How to Cope with Autism Awareness Month

Four Methods:Handling NegativityPracticing Autism AcceptanceMaintaining Self CareManaging Negative Thinking

Every April, blue lights fill the stores, puzzle pieces multiply on Facebook feeds, discussion about autism increases, and the Autistic community braces themselves for the most difficult month of the year.[1][2][3] Being exposed to the pity, dehumanization, and eugenics can take its toll. Here is how to stay afloat while others talk about how people like you make the world a worse place.


Non-autistic people looking to support their autistic loved one can read Support an Autistic Person During Autism Awareness Month.

Method 1
Handling Negativity

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    Avoid people and organizations that participate in negative "light it up blue" and awareness campaigns. If your local sorority supports Autism Speaks, don't spend time there. If you get upset passing the blue lights in a store, go to a different aisle or store.
    • Blacklist tags such as #autism, #lightitupblue, #liub, #autismspeaks, and others.[4]
    • Some people choose to boycott groups that support Autism Speaks, such as Dollar General, Lindt, Toys R Us, and more.[5]
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    Be mindful when reading from the autistic community. Seeing people support Autism Speaks can be exhausting, and so can seeing people describe and dissect its every hurtful move. You may feel anxious simply from seeing so many mentions of it. Before entering or observing a discussion about autism awareness, ask yourself:
    • How much energy do I have?
    • How stressed am I right now? Can I take additional stress?
    • What am I doing after this? (You should not be reading upsetting content right before bedtime or before an exam.)
    • Am I prepared for seeing dehumanizing remarks repeated and discussed?
    • Are there trigger warnings? What about? Is it described as "possibly upsetting," "extremely disturbing," or somewhere in between?
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    Fight back against bigotry in your own way. It doesn't need to be big: posting a sticker of protest on an Autism Awareness ad,[6] sarcastically commenting on a hurtful post,[7] or posting positive/critical flyers[8] next to negative posters. Doing something small can help you feel that you've made a difference, and encouraged people to think critically about what they read.
    • Don't waste time arguing with people who don't care what you have to say. You won't change their mind.[9]
    • Remember, some people genuinely don't know what they're supporting.[10] People might post puzzle pieces on their blogs without having any idea what it represents.
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    Only involve yourself in activism that you can handle. You may find it empowering and helpful to fight negative messaging for the sake of all autistic people. However, it can also turn draining and depressing. You can't single-handedly turn the world into a safe place, nor should you try to. Your first duty is to yourself, so put your mental health first.
    • Consider focusing on spreading positive messages, as opposed to engaging with negative ones, if you are concerned about your mental health.
    • A drained activist is not an effective activist. If you push yourself beyond your limits, you aren't helping anyone. Take a break for a day or two, then see how you feel.
    • Take it one step at a time. Don't shackle yourself to a large project; only participate if and when you are emotionally strong enough.
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    Give yourself time limits. Writing a blog post about fighting stigma? Promise to work on it for 30 minutes and then quit for the day. Wondering how to educate a family member who is lighting it up blue? Schedule a "brainstorming time" to deal with it, perhaps with the help of a supportive friend. Each time you catch your thoughts drifting back to the subject, stop yourself. You will deal with it during the brainstorming time, and no other time.
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    Disengage if you start feeling uncomfortable. You are under no obligation to keep educating yourself or others if it is impacting your mental health. You can always come back when you feel calmer (if ever).
    • If a friend brings up ableism, use a script like "I appreciate that you want to discuss this with me. I'm a bit overwhelmed right now, so it's not a good time. Let's talk about something happier."[11]

Method 2
Practicing Autism Acceptance

Accepting yourself for who you are can boost your self esteem and remind yourself that you aren't the burden you're made out to be.

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    Involve yourself in autism acceptance events and positive groups. Insecurity during April is very common for autistic people, so the autistic community often holds events to help everyone stay positive. Look for...
    • Flashblogs
    • Give aways
    • Memes and hashtags like #RedInstead (formerly #WalkInRed)
    • Art events
    • Outreach opportunities to educate others[12]
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    Do something fun with your autistic friends. Enjoy a fun outing, catch up with each other, or just sit and watch movies about things you love together.
    • If all your autistic friends are online, that's okay. Message them and catch up with each other.
    • If you have no autistic friends, look for disability or autism clubs and support groups in person, and the hashtags #askanautistic and #actuallyautistic, where you can join conversations.
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    Look for the beauty in autism. Appreciate your autistic strengths, which may include focus, special interests, pattern recognition, passion, and creativity. Try making a list of your talents (autism-related and otherwise).
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    Look for positive depictions of autism. Balance out the dehumanization of autism with media that celebrates and reassures autistic people.
    • Look at autistic art, especially pictures of people stimming.
    • Read autism positivity blogs.
    • Look through WikiHow's autism category and the illustrations of happy autistic people.
    • Read other people's autistic headcanons.
    • Create your own material.
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    Show your autistic pride. Wear shirts with neurodiversity messages, stim in public, and wear red for #RedInstead.[13][14] This can affirm your self worth and send out positive messages to the public. Make your goal this April to care less about what other people think of you.
    • If you don't feel comfortable outing yourself, you can always say that it's for an autistic person you love (i.e., you).

Method 3
Maintaining Self Care

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    Spend extra time on your special interests and favorite things. Your passions have the power to restore your energy and make you happy.
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    Treat your body well. Good physical health supports your mental health. Set aside some "me time" each day.[15] Spend extra time this month caring for your body and treating it well.
    • Get enough sleep. Try to avoid screens or use f.lux in the evening.
    • Eat your favorite foods from a variety of food groups.
    • Spend time relaxing each day.
    • Make a doctor appointment if you are having problems with your physical or mental health.
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    Get moving. Activity can release endorphins in your brain, making you feel happier. (It's also good for your health.) Some examples of good activities include:
    • Dancing to your favorite music
    • Whole-body stimming (spinning, walking in circles, swinging, bouncing)
    • Swimming
    • Taking a walk with a loved one, or wandering on your own
    • Biking
    • Organizing your yard, garage, room, etc.
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    Make a rainy day box. Store positive messages that other people have written or said about you, and put them in a box. When you feel like a burden, look through the contents of the box. Consider...
    • Nice notes others have written for you
    • Good things they've said (write these down and add them to the box)
    • Emails, texts, and social media messages (print them or copy them down)
    • Asking close loved ones to contribute to the box; offer to do the same for them
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    Do activities that are meaningful to you. Helping others, and working on projects that make you feel motivated and productive, can boost your mood. Consider projects like...
    • Improving wikiHow articles about your special interest
    • Taking an online course about your favorite subject
    • Helping out a loved one
    • Volunteering for a cause you care about
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    Spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself. Consider your family, friends (autistic and otherwise), neighbors, mentors, et cetera. Whom can you be yourself around without any worries of judgment? Spend some extra time with those people, and thank them for being there for you.

Method 4
Managing Negative Thinking

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    Treat yourself like a friend. Each time you think a bad thought about yourself, stop to consider it. Would you talk to an autistic friend that way? Would you be okay with someone saying this out loud? If not, consider what kind words and advice you would give to a friend who had been told the same thing you told yourself. Then apply it to yourself.
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    Use relaxation exercises to calm yourself when you're stressed. If you notice yourself falling into anxiety or a guilt spiral , stop. Do one or two relaxation exercises. Then try to be mindful of your thoughts and feelings, without placing value judgments on yourself or trying to read other people's minds.
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    Allow yourself to be sad sometimes. Repressing negative feelings won't help you. It's okay to feel down when people are saying awful things about you and your community, and when others are supporting the group that does this. Give yourself time to process your pain, instead of pushing it to the side and letting it bottle up.
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    Talk to a supportive loved one about your feelings. If you're routinely feeling upset or down about yourself, tell someone you trust. You aren't being selfish by sharing your sadness; in fact, other people can usually tell that you're unhappy, and would rather have you open up to them than keep wondering and worrying about what's wrong. You deserve support, and you are not a burden.

Tips

  • Some people find it helpful to block it out of their mind completely.[16] Do what works best for you.

Warnings

  • If you are showing signs of depression, anxiety, or having thoughts of self harm or suicide, get a doctor appointment or contact a suicide hotline.

Article Info

Categories: Autism Spectrum | Stress Anxiety and Crisis Management