I’d bet many of you know how shame feels. Probably from both the receiving and giving sides. Sometimes it’s unintentional, like when you say a blooper. Sometimes it’s purposeful, such as when you scold a child. Either way, shame hurts.

I have some quirky habits that make it possible for me to experience shame on an almost daily basis. My speech is an easy target. Sometimes I use vocabulary that doesn’t fit the conversation. Other times my speech is affected by a medical condition. Regardless, at least one person per day makes a comment that shames me.

April is Autism Acceptance month. You may be wondering what shame and Autism have in common. Quite a bit, actually.  If you buy into the rhetoric of a certain organization, Autistics need to be cured. How can I not feel shame when people are publicly promoting the idea that I’m defective because of my differences? How do family members feel when onlookers critique their loved ones? Shame.

Shame can lead to desperation. Feelings of worthlessness surface. Feelings of failure. Feelings of inadequacy. People are driven to find ways to help each other. It’s hardwired into most of us. The people who bring you “light it up blue” are the same ones who capitalize on these feelings to raise money that is used to move society a step closer to eugenics.

Autistic children grow up to become Autistic adults. A child who hears they are a burden remembers. A child exposed to hurtful speech remembers. A child who is told they are worthless remembers. The feelings of shame grow deeper as we age.

Acceptance is the key. Accept the differences. Accept the whole individual. Put an end to shaming others for being different. It starts with you.

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