In the United States, the CDC estimates that over 2 percent of adults, or around 5,438,000 individuals, are on the autism spectrum. Throughout history, individuals living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have made enormous contributions to art, science, and culture, and our overall understanding of ASD has come a long way.
However, autism is still stigmatized. Autistic individuals continue to face daily obstacles such as ableism, judgment, and pity, and autism itself is often treated as something that should be "cured" rather than accepted as a key element of a person's being.
Autistic Pride Day, which falls on June 18 and was first honored in 2005, aims to change that Autism pride should be accepted and encouraged, and this annual event seeks to shift cultural norms and promote a world where neurodiversity is better understood, highlighted, and celebrated.
The Origins of Autistic Pride Day
Autistic Pride Day, which is now over 15 years old, has only grown bigger with time. Today, the event is symbolized by an infinity symbol colored in with a rainbow pattern, which represents the amazing diversity of individuals on the autism spectrum and the infinite possibilities for their futures. The key to autism pride is self-acceptance, self-love, self-advocacy, and promoting the ability for ASD individuals to see themselves not as abnormal, but as proud representatives of different and equally valid ways of thinking and interacting with the world.
The celebration itself first came about in 2005, when it was established by the notable autism campaigning group Aspies For Freedom, who modeled their approach after the Gay Pride movement. The first celebrations had specific themes. In 2005, for instance, the theme was "Acceptance, Not Cure," and in 2011, it was "Recognize, Respect, Include." In recent years, the celebration has gone without a theme.
As Autistic Pride Day has grown, autism advocates have made great strides in furthering autism acceptance across popular culture. The event has been held at locations all over the world, but in 2021 it will mostly be an online celebration due to COVID-19.
It's worth noting that because this day is about autistic people celebrating themselves on their own terms rather than being defined by others, there is no one right way for autistic people to celebrate the occasion. The day is meant to give autistic people an opportunity to feel proud of who they are, so they can celebrate it however they want, whether that includes participating in a celebration event, getting together with friends, or simply engaging in a favorite activity on their own terms.
Why Autism Pride Matters
Every day, individuals on the spectrum are made to feel ashamed of who they are through ableism, microaggressions, or outright hostility. Even though the world has come a long way, autism is still largely viewed as something to be pitied, cured, or treated as a condition that stands in the way of a career, social engagement, or a fulfilling life.
None of these longstanding impressions are true, and all of them are offensive. While autistic people may be different, which can present difficulties in a society constructed around neurotypical norms, that does not mean that neurodiverse individuals, such people on the ASD spectrum or people with ADHD, have anything wrong with them. Rather, it shows that there are many, many variations of the human brain, and all should be treated as equally valid.
While accepting neurodiversity is the first step, what comes next is embracing and celebrating it. That is the road into the future that Autistic Pride Day is paving, and hopefully, every year on June 18, another autistic person feels more comfortable, happy, and accepting of who they are.
On June 19, members of the Autistic Pride Alliance will present the online event "Autistic Pride 2021," featuring an array of neurodivergent speakers and organizations.
To learn more Register today.