April is a time to embrace, accept autistic community


Infographic provided by Autism Society’s website

Francesca Messerschmidt, Staff Writer

Key Club board members present a check to the autism classroom at Eldorado High School

Now that April has arrived, there are hundreds of Facebook posts and Instagram stories being shared about Autism Acceptance Month, formerly known as Autism Awareness Month.

April is recognized as a time to celebrate and recognize autistic people, their accomplishments and to change the way society views autistic people. This year’s campaign is entitled “#CelebrateDifferences”.

In a 2021 study, the CDC found that 1 in every 44 children in the United States will be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ASD.

In spite of the commonality of this disorder, many people have a lot of misconceptions about  autism. One of the most popular beliefs is that autism can be transmitted through vaccines which is obviously not possible. Another belief that people have is that autistic people are either high or low functioning. Not only are those labels considered outdated by the autistic community, but autism is a spectrum. Autism comes with so many unique experiences, symptoms and presentations. It’s important to avoid viewing autism as a box into which people are placed. ASD isn’t a linear spectrum either, its spectrum is more like a circle, with different points for different areas of need.

Former Harrisburg student, Alex Messerschmidt shared his experience with being an autistic student in school.

“It definitely felt harder to me. I had a really hard time socializing,” Messerschmidt explained. “It was also hard to make friends, and I was probably a lot easier to bully.”

Interacting with autistic people shouldn’t be any different than any other type of interaction. Just because they may socialize in a different way, doesn’t mean they should be treated differently. Students should talk to them like they would talk to any other person,although clarification of expressions or tone is sometimes necessary. Talking to and making friends with autistic people isn’t scary; it’s just like any other type of conversation or friendship.

When it comes to supporting those with autism, a point of contention is the charity Autism Speaks, and its impact on the autistic community. Many people, autistic and supporters, have spoken out against the charity, describing it as a hate society. According to the Our Mission section of the Autism Speaks website, “Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the lifespan, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.” This statement is problematic in implying that autistic people need to be fixed or cured. Autism Speaks also lacks actual autistic people on their staff, leading people to believe that they speak over autistic people, instead of with them. 

On March 31, 2022, the Autism Self Advocacy Network released data showing that only 1% of Autism Speaks’ funds actually go to supporting autistic people and their families, while 48% goes to lobbying and “spreading awareness.” 

Autistic people don’t need to be fixed. Instead, the world needs to be accepting of autistic people. Children should be taught positive ways to interact with those who have autism, as well as other differently abled individuals. Likewise, high school students need to be taught, or even learn on their own, how to have acceptable interactions with students who fall on the autism spectrum.  We need to make the world more accessible to autistic people instead of trying to make them conform to what we think they need to be like. 

There are charities you can donate to this month to show your support, the following is a list of charities that use their donations to support the autistic communities: Autism Self Advocacy Network, Autism Society, Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation.

Key Club donated $600 to the WOVSED autism classroom housed at Eldorado High School. The money was collected in a fundraiser that started in the beginning of the semester.