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World Autism Awareness Day: The Autistic OT

For World Autism Awareness Day, I interviewed Sarah Selvaggi Hernandez, occupational therapist (OT), professor, children’s book author, and social media influencer, The Autistic OT.

Me: It’s April, the year 2020. What’s going on with autistic culture?

The Autistic OT: This year, April is being felt differently around the world. Autistics everywhere are living a new reality in the midst of experiencing a pandemic. Now, more than ever, it is crucial to unify behind autistic culture to gather strength for the future of advocacy. Autistic people know best what it means to be autistic, and they are the true experts. The world needs to learn from autistic people.

Me: What is going on in April?

The Autistic OT: During April, we will be celebrating Autism Acceptance throughout the entire month. We ask that people learn from #ActuallyAutistic people about what it means, and to move beyond awareness and to acceptance. Check out NeuroClastic for articles written by autistic authors representing the diversity of #allautistics.

You can find more information here!

2. Why do you use “Autistic Acceptance” over “Autism Awareness”?

The Autistic OT: As an autistic, every word I say or write typically comes with a lot of thought and consideration.

Therefore, once upon a time, autism awareness made sense as people were simply unaware. Industrialization brought about the rapid sequestering of people and isolation from the innate sensory regulators of nature. As autistics became increasingly dysregulated by the neurotypical demands of the environment, professionals began to finally realize it as a distinct neurotype.

However, we are well aware of autism at this point. I invite you to “level up” to acceptance!

3. NeuroClastic did a poll of over 2000 autistic adults recently, and 93% preferred to be called “autistic” or “autistic person” over “person with autism.” Why do people prefer “autistic” over “people with autism”?

TheAutisticOT: Again, I refer to the above statement: I care a lot about words. To me, using the phrase “with autism” separates autism from me. That is literally impossible; it is, spiritually and physically, my life.

Take a look at this article and accompanying video on identity-first language.

4. How can we find autistic people on social media this month?

TheAutisticOT: Hashtags! Hashtags are a quick, easy way to access a compendium of clicks to autistic knowledge, insight, and advocacy.

Here’s just a few: #actuallyautistic, #allautistics, #RedInstead, #LightItUpGold, #AutisticGold, and #OurGoldenMoment. You can also use #AskingAutistics to ask autistic people questions and learn more.

5. What was Day of Kindness?

The Autistic OT: From the person who conceived this idea, Wolf Traverso of,

As system disruptors, we are turning the prank on April Fool’s Day. First, we are going to claim the day as the Day of Kindness! April begins Autism Awareness Month, which is typically centered around the notion of charity for people “with autism” and their parents.

Instead, we are claiming Autistic Acceptance month, and April 1 is to demonstrate that we are charitable, not charity cases, and that we contribute positively to the world. Then, we are going to mobilize to show the world the beauty in the spectrum. While most people are gathering saran wrap and toilet paper, we will be gathering kind words, acts, and deeds on the Day of Kindness.

6. Why avoid pranks?

The Autistic OT: Pranks are a tricky thing. Some autistic people love the dysregulation of being tricked, while many others do not enjoy the experience at all. Also, autistic people are often bullied by people. Pranks may be retraumatizing for an autistic because of their past experiences, even if you are only intending to be playful.

Because you never know what someone’s preferences are in that moment, pranks and tricks may be best when you know the other person has consented to being pranked.

7. What is April 2?

The Autistic OT: It is World Autism Awareness Day! We are also encouraging people to have their #OurGoldenMoment and openly shine in the brilliance of their authentic autistic self. We are inviting people to “come out” as autistic, or as a #NeuroLurker.

Think you might be neurodivergent? ADHD? Autistic? Both? Yes? Neither. You might be a #NeuroLurker.

Most people who embrace being autistic as a culture– as opposed to a disease or illness– prefer symbols like the gold infinity symbol, the rainbow infinity, (or any infinity symbol) and Âû. However, most do not align with Autism Speaks because of their repeated refusals to appropriately represent and empower the autistic community.

World Autism Awareness Day: The Autistic OT

Terra Vance

Terra Vance is an industrial and organizational psychology consultant specialized in diversity, inclusion, multiculturalism, and poverty dynamics. She founded NeuroClastic, Inc., a nonprofit organization led by actually-autistic individuals and showcasing autistic perspectives and talents. Parents, service providers, educators, employers, and autistic individuals will find a wealth of information and resources at NeuroClastic for self-advocacy and supporting autistics. To contact Terra via email, click here.

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APA Reference
Vance, T. (2020). World Autism Awareness Day: The Autistic OT. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2020, from


Last updated: 2 Apr 2020
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