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COLUMN: Autism acceptance, not autism awareness

Elizabeth Sparling is the mother of a 24-year-old son with Autism Spectrum Disorder
A walk for autism awareness. (Black Press Media file photo)

I am the mother of a 24-year-old son with autism spectrum disorder.

My son is amazing! And not in the sense of he’s amazing because he’s done so many of the things that “typical” people do…

The language of normalization pushes me down. It diminishes. What is so great about normal or average, or above average for that matter? You can still be a jerk if you’re above average.

But I know that average or above average opens more doors. It gives you a place in the centre, away from the borderlands. Gloria Anzaldua describes those who dwell in the borderlands as individuals who do not fit into any single category – they “cross over, pass over, or go through the confines of the ‘normal.’” Individuals such as my son are living in the borderlands, sometimes encountering moments of belonging.

Autism Awareness Month is upon us, but I would challenge that we need more than awareness, we need acceptance. When I meet families of newly diagnosed children in my “day job” and they find out I’m a parent too, they ask: “how is your son now?”

He is amazing! I tell them that he graduated with a provincial Dogwood certificate, indicating he had met the same learning outcomes as his peers.

He is amazing! He has completed a certificate in Digital Communications at Camosun College, one course at a time, so that a one-year certificate became a five-year journey.

He is amazing! He maintains his own apartment space. Why do I tell these stories of normalized standards? Why can’t he simply be amazing, hands flapping, vocal stimming… It’s Autism Acceptance month – let’s endeavour to celebrate all of the aspects of our kids.

Dr. Elizabeth Sparling, DSocSci, BCBA

Mom of an amazing son

To read more about National Autism Awareness Month, go to


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