COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The month of April used to be known as Autism Awareness Month, but it’s now called Autism Acceptance Month.
Last year, the Autism Society of America announced the shift in terminology, and local health professionals say it’s a welcome change.
Experts at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center say the modification from awareness to acceptance is a huge step in creating a more inclusive community for those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
Tema Krempley says she was 24 when doctors diagnosed her with autism.
“This is not uncommon for autistic women to get a late diagnosis,” she said.
She said the word “awareness” has a lot of stigmas among the autistic community, so she’s grateful for the change to Autism Acceptance Month.
“It’s a big deal, the autistic community, like, actual autistic community, has been fighting for years to get a change to acceptance,” Krempley said.
Krempley received her master’s degree in social work at Ohio State. She’s now employed under her mentor, Erin Harris at the OSU Nisonger center with the autism self-advocacy program.
“We run a couple different small groups around social skills, anything from building your employment skills to your relationship skills,” Harris said about the center.
She and her colleagues who have worked in the field of autism for many years breathed a sigh of relief with the shift from awareness to acceptance.
“You think of awareness, you’re really just thinking of, like, ‘Ok, let’s pay attention to these folks,’ versus let’s actually welcome them into our community,” Harris said.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates more than two percent of all adults in the United States have autism spectrum disorder. Harris said small changes to make the workforce a bit more accessible to those on the spectrum can go a long way in helping them become successful.
“The Autism Puzzle,” NBC4’s half-hour special created to raise awareness and provide information on autism spectrum disorder will air Thursday, April 7, 2022.