By: Emma Nowak, Lead Teacher/Parent & Family Education Coordinator
April is Autism Awareness month, but this year you might be seeing some different information. Why is the autistic community shifting from awareness to acceptance?
As our world and culture evolve, we as individuals and our language must evolve with it. We are all well aware of autism at this point; it’s time to do more. Past ideologies say that autism is a deficit, something that needs to be fixed so that autistic people can “fit in” with everyone else. This is not the case! Autistic people are capable individuals that should not have to change who they are to be accepted. This means that it’s time for neurotypical people to change–to challenge their perspectives and behaviors, to be uncomfortable, and to make space at the table for others.
How are we doing this at the JCC? I think that our philosophy goes hand-in-hand with this model, but talking about it with this perspective makes it all the more real and effective. Sometimes we get push back about how Conscious Discipline (CD) will work with kids on the spectrum. Will CD work despite being neurodiverse? But we know CD works because of neurodiversity. CD is a social-emotional framework and if you view autism through a social model, it makes perfect sense!
Working with children to set up an accepting future for them is great, but there are already over 5 million autistic adults in the US. You might be thinking, but what can an Early Childhood Education program do about that–we work with kids? But that’s not true–we work with parents, teachers, and
other staff every day. And I have been BLESSED to work with autistic parents, teachers, and staff. I am proud that our department is dedicated to creating a more diverse and inclusive team. There is always work to be done, so let’s continue this conversation. Share online, think to yourself, or talk to your friends–how has autism impacted you and how are you impacting the way we talk about autism?
Lead Teacher/Parent and Family Education Coordinator