Subliminal Advocacy

Sometimes I prefer a subtle approach.

I’d rather scheme ways to raise “awareness” outside of public campaigns and school-sponsored lessons.

I find ways to do it on the down-low; to plant covert messages and watch as misconceptions crumble.

Of course, there is always a need to engage in overt actions. When my son was in lower elementary school, he was integrated into the regular education classroom, with the support of a 1:1 aide. And, like any parent of a special needs student, I spent an exorbitant amount of time strategizing with his teachers and support staff how best to teach and support him, and set up “sensitivity training” and “friendship” programs to ensure that his peers learned how to be sensitive and friendly.

To be sure, my highly-vocal advocacy of my son’s educational and social needs helped to cultivate an inclusive mindset in his classmates and teachers.

But, I often delighted in staging more subtle acts of education to alter perceptions and transform stereotypes. When his teachers allowed for modified assignments, I exploited my son’s class projects in order to spread insidious disability awareness propaganda.

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An impromptu, grassroots movement that sprung up in the last few days has evolved into one of the best Autism Awareness campaigns I’ve ever seen.   Beauty in simplicity — people on the spectrum, and those that love them, have been sharing pictures to counteract the fear surrounding Asperger’s and Autism in the wake of the Newtown shooting.  The media reported that the shooter was diagnosed with Asperger’s, and despite quick clarifications by the Autism Society and other advocates that no link exists between autism and violence, doubts voiced in the social media persisted, causing many of us to worry that all of our efforts to raise positive awareness had taken a few steps back.

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