Autistic Pride Day

Filed Under (Acceptance, Advocacy, autism) by Estee on 24-05-2011

This is a day I always promote. Autistic Pride Day occurs on June 18th and the t-shirt designed above is by Jason Ross. Let me use Jason’s words to describe the importance of the day, since Jason is autistic himself:

Neurodiversity is just as it sounds, it is knowing how we are special, unique, and have a very our very own belief system that should not be imposed on other people. Why do we have Neurodiversity? If we didn’t have different kinds of minds and we were not wired differently, we would be considered the same. Wouldn’t that be boring? What would life really be like? Before people consider every one thinking the same way, we should be considering how others think too. There are many different kinds of minds and different ways of thinking and different ways of living. The only thing we can learn to do the same is having proper social skills to incorporate ourselves to function with each other to form relationships. It does not mean change our way of being and thinking. We need different perspectives in the world to teach each other about life. However, we do have free will to think of our different way of being, but that does not mean you can impose your ideas on others. It just means speaking your mind and telling your stories. The way we all can fix society is by any one in the world communicating their views to share it and evaluate what others say, but not getting angry or upset when we hear what they say. Listen to the suggestions and/or thinking the other person may be telling you, and adjust it to your state of being to become your unique ‘YOU’. Any one can believe whatever they want to, and can be what they want to be to succeed in their life, but they must choose to accept it. Otherwise someone will always be influenced by another and eventually Neurodiversity disappears. How sad would that be? Think about it!

I have been reading lots of blogs and Facebook posts these days. I continue to read the debates between terminologies: “a person with autism” or “autistic person.” The discussions illustrate the importance in how humans define and see themselves. The commentary suggests the tenuous ground where the term Autism still lies. The debate is important to discuss society’s responsibility to understand and accept people no matter what their label or inclincation. We are just human, after all.

It is also true that no person is their label. “Classified” individuals are treated as second class citizens despite the intention that labels are meant to be beneficial. A diagnosis can be a huge relief for parents and autistic individuals because there is no more mystery on why there are differences in learning and communicating. Parents and individuals can, if they are willing, stop berating themselves. Yet, we continue to segregate labeled people. The psychological impact of labeling and marginalization can be debilitating. While labels are invented to serve, they can also limit ability because people with learning disabilities are not believed to be individuals who can contribute to society or succeed. When a young person believes that of themselves, this is the devastation. A label can make it difficult for people to see what they are good at. This is but one more reason why Inclusion is an important goal for all people. We are always more than our labels.

Autism, like any other learning difference or disability is not equitable with intelligence. Thinking exists outside of reading and communicating. Explaining this to the to a person who only hears about autism from some charity ad that espouses that autism must be cured can be demoralizing for the person advocating for themselves or for their child.

When I read the Toronto chapter’s Autism Speaks’ ads in Canada’s Globe and Mail recently, I always want to ask– since they are raising money for genetic testing for autism — how such research will help with “early intervention?” I think the question we should ask is not only how, but what kinds of teaching would help a very young autistic child? Also, what about the autistic adult who gets looked over past the age of twenty one?

What is the end goal in helping the autistic child (I will continue to use “child” because the premise of the research is help infants)? Is it for them to respond like other children? If so, why is it acceptable to expect that of the autistic child and not of the dyslexic or blind one? In any classroom, a blind person has the right to ask a teacher or Professor not to make visual references in order that they can learn better. A visual learner also has a right to ask. Do you think this is hard to accommodate? It’s not. Teachers possess varying abilities and we can appropriate them to different groups of learners. Autistic learners are not offered this choice. They must learn to “behave” like “normal” people through ABA despite my own anechdotal evidence here at home that many tools, and an understanding of Adam, is the most helpful teaching toolbox of all.

Finally, dear fundraisers and researchers, if we were to genetically screen for autism, what percentage of new parents do you think, under the current bioethical climate (can I call it that?) will be the beneficiaries of “early interventions” for their babies? Is this marketing supposed to suggest that if we know the genes that cause autism we will understand everything there is to know about the autistic person, including how to teach them?

No matter what you think about “autistic person” or “person with autism,” let’s think about the bigger picture. Our children and the way they view themselves (hopefully as whole, entitled and able to give back), are the reason I celebrate Autistic Pride Day…every day. Please support and buy Jason’s t-shirt.

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About Me


ESTÉE KLAR

I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (www.taaproject.com), and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.