On June 18th, we celebrate Autistic Pride Day to honor the diverse experiences of the autistic
community. The day was created in 2005 by the group “Aspies for Freedom” in an attempt to raise awareness about the value and beauty of autistic individuals, and continues to dispel the myth that autism is something that needs to be pitied or cured. Today functions as a day to completely reframe the way society views autism, shifting the perspective to consider it as a unique and valid human experience rather than merely a disorder.
Chances are, if you’re not autistic yourself, you know someone who is. 1 in 44 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and over 5 million adults in the United States are autistic. That’s over 2% of the population. It’s important to think about the way that we speak about autism and how it affects autistic individuals. When we talk about autism as an unfortunate condition which needs to be treated or cured, it sends the message that just because autistic people have a different experience than allistic (non-autistic) people, that their existence is less valid and less valuable. Difference in the human experience is not a problem that needs to be solved; it is a gift that should be embraced.
It is true that being autistic does come with challenges – but those challenges exist because the world does not accommodate those who are autistic. Autism Pride Day refocuses the mission of mental health advocacy from finding a solution to autism to finding a solution to a society that discriminates against autistic people. Autism is not the problem – ableism is. On Autistic Pride Day, as well as any other day, I invite you to consider the way you think about autism and the beliefs you hold about it, and whether they truly serve the needs of autistic people.
Mental Health Counselor Intern