Heather Ainsley: [email protected]
Starting Saturday, April 2, the world turned blue in honor of World Autism Awareness. Children and adults with autism are particularly susceptible to mood swings due to lighting, and studies have shown that lights in soft colors, such as blue, can help a person relax and become creative. Many communities “light up the blue” to show their appreciation and solidarity with people with autism in their communities. To participate, businesses and residents place blue lights, decorations or ribbons around their workplaces or homes to show their support. At Greene Publishing, Inc., we invite the community to participate in Light It Up Blue, showing acceptance and support for people with autism. As with any awareness movement, brilliant colors alone are not enough, so if you decide to light it up blue, consider also donating to a reputable support organization and deepening your understanding of what is actually autism.
Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a developmental difference that can lead to significant social, communication and behavioral problems. People with autism may look like anyone else, but may communicate, interact and learn very differently. This disorder looks different in different people and can manifest in a variety of ways. Because autism is often an invisible condition, it is important to raise awareness of how it can impact behavior, which can bring a level of understanding and acceptance to individuals and families living with.
As autism is a mental condition, and no two minds are the same, it can affect people with it in a wide range of ways, and people with autism are commonly referred to as being somewhere “on the autism spectrum”. “In light of the spectrum of symptoms that accompany autism, there is an array of symbols used to spread awareness and acceptance. Here are the symbols to watch out for:
The Rainbow Spectrum: Closely related to the concept of the autism spectrum, a range of colors on the rainbow has often been used as a visual representation of the wide range of autism symptoms . It’s also symbolic of how people with autism can have very different ranges of abilities and challenges. Rainbow colors are often associated with a puzzle piece shape, infinity symbol, or ribbon.
The Puzzle Piece: Usually associated with the color blue or a rainbow spectrum, a puzzle piece is often used as a symbol of autism awareness, although this symbol has garnered both positive and negative. On the positive side, many family members of people with autism may understand that it is a “confusing” condition, without many clear answers. Additionally, some people with autism may experience a sense of being set apart, as they may find it difficult to “fit in” with the social norms of society. On the negative side, some suggest that a puzzle piece as a direct symbol of autism creates an assumption throughout society that all people with autism are synonymous with “not fitting in” or “d ‘being set apart’, leading to unnecessary and harmful stigma. around neurodivergent members of the community.
The Butterfly: A relatively new symbol of autism, the butterfly has emerged as a possible alternative to the more controversial puzzle piece symbol, as it suggests change and embodies a symbol of diversity and continued development. Many see it as a symbol that encourages the beauty of a different perspective and the importance of continued growth.
The Infinite Loop: Another new alternative to the jigsaw piece symbol, the infinite loop is meant to inspire inclusivity for people with autism. It is often associated with a solid color or a rainbow.
Although these symbols represent autism, awareness is only the first step. The most important way to raise awareness and acceptance for people with autism is to listen to autistic voices, seek information and understand what it is like to live on the spectrum, and how you can help by contributing to good autism advocacy organizations, such as Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Autistic Inclusive Meets, Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network, and Autistics for Autistics. When looking for a positive organization to support, remember to look for organizations that have autistic members and that do not portray autism as something wrong or undesirable, but as something that needs to be understood and accepted. . The bulk of a positive autism organization’s funding should be directed towards services that benefit people with autism, such as education, communication, housing, health care, and advocacy itself, rather than finding a “cure” for autism. “As a SPED parent and teacher, the one thing I would want to raise awareness about autism, or any disability for that matter, is acceptance and kindness. I meet so many neurotypical students who struggle with it and bully others simply because they are different. Education starts at home. That being said, I encourage each of you to speak to the young people in your life and teach them that it is okay to be different and to always be kind and accepting of others,” says Madison resident Leslie McLeod.
So, Madison, show your acceptance and support by seeking autism education, listening to autistic voices, and lighting it blue! And remember, acceptance isn’t just an April thing. You can accept at any time of the year.