Celebrating Autistic Pride Day

Hoi, Happy Minds! I hope these bright summer days find you well. This month’s inclusion calendar topic explores Autistic Pride Day, celebrated annually on June 18th since 2005. 

Speaking candidly, I found this one incredibly challenging to write. I realised as I researched and drafted this blog post that it was difficult to articulate what I wanted to say without making assumptions about the way you – or I – perceive the world. There’s a lot about the autistic experience that resonates with me, but I’ve never been diagnosed as autistic, so like many people I find myself in neuro-no-man’s-land. And writing this post, I had a revelation that hit me like a ton of bricks. No-one is diagnosed as neurotypical, but you can be diagnosed as autistic. And that must be quite a binary state of being. One day, you’re just you, the next day “you” has a label attached; autism. 

Autistic rainbow 8 infinity symbol made with plastic toys | HappyMind Training Blog | Celebrating Autistic Pride Day

That’s why events like Autistic Pride Day are so vital not just to the autistic community, but also to everyone, because it reminds us to challenge our preconceptions about how we and those around us perceive the world, and foster a little empathy for the largely hidden experiences that go on under the surface for so many people around us. Because not only do we need to be understanding to those people around us who have a diagnosis and are perhaps a little further down the road to understanding themselves, but also we need to make space to recognise the journey of those people who are on the fringes. Those people who don’t quite meet the ever-changing criteria for autism or a myriad of other conditions, but are out there struggling to relate to the people around them, and need a little extra understanding. 

So without further ado, let’s talk autistic pride day. 

How Did It Begin?

The first Autistic Pride Day in 2005 was held exclusively online by the group ‘Aspies for Freedom’, but in 2006 group founder Amy Nelson took their message to the streets, by hosting a picnic in Hyde park. That message is a simple one, summarised by the group’s tagline; “Acceptance, not cure”. ‘Aspies for Freedom’ is a group that seeks to challenge the narrative that autism is a disability and instead seeks to educate the public that individuals with autism bring a unique perspective to the world and are just as entitled to live happy and fulfilling lives as neurotypical individuals are. The group is especially proud to be self-representing, being run by, and for, autistic individuals. The decision to use a rainbow infinity symbol as their emblem was a deliberate nod to the LGBTQ+ pride movement, representing the infinite diversity of individuals within the autistic spectrum.

Yellow backpack with a small rainbow infinity symbol pin attached to it | HappyMind Training Blog | Celebrating Autistic Pride Day

So far, so fabulous. I think we can all agree that we should all feel free to celebrate our differences, but the autistic pride movement is about more than that. It’s about communicating to autistic individuals that they don’t need to hide, suppress or be ashamed of their autistic traits. This is especially important, because while autistic people have always existed, the condition is one that has been identified and defined from a neurotypical perspective. It’s vital that the voices of the autistic community are not stifled, since it is they who are best placed to help others understand their experience and perspective. 

Here’s What We Know:

Autism diagnosis is on the rise, at 1 in 36 children in the UK in 2023, up from 1 in 44 in 2021. Male children are also four times more likely to be diagnosed than female children. Although the reasons for this ratio between genders are not yet fully clear, it could be that female children are more inclined to hide their autistic traits, and also more successful at doing so than male children. For this reason alone, we can make the case that educating society about the needs and experiences of autistic individuals is vital, to challenge negative stereotypes and our own unconscious bias, as well as promote the message that autism is not a disability per se, and a diagnosis can be a gateway to greater understanding and support. 

Two people smiling in a flower shop holding flowers | HappyMind Training Blog | Celebrating Autistic Pride Day

It’s Not ‘Us And Them’

Neurodiversity is a spectrum, and while a diagnosis of autism may require certain specific parameters to be met, many people we meet in our day to day lives are going to fall somewhere on that spectrum. This doesn’t mean that ‘everyone is a little bit autistic’, nor does it mean that no-one really is either. It means that people on that spectrum are going to experience different challenges and manifest different experiences of that condition. By deepening our understanding of autism we also deepen our understanding of certain behavioural characteristics that are common to the autistic experience but not exclusive to it. Many of us share autistic traits, but the parameters for the diagnosis of autism are shifting all the time. Whether someone is diagnosed autistic or not, doubtless there are many people around us in our work or personal lives who may find certain stimuli distracting or upsetting, or find it difficult to read social cues or complex humour. 

Person wearing a colourful jumper with a light rainbow reflection on their face | HappyMind Training Blog | Celebrating Autistic Pride Day

By not assuming that everyone experiences the world in the same way, we open the door to conversations about how to make our work, travel and personal spaces more inclusive and also empower those around us to speak frankly about their personal challenges and experiences. This could lead to a co-worker finding the courage to seek a diagnosis or simply provide a friend with an avenue to share more of their inner world with us. 

If you want to know more about Autistic Pride Day and how you can get involved, Autistic Empire is a great resource.

Sign up for HappyMail
Author at HappyMind Training

We love feedback!

May we quote you on our website?

Help make it better

How useful is this calendar as a resource? (optional)

Help make it better

How useful is this calendar as a resource? (optional)

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This