Autism Awareness: The Voices of Acceptance and Inclusion

Here we are in April, which is Autism Awareness Month. But I am not here to make you aware of Autism. While you may not know the intricacies of the diagnosis, I feel fairly confident that you are already “aware” of Autism. Awareness is not enough. Awareness is the first step. And while it’s a great and important first step, I think people are ready for the next one. Let’s move the conversation from one of awareness to one of acceptance and inclusion.

group of kids huggingAcceptance and Inclusion

Instead of spending time discussing What is Autism? and How do I recognize Autism?, let’s focus on questions like What can I do to help those affected by Autism? It is important for us to move past the passive knowing and into the active doing of acceptance and inclusion.

Since acceptance and inclusion are active processes, it is through these things that change can be made. And isn’t change the ultimate goal?

So what can we (you know, the average “I want to do good and make a difference but I also realize I have limited time and resources for said things” type of person) do to help encourage change? The answer is – A LOT! For some, it may be talking with school boards or writing advocacy letters to local leaders. However, for many others change can be made through your everyday interactions and conversations.

Opening Up the Conversation

Who better to discuss ways to promote acceptance and inclusion than the mothers who experience Autism first-hand?

These women provide insight into how their children’s diagnoses have affected both their and their child’s feelings of acceptance and inclusion.

Friends with neurotypical kids don’t really understand the struggles and anxiety that come along with being a mom of a neurodivergent child…then with the group of moms that also have kids on the spectrum, it’s tough because the conversations tend to revolve around the therapies, the struggles, the small wins- and I don’t want the diagnosis to define who we are.

I’ve been able to be in organized activities such as Bible study with women of varied ages and walks of life and I’ve felt accepted in that setting.

Over the years, we have just been left off the invitation lists or forgotten all together.

I’ve learned that the people who choose to be in our lives are there for a reason.

Show, Teach and Practice Acceptance and Inclusion

Next time you see a child having a tantrum, or eating something unhealthy due to picky eating, or a bit out of control – don’t judge, and extend some grace…cause what you are seeing is the tip of the iceberg – there is a lot more there to unpack.

I would love for kids to be more empathic, and understand that my kid is not trying to push them or scream at them…he is trying to play/interact, but doesn’t know how.

Kids learn so much from their peers, and that’s why inclusion is so important.

The best way to show you care is by asking me to coffee and being a good caring listener.

It’s okay to ask questions. It’s the best way to learn.

Just say hi and sit with him. You may not have a deep conversation with him but he will enjoy your presence and you will enjoy his.

This April, try to do more than just practice awareness of Autism. Move into action and find ways to make change happen. All people can be a part of the action. Acceptance and inclusion are key pieces in taking the next step forward.


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Elyssa Gottheim
Elyssa was born and raised in Houston. Deciding to try out life in the cold weather, Elyssa attended University of Michigan for undergrad and University of Chicago for grad school. After obtaining her LCSW {licensed clinical social worker}, Elyssa decided that she was not cut out for the cold and moved back to Houston in 2012. Shortly after her move, Elyssa met her husband, Paul. Elyssa and Paul have been married for 6 years and have two children – Henry {October 2018} and Josephine {March 2021}. After working in schools, hospitals, and community clinics, Elyssa currently has a private practice where she specializes in working with children, adolescents, young adults, and parents. When she isn’t working or chasing after her kids, Elyssa’s favorite activities can be described as the ultimate mom cliché – baking, working out, and napping. Elyssa is a huge fan of trying new restaurants and dining spots especially if it involves any form of dessert!


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