Happy Autistic Pride Day, everyone! Today I’m relaxing because that’s all I’ve got the energy to do. But that’s ok. There are lots of ways to celebrate Autistic Pride.
This year, the Autistic community has been discussing the essence of Autistic Pride and how events should be organised with this in mind. Having Autistic Pride as an autistic-led event is under threat as the concept becomes more mainstream and charities seek to hold more fundraising events outside of April’s Autism Awareness/Acceptance month. While it is a good thing if charities understand and support the concept of Autistic Pride (and I’m not convinced they do), the fact remains that they are once again, intentionally or not, speaking over the voices of Autistic activists. However well-meaning they are, it is not their place to hold Autistic Pride events. Not now. Maybe one day in the future there will be more equality (I have to believe there will be, otherwise what’s the point of all this?), and we can all work together without fear of being shut out. But for now they need to sit back and let us autistic adults take centre stage. It’s only one day, I’m sure they can manage.
Last weekend we held our second local Autistic Pride picnic and for the second year in a row it was well attended. We had a few autistic adults and even more autistic kids, who were happily playing together or alone while the parents chatted. I believe it’s important to include children in Autistic Pride; not just because I have my own autistic children, but because I don’t think that autistic children with non-autistic parents should be shut out of Autistic Pride just because they aren’t old enough to go on their own.
I know a lot of autistic adults are wary of non-autistic parents, and it’s not for no reason; on social media and in real life we are often told “you’re not like my child” and pushed to one side. The inclusion of non-autistic parents at Autistic Pride events is a difficult subject for many Autistic Pride event organisers. It’s hard to relax and be your proud autistic self if you can hear someone complaining about how much harder their life is because of their autistic child. So I can understand why some event organisers are keen to centre the event around autistic adults. We need our own space sometimes where we can get away from all of that and just relax. This is why decision on who the event is for lies with the organiser; it’s not easy to organise an event like this and anything that makes it easier for autistic people to attend should be considered.
I’ll admit, in the run up to the event I had all kinds of anxious thoughts about toxic warrior parents gatecrashing, brandishing bottles of MMS and You’re Not Like My Child banners. Of course it never happened; why would they bother gatecrashing a small, quiet picnic? I’m sure all this will come later when Autistic Pride gets even more well-known. As we gain more exposure and support there is bound to be a backlash. But for now I don’t need to worry about it.
The parents that came to our picnic were all lovely, by the way. Meeting people like them is making me gradually braver and more sure that what I’m doing is the right thing. And let’s not forget that autistic children often have autistic parents, whether they know about it yet or not!
For now, what I really want to do is make sure the kids of the next generation don’t go through what some of us autistic adults have been through; growing up thinking you’re broken or weird or alone. I don’t want that for them. I want them to grow up knowing that they can be happy and that they can define their own success. I want them to know they are loved and valued exactly as they are, not just by their parents but by society. I want them to know there is a place for them where they can be themselves.
So, Happy Autistic Pride Day to autistic people everywhere, of all ages. Let’s be proud of who we are.