Autism Awareness Day is April 2, and Autism Awareness Month is April.
These events just so happen to coincide with a new announcement from the CDC that autism prevalence is not 1:110 or even 1:80, but actually closer to 1:50 -- or possibly higher.
That's a lot of potential museum visitors, especially if you count in siblings, parents, grandparents, and support staff (aides, for example).
And if the museum experience is a hit the first time, you can bet you'll get return business.
But are "awareness" events really the right way to attract and keep a new audience? My guess is that the answer is NO. Those once-a-year visits may be a nice way to create positive PR for a few days, but they create the suggestion that people with autism should visit JUST ONCE A YEAR.
If you, like the Lincoln Children's Museum or the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, are planning a once-a-year "welcome" to families with autistic members, what will you do if your visitors have a positive experience? How will you continue to welcome those families the next day, when "autism awareness" is no longer the focus?
One-off events are a lovely gesture, and are genuinely appreciated by families with autistic members. But they are just one step toward true inclusion. Let's start generating ideas and programs that make autistic individuals welcome, not just on April 2, but year round.
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