Support autism awareness?

World Autism Awareness Week takes place until April 7

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Support World Autism Awareness Week?

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

World Autism Awareness Week does exactly as its name suggests: it spreads awareness about the spectrum condition.

A charity is using the awareness week to encourage people to view autism as a "development difference, not a disorder".

However, not everybody is a fan - they argue that the week suggests that people with autism are a problem to be aware of.

The Claim

Ahead of World Autism Awareness Week, a charity has highlighted the strengths of people with autism, the Independent reports.

Inspiring Scotland launched an awareness campaign that encourages people to "view autism as a development difference, not a disorder".

Working with the Scottish government, they want to "publicise autism as a different way of thinking rather than a condition that can be cured".

As part of their awareness campaign, they want to improve diagnosis and care for children and adults with autism. They also want to improve support for newly-diagnosed autistic people and their families, as well as updating the autism resource available to schools.

Celia Tennant, Inspiring Scotland chief executive, said: "These steps aim to increase society's understanding of autism, to move away from stereotypes and to make clear the many strengths autistic people bring to society.

"We are proud to be a partner in this programme and look forward to working with autistic people, charities and organisations to create change for autistic people in Scotland."

The Counterclaim

Lydia Wilkins, who was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome, argues that she will not support Autism Awareness Week, because "autistic people are not a ‘problem’ to be aware of". Writing for Metro, she argues that it should be renamed Autism Acceptance.

She argues: "Awareness does not automatically lead to acceptance, but not challenging harmful tropes and ideas can lead to harmful incidents."

Wilkins says that autism has been viewed as a problem - something to be ashamed of, kept quiet, or 'cured'. She says this is "offensive" to her.

She said: "I am not broken, nor a missing puzzle piece, vaccine damaged or injured. I am a whole human being, just like everyone else."

Wilkins also criticises some charities for their 'pity these poor people' approach, arguing that it "does not work and is archaic beyond belief".

She adds: "Instead, charities should promote acceptance. Autistic people need to be valued as much as anyone who is considered ‘normal’."

The Facts

World Autism Awareness Week takes place in the UK between April 1 and April 7. In the middle of the awareness week is Autism Awareness Day, which is celebrated globally on April 2.

This year's theme is “Assistive Technologies, Active Participation”, focusing on how digital technologies can help people with autism reduce or eliminate barriers to their participation on an equal basis with others.

According to the Autism Society, it is estimated that around 700,000 people in the UK have the spectrum condition.

Autism is defined as a "lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others".

They explain: "Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. If you are autistic, you are autistic for life; autism is not an illness or disease and cannot be 'cured'. Often people feel being autistic is a fundamental aspect of their identity."

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