Today, June 18th, is Autistic Pride Day. It’s a day created by autistics and for autistics to stand in contrast against all of the negativity and stigma surrounding autism and celebrate our differences, neurodiversity, and awesome autistic uniqueness.
It sounds awesome, and Autistic Pride Day is something I’ve supported for several years now. The only problem is, I have no idea exactly how I’m supposed to celebrate it. Sort of embarrassing, I know, but I figure this is just an open opportunity to celebrate it my way. To start on this, I turned to my trusty friend Google and found two relevant definitions for the word “pride,” and I think both of them fit the definition for the “pride” in Autistic Pride Day. The first is “a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, or from qualities of possessions that are widely admired.” The second is “confidence and self-respect as expressed by members of a group, typically one that has been socially marginalized.”
So, after mulling over those definitions and reading this excellent post on Autistic Pride Day from 11-year-old autistic blogger Cadence, I have decided that my way to celebrate Autistic Pride Day is to share what Autistic Pride means to me with the autistic readers of this blog.
The first definition talks about finding satisfaction from qualities, though the little caveat at the end of the definition about pride-worthy qualities having to be “widely admired” isn’t something I’m too fond of. Unfortunately, our beautiful autistic qualities and characteristics do not yet have wide acceptance, and autism is still incredibly stigmatized. I say that we can be proud of our autistic qualities even if they do not yet find widespread acceptance. We’re living our lives with an attribute that less than 2% of the population will ever get to experience. It’s an entirely different way of being that most humans will never know, like an exclusive club you must be born into. I think that in itself is pretty cool, and is definitely something to be proud of! As I’m sure you’re aware, I bet you have at least a few special talents that arise from the different ways you process the world as an autistic person. Be proud of those!
For me that I means I will be proud of my vast knowledge of the taxonomic classifications of insect and arachnid species, as well as my encyclopedic collection of obscure bits of trivia about the band Metallica. I will celebrate the way my logical mind allows me to see new solutions no one could find, and evaluate problems objectively. I will be proud of the atypical ways my body moves as I stim, how it paces, chews, skips, runs, spins, and hums because these are all beautiful expressions of emotion and vital tools for calling the chaos of the world back into order and understanding.
Another part of the definition talks about find satisfaction in our accomplishments. And so because of this, I am calling all of my autistic readers to be proud of all of their accomplishments, even the “little” ones. Because of our different brains we have different needs, and because of these different needs we face different challenges. But although these challenges are atypical, they are still challenges, an overcoming them is worthy of celebration. So, be proud when you successfully set up a time to hang out with your friend, or when you muster up the spoons to handle the sensory overload of a shower, or even if you find the executive functioning skills to get out of bed on time. All of these are accomplishments, as important as any other, and we should take pride in them.
The second definition talks about being proud for belonging to a group that is traditionally socially marginalized. I think everyone can agree that autistic people are definitely a group that is socially marginalized. And so, I call all my fellow autistic people to be proud of existing in a world that was not built for us. For facing barriers every day that are set up by a neurotypical populace and do not accommodate us. We work hard to simply exist in this exhausting world, and I think it’s time we took some pride for accomplishing that feat.
Perhaps even by taking pride in belonging to the autistic community, we can start breaking down some of the stigma placed on being autistic. Perhaps we can work towards that day when autistic stimming will be accepted and not shamed or treated as a cause for embarrassment. Or when special interests are celebrated for the joy they bring us. Or when our needs are treated like any other human need. Or when parents will not cry and mourn when their child is diagnosed with autism, but will instead rejoice at this newfound revelation about their child and at the fact that they now can gain a better idea of how to support them. Or when people will value our non-spoken words and listen to and value what we have to say even if it isn’t coming directly out of our mouths. By being proud of being autistic, we can start to slowly work towards this day.
So, on autistic pride day I ask, friends, that you celebrate all of your accomplishments, even the “little” ones. Go stim how you need to and when you need to without embarrassment. Go talk to someone about your passions and special interests. Go be proud of being autistic, of your identity in who you are. Shatter stereotypes and help end stigma.
Because I know I will. I am Quincy, and I am autistic, and I am proud of who I am.
Though, presents on Autistic Pride Day would be nice (;