ASD 365: Inclusion & Equity Every Day


This article originally appeared in START Connecting in October 2021. 

The START ASD 365: Inclusion and Equity Every Day campaign was formed in the spring of 2021 in response to the need for greater intention regarding neurodiversity, inclusivity, equality, and acceptance of autistic individuals as part of our society. Individuals with disabilities, including ASD, have often been marginalized and face barriers with some of the most basic human rights, such as accessing community life. Research shows barriers related to employment, education, housing, mental health, and social and recreational opportunities (Agmon, Sa’ar, & Araten-Berman, 2016).

Additionally, those of us who are neurotypical can, inadvertently, come across as condescending or disrespectful through microaggressions (comments or actions that subtly and often unintentionally express a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group) (Jekel & Janks, 2021). Through our own education and listening to the experiences of autistic individuals, we can increase our understanding and become more inclusive.

Navigating articles, websites, debates, and language in an effort to grow personally and professionally, can feel both enlightening and confusing given the varied perspectives across autistic advocates, families, educators, and service providers. START is committed to the on-going provision of reliable resources with a diversity of views to continue conversations that move us toward authentic inclusivity. 

START has developed Critical Questions to offer thought provoking questions addressing equity for individuals on the autism spectrum. The critical questions are intended to guide and expand your thinking when making decisions about the practices we use, and prompt us to consider whose voices are included. These questions are a continuous work in progress and we spend more time on each of these questions in the future.  

As you pursue this journey, we invite you to consider START’s Compelling Why for the ASD 365 campaign:

It is crucial that individuals with autism and their families are fully included in their communities, moving society beyond an awareness limited to one month on the calendar to authentic acceptance, respect, and appreciation of all autistic individuals and their inherent worth as human beings with abilities, ideas, voices, and value every day of the year.

We encourage you to share the Compelling Why with others and look for additional resources, such as START’s Understanding, Acknowledging, and Respecting the Voices of the Autism Community, as we continue to engage in this learning. 

In closing, remember these quotations made by prominent autistic individuals.

  • “Different. Not less.” (Temple Grandin)
  • “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” (Stephen Shore)
  • “Autism doesn’t define me. I define Autism.” (Kerry Magrow)

Resources

Agmon, M., Sa'ar, A., & Araten-Bergman, T. (2016). The person in the disabled body: A perspective on culture and personhood from the margins. International Journal for Equity in Health, 15(1), 147. 

Jekel, D. and Janks, S. (2021). The weight of words. AANE Blog Post

Jones D. R., DeBrabander K. M., & Sasson N. J. (2021). Effects of autism acceptance training on explicit and implicit biases toward autism. Autism, 25(5),1246-1261.

Written by: Stacie Rulison, M.S., M.Ed., BCBA and Kimberly Miller, M.Ed., Project Consultants 

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