Autism Acceptance Week is just around the corner, and landmarks around the region will light up gold to support the acceptance of autism as a way of being.

The North East Autism Society made sweeping changes in 2019. We started talking about acceptance instead of awareness, we went gold instead of blue, and we fully embraced the infinity loop symbol after binning controversial puzzle piece imagery across all our services in 2018.

All this came from listening to autistic voices. The gold infinity loop symbol now widely used for autism acceptance was created by campaigners at Autistic UK, who derived the design from the rainbow infinity loop used to represent neurodiversity.

Gold was chosen as the colour for the new infinity loop as it had already been adopted by some autistic groups, not only for the positive meanings that gold held, but also because the chemical symbol for gold is Au.

Autistic campaigners had also made it clear that campaigns for autism awareness were not working for them.

Lucie, a 15-year-old member of our Autism Activists group, said:

Most people are aware of autism, but they don’t understand it well enough to be able to accept it. It’s a starting point but it’s not really effective enough.

Fellow activist Ed, 18, added: “You can be aware of something without accepting it, but you can’t accept something without being aware of it.”

In some cases, wider awareness without positive action has sometimes led to autism being misunderstood or stigmatised.

This was something Ed witnessed from other pupils in mainstream schools, adding “there was a phrase that kept really annoying me, people, whenever somebody did something stupid or bad, or anything, they’d say ‘are you autistic?’ And that made no sense to me, because why would those things have to relate?”

Promoting acceptance means combating these misunderstandings and assumptions about autism, and instead embracing positivity around neurodiversity, the natural differences that occur in everyone’s brains, and how different ways of thinking can benefit everyone.

“I think being autistic really gives you a different perspective on things,” Lucie said.

She added: “In a practical sense, autistic people can bring something new to the table.”

Find out more about Autism Acceptance Week