Every year when Autism Awareness month comes around there is much intense discussion and difference of opinion in the Autism community. Like any community, there are some divisions within it. Some argue that we should be striving for acceptance – that awareness raising isn’t enough! They object to the word “awareness”. Some claim that organisations such as Autism Speaks just fear monger during April calling Autism a disease and that it is at epidemic proportions. Then there are those that focus on trying to find a cure for Autism – those who see Autism as a disease that needs to be cured. There are others who submit that campaigns such as these cure campaigns are divisive, that they are not the opinions of individuals with Autism – that Autism should be discussed in a respectful, dignified and compassionate way. And then there are the individuals with Autism. Some feel that the wrong kind of awareness raising will simply give others a reason to target them and to present Autism in a negative light. Those with Autism don’t always enjoy others speaking on their behalf, especially if they are being misrepresented and organisations such as Autism Speaks allegedly do not have any individuals with Autism within its organisation.
So what do I think? Whilst I relate very much to a number of the abovementioned concerns, I think that raising awareness brings about understanding, and with understanding comes acceptance. It’s hard to have acceptance without awareness/understanding. I think that whilst raising awareness and hopefully bringing about acceptance it is crucial to maintain the dignity of individuals with Autism, and that Autism should be spoken about with respect, positivity and compassion.
I would love to live in a world where Autism is understood, respected and accepted …. but for me it’s not just about Autism (although April is clearly about Autism!). I would like to see us embrace diversity as a society. We are all so beautifully and uniquely different. We have our own strengths and challenges, our own likes and dislikes, our own difficulties and things we find easy. As I visit schools and talk to teachers, it is evident that our classrooms are becoming increasingly diverse places. There are so many different needs within the one room, so many different backgrounds, so many different gifts. This should be embraced. We should all be able to acknowledge and claim our strengths and challenges, and realise that together we are stronger and richer. We should celebrate our differences and our similarities too. This understanding and embracing of diversity is inclusion in truth and action. And this applies to every individual in the classroom – neurotypical or not, learning disabled or not, Australian born or not, gifted or not, poor or not, literate or not, Christian or not, heterosexual or not.
I want to leave you with a beautiful book written by Shane DeRolf called “The Crayon Box that Talked”. I absolutely love this story about diversity. I’ll include the text here for you to read but there’s also a YouTube clip to a reading of the story book itself. It’s a beautiful story about how every crayon in the box is needed to create the perfect picture. Please share the story with others. It’s wonderful! Thanks Shane DeRolf for this treasure 😀
With awareness comes understanding. With understanding comes acceptance. With acceptance comes inclusion. Where there is inclusion, there is an acceptance and respect for diversity. Embrace diversity. It takes every shade of crayon to create the perfect picture.
The Crayon Box That Talked
By Shane DeRolf
While walking in a toy store, the day before today …
I overheard a crayon box with many things to say.
“I don’t like Red!” said Yellow.
And Green said, “Nor do I.
And no one here likes Orange,
but no one knows just why.”
“We are a box of crayons
that doesn’t get along.”
said Blue to all the others, “Something here is wrong!”
Well. I bought that box of crayons,
and took it home with me.
And laid out all the colours
so the crayons could all see …
They watched me as I coloured,
with Red and Blue and Green,
And Black and White and Orange,
And every colour in between.
They watched as Green became the grass
And Blue became the sky.
The Yellow sun was shining bright
On White clouds drifting by.
Colours changing as they touched,
Becoming something new.
They watched me as I coloured.
They watched ’til I was through.
And when I’d finally finished,
I began to walk away.
And as I did the crayon box had something more to say…
“I do like Red!” said Yellow.
And Green said, “So do I!
And Blue, you were terrific,
high up in the sky!”
“We are a box of crayons,
Each one of us unique.
But when we get together …
The picture is complete!”
The book is read by a class on the YouTube link below: