgoing. You might expect that people with autism don’t make eye contact, only to see that the individual with whom you’re interacting seems to have no problem doing just that. Behaviors depend on where someone is on the autism spectrum and who they are as a person. Assuming all people with autism have the same characteristics is like thinking all brunettes will act the same.
So, if you’re wondering about autism, ask people in the autism community. More often than not, people are willing and eager to answer questions when it leads to greater understanding and fewer assumptions.
This Autism Awareness Month, and all months, don’t just use numbers and statistics to form your opinions about anyone — not just people with autism. We are all so much more than how we might appear on paper. We are all unique and different, and we have so much to offer. Difference really is beautiful.