April is Autism Acceptance Month. This special recognition, created in 1972 by the autism community, was changed from autism “awareness” to “acceptance” because the community wanted to move the conversation away from “awareness,” a word it considers stigmatizing, as if autism were a threat about which we must be vigilant.
Autism is certainly not that. Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a developmental disability characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. There are many subtypes of autism, most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. Over 7 million people in the United States are on the autism spectrum–people from all racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. According to the CDC, one in 44 children is diagnosed with autism.
The increased prevalence of autism, and a growing understanding of what it is and what it is not, underscores the urgent need for education, equitable access to diagnostic evaluations, and early interventions that have a significant impact on lifelong outcomes. Young people and adults with autism urgently need greater access to employment. Up to 85 percent of college educated adults with autism are unemployed, and over 70 percent of adults with autism are underemployed or unemployed. Especially in a time of chronic labor shortages, companies could benefit by hiring more people who have autism and are neurodiverse—these individuals bring a wide range of skills to the workplace that can be harnessed with modest accommodations.
The companies of The Fedcap Group have long embraced best practices around autism evaluation and early intervention, providing evidence-based treatment for children and their families living with ASD. Our companies are at the cutting edge of advocacy, employment, and support services for young people and adults living with autism—having just established the Greenleaf Neurodiversity Center in Austin TX, helping young people transition to rewarding, community-based jobs. These services have had a profound impact on so many lives—and stand as a powerful rebuke to the stigmatization of autism, and a resounding affirmation of acceptance. All of our lives are richer when people of all abilities participate fully in community life.
Please join us during Autism Acceptance Month in celebrating people of all abilities. Thank you for striving toward making acceptance the new normal.