On Autism Pride

Greetings, international readers, and welcome to English version of Kaiao’s blog. Blog posts here are translations from Kaiao’s Finnish blog. In future, my plan is to update both blog versions at the same time, but since the Finnish blog has been going on for a while, I will first bring you up to speed by publishing here the texts already available in Finnish. For this reason, interval between posts will be shorter for a while.

Autism pride resembles all the other prides and positivities of the world in the sense that it is not about members of minorities being somehow better people than the rest. Neither are we people with ”superpowers” deserving privileges and special treatment.

Instead, pride is about the fact, that in a world where belonging to a minority is stigmatized, considered abnormal, undesirable, questionable and shameful, the journey towards equality appears clearly positive at first, when it is put against existing, discriminating and shaming social structures.

Also, deconstructing these structures, improving accessibility and increasing welfare are also positive activities that aim at a desirable goal, namely a accessible society where all its members are equals not just in principle but also in practice. People on autism spectrum are a minority suffering from many problems familiar to other minorities. There are people who believe that the world would be a better place if everyone belonged to the great neurotypical majority.

Some believe that autism is an illness and a misfortune and that because of this it is quite natural for autists to suffer from depression and end up being marginalized. It’s no wonder that being a second-class citizen is difficult! Way too many neurotypical people consider it as their self-evident right to tell us who we are and what we certainly are or are not capable of. Way too many want, in a well-meaning but microaggressive way, to patronize us out of sight and equal opportunities.

In a reality like this, autism pride does not claim that autist life is super awesome (freak discourse when talking about positive traits common among autists is its own set of issues), but that it is okay to be an autistic and live accordingly. It tells, that being an autist is one possible way to be human, and that this way of existence is an intrinsically valuable part of human diversity.

Autism pride highlights that autists too are individuals, not just walking examples of autism. Autism as a general term does not necessarily tell much (or anything of significance) about an individual autist. We are way more complex than that. In addition, autism pride aims at making autism visible.

According to best estimates available, about 2% of population are autistic. That is not an insignificant number. Many of us also appear perfectly ordinary on first glance, whatever ”ordinary” means. We need pride thinking because our existence is forgotten all too often.

Most of all, autism pride means hope. In my case, exiting autism closet has not meant end for great challenges, in spite of diagnosis being helpful in gaining victories over a couple of major problems I used to have. In place of my old problems are now new problems. Before a-word became associated with my name, I had no experience of being target of discrimination or society being unable to recognize my needs.

Issues like these should not exist. Autism should be something like having blue eyes: something that can be noticed, something one can like or dislike, something more or less informative -but nothing more. Ideally, it would be something that is understood. Equality would, then, be the situation where an autist who is in trouble can expect to get real, effective help; where autistic people are able to use their talents fully, where being known to be autistic does not put anyone in a disadvantaged position.

In order to get there, society at large needs more knowledge, more autism understanding, more accessibility and far less prejudice. In other words, it needs to actively work towards this goal. Luckily, miracles are not required, only that more and more people and organizations start to act from the understanding that we exist and that equality and diversity are good things also when it comes to neurodiversity.

If your organization wants to better understand people on autism spectrum and promote equality, Kaiao may be able to assist. In addition to training events, Kaiao offers a variety of consulting services in project planning, service development, improving sensory friendliness of business premises and creating content. Most services are available online. To get started, email me saara.reiman@kaiao.fi.