Autistic Pride Day: Jane Meyerding/Helen Ford

15 Jun

Another dual set of contributions here.

Helen is a friend I’ve known for a year or so and is a student currently enrolled at University. Jane I’ve only recently ‘met’ (in the online sense) but her fascinating website kept me reading for quite awhile!

— Helen Begins —

For me Autistic Pride Day is a chance to show the world, and that being autistic is not completely negative. It is to show the world that Autistics the world over do have a voice and are not afraid to use it. That we can help show parents that Autism is not a complete negative; that sometimes we can be amongst the best, and that there is hope for their children.

— Helen Ends —

— Jane Begins —

Autistic Pride is a concept I have to struggle with a bit. Not because of the autism part, but because of the pride part. For me, the only kind of pride that makes sense is pride in accomplishment.

I live in a part of the world where some people say (or put up signs saying) “I’m proud to be an American.” Occasionally those signs/sayings belong to people who became “American” (resident or citizen of the United States of North America) through their own efforts, but usually the phrase is uttered by people who were born into their U.S. citizenship. How can a person be proud of something so automatic and, indeed, inevitable? Perhaps they mean “I am proud of my country.” But if that’s what they mean, why isn’t that what they say? (And what exactly would it mean to say that?)

Similarly, I was born autistic. So how can I be “proud” of it? The only answer that works for me is: We can be proud that we have overcome the shame we were forced to feel for being our “weird” autistic selves. We can be proud to have gained an understanding of our autistic selves, despite the constant social pressure to “fix” ourselves or at least behave like non-autistics. We can be proud of reaching out to other autistics in order to learn from them, share our knowledge, and support each other.

Most of all, we can be proud to be autistics who are advocating for greater understanding and acceptance of autistics, for an end to separating us into categories (such as “high-functioning” and “low-functioning”) that contradict the realities of our lives, and for the kinds of accommodations and supports that will enable more of us to lead richer, more independent lives.

Autistic Pride Day thus is a day on which we re-dedicate ourselves to self-acceptance, mutual support, and advocacy. That’s what we have to be proud about.

— Jane Ends —

3 Responses to “Autistic Pride Day: Jane Meyerding/Helen Ford”

  1. Matt Robin June 16, 2005 at 20:53 #

    Kev: I like reading these blog-posts about ‘Autistic Pride Day’ – they are really interesting and a bit different to the stuff I normally read on the web.

    I love this statement by Jane: “..The only answer that works for me is: We can be proud that we have overcome the shame we were forced to feel for being our “weird” autistic selves. We can be proud to have gained an understanding of our autistic selves, despite the constant social pressure to “fix” ourselves or at least behave like non-autistics.”

    I think if I was to be put in the shoes (metaphorically) of an autistic individual, then I would also feel great pride in overcoming some of these stigmas and prejudices (Did I spell that right?!) – what might seem insignificant to most people is a great achievement to an autistic. I find that a bit humbling because non-autistics take so much for granted in their personal lives…(I mean: what do WE know about challenges eh?!!)

  2. Kev June 16, 2005 at 22:31 #

    Glad you’re enjoying them Matt – so am I :o)

  3. Shawn June 17, 2005 at 00:50 #

    Kevin, thought provoking posts (as usual!) My wife and I have always emphasized the strengths that go along with being on the spectrum to our two boys, but you’ve got me thinking we can do even more. There’s enough factors that can chip away at their pride and self esteem, that its all the more important that we continue to emphsize the positive reinforcement. And we know how much that sense of pride can make them both “light up”. I wouldn’t trade those smiles for anything!

    …And I finally got a break from the heavy work schedule and hope to have my blog up in the next few days. Can’t wait to join you!

    Shawn

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