April is “Autism Awareness Month.” 30 days dedicated to raising awareness. Specialists will share information relating to the tendencies and qualities of the spectrum. Organizations will host several sessions for newcomers to learn how to become better allies. And the world will, hopefully, become more welcoming of Autism.

Assistees was started to raise awareness, but more importantly - emphasize its importance. Throughout the years, there has been a spike in police brutality cases stemming from ignorance. For example - an officer, investigating a crime scene, notices a possible suspect walking past. The officer asks the man to stop for questioning, so the man gestures and continues walking. Thinking this is suspicious, the officer restrains the man, using violent tactics to detain him. Unfortunately, this results in the death of the young man. This man was Freddie Gray.

Consider how this case could’ve been avoided if the police officer were trained to approach those on the spectrum. Consider how the police officer could’ve used nonverbal cues to communicate with Freddie. Consider how Freddie could still be alive today if the police officer were simply "aware."

A few years ago, a young man once wrote of his mother, “I aspire to care about the world like you do. I aspire to love as much as you do. I aspire to have the mind-set that you do, to care for those that… That aren’t prepared for what’s to come.”

Later on that week, the young man drove to his job on a rainy night, but never returned home. When his family inquired about his disappearance, they learned he was involved in a car crash. He sped onto First Colonial Road and drove straight into oncoming traffic - before striking another car head-on. He exited his car, got flustered, and fled the scene.

The young man was later found, arrested, and sentenced to serve 10 years in prison for malicious wounding and hit-and-run. Although, the prosecutor failed to mention that this young man was Autistic, and never intended to hurt anyone. This young man is Matthew Rushin, who - like he previously wrote - only wanted “to care about the world.”

Awareness is not just making the world more sensory-friendly; it’s making the world more understanding of Autism. If society studied the traits of the spectrum, police officers would be better able to question Autistic people. If society understood the qualities of neurodiversity, the judicial system would be better able to judge those on trial. If society understood cognitive diversity, the world would be safer for all those considered different. 

For people like Freddie. For people like Matthew. Or for people in general.

Happy Autism Awareness Month.