Happy Autistic Pride Day!
June 18th is Autistic Pride Day, and was founded to recognize autism as a difference to be celebrated and understood.
I am not autistic myself, but many of my family members are, and I’ve noticed that the benefits of being autistic — being focused, perceptive, and creative — are often overlooked.
I’ve also noticed that much of the conversation is about autistic people — not by them. Many people feel that being autistic is a part of who they are, something they don’t want to change. I asked people to share their experiences.
“The word ‘disorder,’ and the huge debate as to whether vaccines cause autism, make it seem like some dreadful disease that no one would wish on their enemy, let alone their own child or family member,” wrote Robin Young.
Robin spoke about the challenges he faced. Despite them, he founded his own business, Fitness Savvy. “I feel the benefits of having autism, especially where I am on the spectrum, outweigh the negative aspects,” he said.
In my experience, autistic kids are more likely to thrive when they’re given the opportunity to nurture their talents. But our community needs to step up.
If you Google “autism” or “autistic,” you’ll see an image of a blond boy. Autism is traditionally thought to occur in boys, but it affects girls too — and girls experience autism differently. Black and Latino children are often diagnosed later than white children, missing crucial help.
All those kids grow up to be adults, who are often left out of conversation and research about autism. When kids turn 22, services drop off dramatically. Businesses are increasingly finding benefits in employing autistic people, but it’s not enough. Autistic people are more likely to become homeless. They also frequently have anxiety.
What can we do?
Support organizations that have autistic people prominently in their organizations, such as the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.
Work toward inclusivity, and educate about neurodiversity. “Kids and adults do a much better job of accepting differences in each other if they feel they understand them,” said Julia Cook, former school counselor and author of Uniquely Wired.
Work toward funding for programs to help autistic people succeed — not just as kids, but throughout adulthood.
And change the focus: view autism as a difference to support and be proud of.