#LightItUpBlue, #LightItUpGold, or #RedInstead?

April 2 is World Autism Day. How are you marking the day?

The campaign #LightItUpBlue, which we have mentioned in previous posts, was created by Autism Speaks in 2010 to mark Autism Awareness Day. Supporters are encouraged to wear blue, use the hashtag on social media, and attend the many events held throughout the country during the month of April to raise awareness and support individuals with autism. This campaign and the organization, however, have been controversial within the autistic community. The concerns of autistic people and advocates are complex and describing them is beyond the scope of this post. However, we invite readers to explore these topics further, particularly if you work with neurodiverse individuals.

Given many behavior analysts work with neurodiverse people, it is important we consider these issues as we strive towards a culturally responsive practice. The purpose of this piece is to invite behavior analysts to explore what it means to #LightItUpBlue and what (if anything) they could do instead.

#LightItUpGold is an alternative movement that stems from Au, which is used by autistics as a self-identifier and is also the international chemical symbol for gold. The focus is on authenticity and acceptance, with messages from authentic autistic voices. Another alternative movement, #RedInstead, supports autistic people with an emphasis on acceptance and inclusivity. Instead of focusing on awareness campaigns, this movement focuses on inviting people to become allies of autistic people, seeking and listening to autistic voices.

Many leading organizations, such as the Autism Society of America, Autistic Women and Non-Binary Network, and Autistic Self-Advocacy Network support a shift from awareness to acceptance. As such, April is referred to as #AutismAcceptanceMonth.

As behavior analysts who work with autistic individuals, we could follow autistic voices on social media, amplify the voices of autistic people, and consider how our own values impact the services offered and delivered. For instance, we may want to evaluate the different stances regarding the use of person-first or identity-first language. By better understanding diverse perspectives, we will be better equipped for communicating with stakeholders and delivering behavioral services. This April, let’s focus on expanding our understanding by listening to autistic voices and being open to adapting our behavior accordingly.

If you are autistic or work with this population and would like to contribute to our celebration of #AutismAcceptanceMonth in this space, please contact me.

Many thanks to the students and colleagues who have shared resources and provided safe spaces to learn about this topic.

Image credit: Photo by Ryan Stone on Unsplash