gearing up for april

Last year, Katie came to me with a question. “Mama,” she asked, “now that we don’t feel like we can support Autism Speaks anymore, what can I wear to school for Autism Awareness Day?”

While I know the question of what to wear may seem silly to some, we take our autistic pride pretty seriously around these parts, and Katie has always embraced the opportunity to honor and celebrate her sister by wearing something special on Autism Awareness Day. She has, with Brooke’s endorsement, spoken to her classmates about autism ever since she was in third grade. And a big part of it, for her, is finding a physically visible manifestation of both her pride in her sister and her plea for understanding and support of those on the spectrum. “Lighting it up blue” – whether it be the house, our cars, or ourselves, was our way to start conversations.

We still want to start those conversations, we just want to make sure to do it in a way that isn’t hurtful to Brooke and our autistic friends. And so we searched for another way.

I talk a lot about my frustration with what I call Cocktail Party Awareness. The most prevalent kind of “awareness” out there, it is far more a validation that marketing works than an assurance that anyone is actually trying to help autistic people to live a better life. Associating puzzle pieces with autism doesn’t help my child. Recognizing autism so that you can actually help to accommodate autistic people does. Being able to rattle off the latest CDC prevalence rates doesn’t make the world safer for my daughter. Understanding that her challenges don’t diminish her worth as a human being does. Lighting a building blue may tell us all that autism exists, but it doesn’t help us understand what it is or how we can help to support those who live life through its lens. It’s the conversations that matter.

So, if we’re not comfortable starting them in a way that we’ve been told time and again is offensive to so many of our own, then how? Or, to put it another way,

“Mama, now that we can’t support Autism Speaks anymore, what can I wear to school for Autism Awareness Day?”

So that’s how Diary’s Wearable Conversation Starters came to be. Here’s the little marketing spiel that I wrote for the Zazzle store ..

April is Autism Awareness month, but being truly aware takes a lot more than knowing the latest statistics. Let’s start a conversation. One at a time, we’ll change the world. Don’t forget to customize your shirt – blue, gold, or anything in between. Be you. Be proud.Wear the change you wish to see in the world.

Kinda catchy, no? Anyway, without further adieu, and in no particular order, here they are …

Capture

{Image is a photo of a white t-shirt on which are printed the following words:  “Autism, Awareness, Acceptance, Support, Love.” It’s shown in women’s basic white, but any of the items can be customized – Zazzle offers over 100 different styles and colors from infant onesies to men’s XXL t-shirts to adorable, American made hoodies. Click on the image to order as is or make it your own!}

Capture1

Image is a photo of a white t-shirt on which is printed, “Nonspeaking does not mean having nothing to say. Question what you think you know about autism.” It’s shown in women’s basic white, but any of the items can be customized – Zazzle offers over 100 different styles and colors from infant onesies to men’s XXL t-shirts to adorable, American made hoodies. Click on the image to order as is or make it your own!}

lastyear

Image is a photo of a white and light blue baseball style t-shirt on which is printed, “Autism Awareness is so last year. Ir’s time for Acceptance.” It’s shown in women’s white and blue, but any of the items can be customized – Zazzle offers over 100 different styles and colors from infant onesies to men’s XXL t-shirts to adorable, American made hoodies. Click on the image to order as is or make it your own!

Capture3

Image is a photo of a white t-shirt on which is printed, “Respect the stim. Celebrate neurodiversity.” It’s shown in women’s basic white, but any of the items can be customized – Zazzle offers over 100 different styles and colors from infant onesies to men’s XXL t-shirts to adorable, American made hoodies. Click on the image to order as is or make it your own!}

coolkids

Image is a photo of a blue t-shirt on which is printed, “Autism Acceptance – All the cool kids are doin’ it.” It’s shown in blue, but any of the items can be customized – Zazzle offers over 100 different styles and colors from infant onesies to men’s XXL t-shirts to adorable, American made hoodies. Click on the image to order as is or make it your own!}

Capture4

 Image is a photo of a white t-shirt on which is printed, “Autism is one word but there is no one autism.” It’s shown in basic white, but any of the items can be customized – Zazzle offers over 100 different styles and colors from infant onesies to men’s XXL t-shirts to adorable, American made hoodies. Click on the image to order as is or make it your own!}

Capture5

 Image is a photo of a white t-shirt on which is printed, “Let’s talk about autism.” It’s shown in women’s basic white, but any of the items can be customized – Zazzle offers over 100 different styles and colors from infant onesies to men’s XXL t-shirts to adorable, American made hoodies. Click on the image to order as is or make it your own!}

rushhour

Image is a photo of a white and light blue baseball style t-shirt on which is printed, “Tolerate rush hour – Celebrate human differences.” It’s shown in women’s white and blue, but any of the items can be customized – Zazzle offers over 100 different styles and colors from infant onesies to men’s XXL t-shirts to adorable, American made hoodies. Click on the image to order as is or make it your own!

And there you have it, friends. The Diary solution to what to wear in April. Because it’s never been about colors or puzzle pieces or brightly colored bulbs anyway. It is and always was about people. And the only way we’re going to change anything, really truly change anything, is one heart at a time. Grab a t-shirt (or a sweatshirt or a hoodie or whatever makes you happy) and let’s go start some conversations.

And don’t forget M’s awesome t-shirts too! His are only available for a couple more days, so don’t wait! Order those HERE

T-Shirt-Template-Red

{image is a photo of a person hitting a High Striker carnival game with a mallet in an attempt to ring the bell at the top. S/he must pass through Awareness and Acceptance to reach the goal — Respect. Across the top, the text reads, “TAKE THE CHALLENGE!” On the bottom, the text reads,” Autism Awareness Acceptance Respect Month.”}

8 thoughts on “gearing up for april

  1. Pingback: » gearing up for april

  2. These are all so awesome, I can’t decide which one to get! I also wanted to tell you I used your code for a yogibo for my daughter’s Christmas present. She loves it! Belated thanks for that great review.

  3. Thanks so much for this latest post, shared with me by a dear friend, and which I’ll be sharing in our web site’s updated “Autism Acceptance Month” post (instead of “Autism Awareness Day.”) In it I quote a gay activist who started a presentation by saying that “Tolerance is over-rated.” Love, acceptance, support and truly valuing each person for his or her unique being… That’s what it’s all about!

  4. Hi. I’m just now becoming aware of the issue with Autism Speaks and how wearing an Autism Awareness t shirt can actually be hurtful and not helpful. I actually just recently purchased an Autism Awareness t shirt (I don’t think it is affiliated to Autism Speaks at all, however) thinking I was doing something good and supportive and have encouraged all my colleagues to wear blue on the 2nd. Now I feel terrible (and a bit silly and dumb and uninformed!) Should I now discourage all of those people from doing so? I’m just wondering if it is better to show support (in the form of an Autism Awareness shirt or a blue shirt) or do nothing at all. At this point, I feel it is too close to the 2nd to bring these issues up to all my colleagues and have a meaningful conversation with all of them about why I’ve changed my tune. What do you recommend I do? 😦

    • Firstly, please don’t feel silly or dumb or any of those other things. Your intentions were wonderfulAnd are very, very much appreciated. As for the second part, I don’t even think it would be too late if it was the afternoon of April 2. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to share what you’ve learned and to have a meaningful discussion with them about what you’re really trying to accomplish. and if you’re not sure how to start the conversation, tell them that you came across this post and that it made you think very differently about some things and you wanted to share it with them. and encourage them to read the links, especially those written by autistic people 🙂

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