Statement From Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald On Autism Acceptance Day

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 2, 2024) – On this Autism Acceptance Day, the New York State Department of Health wishes to acknowledge and celebrate all New Yorkers across the autism spectrum, and reaffirm our commitment to removing barriers to health care that people with autism face.

Autism is a spectrum, meaning individuals with autism often have different manifestations of this disease with different impacts on their health and wellness. I am a proud father of two wonderful sons with autism. My sons see and experience the world differently from each other and from many others, yet they reflect the very best parts of humanity. I am a better man, father and physician because of the profound impact they have had on me. I learn from them every single day.

For people across the spectrum, barriers to health care may result from difficulty making appointments, communicating with medical providers, or dealing with crowded waiting rooms, which can trigger sensory sensitivities. Adjusting for their needs to access care—including their communication needs—is critical to the Department's push for health equity.

The month of April is Autism Acceptance month, which is sometimes referred to as Autism Awareness Month. This shift in language from awareness to acceptance—promoted by the Autism Society of America in 2020—is significant. While awareness reflects the need to educate the public about autism, acceptance goes a step further to embrace the autistic community as they are, with all of their strengths and challenges.

Acceptance is an important factor in building strong, community-based support systems. People with autism need both understanding and empathy to be fully respected by and included in their communities. Ultimately, that is the goal of this month—not just to recognize and celebrate the strengths of the autistic community, but to push for inclusion.