Today is Autism Pride Day.
I didn’t know. I only know the importance of today because I looked up a cultural calendar a month or so ago. Have I been living in a box? Have I missed all the posts and the signs? I feel I’m fairly well informed on the subject, I look for news and information on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) regularly, and yet I wasn’t aware of the day dedicated to celebrating neurodiversity? Even Google’s logo is bare and boring today. Of all places, surely the site that celebrates even the birthday’s of people I’ve never heard of should be shouting?
I could complain about the lack of awareness, however I would prefer to talk about one of the possible reasons this day isn’t as “popular” as some others. Aside from the topic making some neurotypical people uncomfortable, that is. This is because Autistic Pride Day has always been a community event. By the people, for the people. It is not a day for other organisations to promote themselves by stifling autistic people, and isn’t that refreshing?
The aim of Autistic Pride Day is to change the perception of autistic people so they are not seen as people requiring treatment, but as unique individuals, just like everyone else. The first step is raising awareness. The rainbow infinity symbol is used as the symbol of this day to represent “diversity with infinite variations and infinite possibilities” (which is neat!)
I know from my own experience about feeling isolated. Feeling like you don’t belong. Knowing that you’re different but not knowing why. Not knowing why it even matters.
I want to share a poem with you that actually made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. That might not sound like a good thing, but discomfort is a sign that it is well written and powerful; it hit a bit too close to home for me. This poem, Trapped, by Emily Atkinson-Dalton, captures something I never could with my own words, so please take the time to have a read: https://the-art-of-autism.com/emily-atkinson-dalton/
When I was growing up, Autism didn’t really exist as far as most people were concerned. You didn’t get tested, you just had to get on with it. My issues socialising were brushed off as being down to missing school during my formative years. I was always singled out by my peers and isolated. I wasn’t like them, and I never would be. Even when I was technically an adult, I didn’t understand the cause of my anxiety and frustration. I still haven’t had any formal testing, however the signs are all there.
Things have come leaps and bounds since then, and my daughter had her diagnosis of ASD earlier this year (for reference, she was four at the time). I am happy in the knowledge that my daughter won’t have to feel alone and isolated as she grows up. We knew before she started school that she was incredibly gifted, and that was the first sign for us. Her difficulties didn’t come into the equation. We celebrate the way she figures out how to play songs on piano without ever being shown. We bragged to her teachers that knew the alphabet in sign language at age three, or that she could count to 100 at age four.
Society’s attitude towards autism is often one of pity or a belief that it is a condition requiring treatment. That isn’t what Autism is to me. To me, Autism isn’t a disability or a disorder. It’s a difference. Everyone is unique and interesting, and Autism is just one word to describe one aspect of who I am. It is an important part of my personality, and most of the things I consider my strengths come from it.
Today of all days, let’s celebrate the diversity around us and acknowledge that everyone’s individuality only adds to the world around them.
As always, feedback is greatly appreciated. If you have enjoyed this post, or found anything useful in these words, please let me know with a like or a comment. It helps me know what to keep writing, so please share your opinion however you feel comfortable. If you want to help me improve my understanding of anything, leave a comment or contact me on my Contact page.
Most importantly, always keep celebrating the things that make you you.