Anthony Ianni is a National Motivational Speaker for the Relentless Tour to eradicate bullying, an initiative of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. Anthony was diagnosed on the spectrum with Pervasive Developmental Disorder at the age of four and struggled with bullying throughout childhood. He rose above the low expectations of doctors and specialists to graduate from Michigan State University and play basketball for Tom Izzo during his time there. He was the first Division 1 Basketball player in NCAA History to be diagnosed with autism. This week Anthony shared some of what he has learned about bullying and autism advocacy.
1. Read a blog authored by an autistic person.
This is an important step in hearing the voices of people on the spectrum. You will see how they are self advocating and what you are doing to either help or hurt their cause. I guarantee you will learn something.
2. Change your language.
The language of advocacy can have important consequences on your overall message. For example, learn about the difference between person-first and identity-first language and how the autistic people in your life choose to identify. Also be careful about using words like “cure” or “fix” or any language that only references what is negative about autism.
3. Purchase autism neurodiversity gear.
Sometimes a spark for change begins with a simple conversation. An easy and unobtrusive way to encourage conversation is by sporting neurodiversity gear. The colorful autism puzzle piece symbol is too vague (and even offensive to some) to promote autism acceptance. Instead, try finding promotional items specifically mentioning neurodiversity or autism acceptance.
4. Learn more about stimming and why it’s important.
Many parents and therapists aim to correct harmless stims in an effort to make an autistic person appear more “normal.” But these stims serve an important purpose in helping people on the spectrum regulate sensory input and organize functional behavior. Discouraging stims is often counterproductive to teaching desirable behaviors.
5. Visit autismacceptancemonth.com and sign the pledge for autism acceptance.
The pledge asks people to advocate only in panels, for organizations, and at events that meaningfully involve autistic people.
6. Read The Spoon Theory.
This article by Christine Miserandino helps depict the daily fatigue disabled people experience. This portrayal helps nondisabled people better understand and advocate for the needs of those on the spectrum.
7. Read the Loud Hands: Autistic People Speaking anthology.
This anthology will open your eyes and ears to the voices of people everywhere on the spectrum. It is written entirely by autistic people and discusses a variety of different advocacy topics.
8. Visit the ASAN website and learn more about their mission.
ASAN is an organization aimed to improve disability rights related to autism. They offer advocacy resources to improve personal independence as well as advocate for policy changes on a national stage. Their motto is “Nothing About Us, Without Us!”
This is ASAN’s first published ebook. You’ll hear essays focused on autism acceptance and respecting the dignity and voice of everyone on the spectrum.
10. Review the resources for parents at autismacceptancemonth.com
This website has loads of resources neatly organized into categories for parents, self-advocates, educators, and employers. Acceptance begins with reading and understanding more about the experiences, capabilities, and desires of those on the spectrum. This website has a variety of resources to serve this end.