The annual Autistic Pride Day is observed each year on June 18 using an ongoing theme of neurodiversity. The pride label – all colors across the spectrum with an infinity symbol – is intended to encourage a celebration of autistic differences, rather than reinforcing stereotypical perceptions of autism as a disease. Autistic Pride Day educates people directly, drawing on the experiences of autistic people themselves and celebrating autistic lives. The aim: to promote progress in awareness and recognize the achievements of autistic people.
The first event was celebrated in June 2005, and it is lead by several organizations supporting the children and their families who are living with autism. Society is still far from understanding and accepting the range of autistic differences, and changing attitudes is a necessary step towards enabling autistic people to lead fulfilling lives without discrimination, allowing them to participate in and contribute to all aspects of society.
What is Autism?
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a set of diverse neural development variables that are characterized most commonly by difficulty with social interactions and behavioral integration while providing potentially heightened or advanced skills in certain areas. The condition starts in childhood, and the characteristics may be visible within the first two years of the child’s development.
Manifested in a range of presentations affecting how an autistic person thinks, learns, uses their senses, moves their body, communicates, and relates to other people, the spectrum is increasingly described by the autistic community, and by some clinicians and researchers, as a condition rather than a disorder.
Prevalence is 1–1·5% of the population – that is 1 in 68 children in the US, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Autism has previously been thought to be more common in men and boys, but current debates suggest this might be an effect of basing diagnosis on behavior, which varies between sexes. Diagnoses centered on behavioral issues can lack precision, as behavior may be suppressed, camouflaged, and “normalized” by autistic people in order to fit in and avoid social stigma.
Causes of Autism
There is great concern rates of autism have been increasing in recent decades without acceptable explanation as to why. Scientists believe both genetics and environment likely play a role in ASD. Researchers have identified a number of genes associated with the disorder. Imaging studies of people with ASD have found differences in the development of several regions of the brain.
Studies suggest that ASD could be a result of disruptions in normal brain growth very early in development. These disruptions may be the result of defects in genes that control brain development and regulate how brain cells communicate with each other. Autism is more common in children born prematurely.
Environmental factors may also play a role in gene function and development, but no specific environmental causes have yet been identified. The flawed theory that parental practices are responsible for ASD has long been disproved.
Symptoms of Autism
Neurodiversity encompasses the breadth of autistic characteristics; every person has a unique experience of autistic life. A society that accepts neurodiversity requires cooperation and input from multiple stakeholders, including autistic people, neurologists and mental health professionals, parents, teachers, researchers, and employers. Society needs to embrace neurodiversity in order to accept differences and variation, and to reduce stigma. Mental health professionals can provide interventions and support if there is an understanding of the details of autistic experience.
The terms “Autistic” and “autism spectrum” often are used to refer inclusively to people who have an official diagnosis on the autism spectrum or who self-identify with the Autistic community. While all Autistics are as unique as any other human beings, they share some characteristics typical of autism:
- Different sensory experiences.For example, heightened sensitivity to light, difficulty interpreting internal physical sensations, hearing loud sounds as soft and soft sounds as loud, or synesthesia.
- Non-standard ways of learning and approaching problem solving.For example, learning “difficult” tasks (e.g. calculus) before “simple” tasks (e.g. addition), difficulty with “executive functions,” or being simultaneously gifted at tasks requiring fluid intelligence and intellectually disabled at tasks requiring verbal skills.
- Deeply focused thinking and passionate interests in specific subjects.“Narrow but deep,” these “special interests” could be anything from mathematics to ballet, from doorknobs to physics, and from politics to bits of shiny paper.
- Atypical, sometimes repetitive, movement.This includes “stereotyped” and “self-stimulatory” behavior such as rocking or flapping, and also the difficulties with motor skills and motor planning associated with apraxia or dyspraxia.
- Need for consistency, routine, and order.For example, holidays may be experienced more with anxiety than pleasure, as they mean time off from school and the disruption of the usual order of things. People on the autistic spectrum may take intense pleasure in organizing and arranging items.
- Difficulties in understanding and expressing language as used in typical communication, both verbal and non-verbal. This may manifest similarly to semantic-pragmatic language disorder. It’s often because a young child does not seem to be developing language that a parent first seeks to have a child evaluated. As adults, people with an autism spectrum diagnosis often continue to struggle to use language to explain their emotions and internal state, and to articulate concepts (which is not to say they do not experience and understand these).
- Difficulties in understanding and expressing typical social interaction.For example, preferring parallel interaction, having delayed responses to social stimulus, or behaving in an “inappropriate” manner to the norms of a given social context (for example, not saying “hi” immediately after another person says “hi”).
An autism diagnosis most commonly takes place in the first 2 years of a child’s life—early detection brings more effective intervention. However, there is a need to improve detection and accommodation of autism in adulthood. A diagnosis late in life can help people to understand why they feel they are different to others, can help to understand accompanying mental health challenges, and may provide the beginning of a helpful clinical pathway—as well as providing clarity, it can be a signpost to relevant support.
Autism is a relatively new diagnosis, becoming widely used only since the 1990s. In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published in May, 2013, the diagnostic criteria were broadened as various diagnostic entities were pulled together. Pre-school children were included, and prevalence subsequently increased considerably as a range of autistic traits were newly identified as part of the spectrum.
Neurological research in the field remains difficult and sometimes controversial, and there is an ongoing lack of knowledge of the neurological bases for autism. Future understanding of causes, including genetic causes, will hopefully help to shape a more tailored approach to diagnosis and treatment management.
Treatment of Autism
Regarding treatment and societal support, external systems need to adapt to embrace variations in behavior that include adults with late diagnoses. This shift is elusive: Public and even medical perception still has some way to go to embrace differences among those with autism. Each child or adult with autism is unique and, so, each autism intervention plan should be tailored to address specific needs.
Management can be complex, as people with autism are more likely to have additional mental health diagnoses and higher rates of suicidal ideation. Approaches to intervention need to be highly personalized to suit each individual and to identify comorbidities correctly. Professionals also need to understand and accept neurodiversity—a lack of empathy could lead to a repeat of past approaches that forced people to conform to “normal” behavior, which is neither effective nor acceptable.
There is no cure for autism spectrum disorder, but there are several behavioral and therapeutic interventions that may improve some symptoms. Intervention can involve behavioral treatments, medicines or both. Many persons with autism have additional medical conditions such as sleep disturbance, seizures and gastrointestinal (GI) distress. Addressing these conditions can improve attention, learning and related behaviors.
Early intensive behavioral intervention involves a child’s entire family, working closely with a team of professionals. In some early intervention programs, therapists come into the home to deliver services. This can include parent training with the parent leading therapy sessions under the supervision of the therapist. Other programs deliver therapy in a specialized center, classroom or preschool.
Typically, different interventions and supports become appropriate as a child develops and acquires social and learning skills. As children with autism enter school, for example, they may benefit from targeted social skills training and specialized approaches to teaching. Adolescents with autism can benefit from transition services that promote a successful maturation into independence and employment opportunities of adulthood.
Typically, autism treatment involves:
- Behavioral and educational interventions – this is where therapists use intensive and high structured skills in training an autistic child so that they can improve language and social skills.
- Medications – the physician may prescribe drugs that can help in management of some of the symptoms, like depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Alternatively, or in addition, novel Therapies are being developed. These therapies, including light and sound treatments, might be introduced to families living with autism. Some are controversial, and parents should be cautious before adopting any method.
Purpose of Autistic Pride Day
The day helps to create an awareness in society around the condition and how it is managed. The day asserts that autism is not a sickness but rather a state in which the individual affected will exhibit varied characteristics that may provide them with challenges or rewards unlike their peers who do not have autism. Autistic pride day helps in coming up with initiatives where the public is educated on the challenges that are faced by autism community.
Autistic pride day helps in organizing rights movements for people who are living with autism. The movement is usually led by self advocates of autism who ensure that autistic people are given a voice and are recognized in the society. The movement encourages community members to accept people living with autism in the society.
The autistic pride day also provides a good platform for the care giver to be appreciated. The people who take care of autistic children may have diminished physical and emotional energy as they can be drained while responding to the needs of autistic children. Care givers are encouraged to take care of themselves and to get as much help as possible to provide their best while offering their services.
What can be Done on Autistic Pride Day?
Participation on this day may include providing information to families that include people who live with autism by teaching them on the causes, signs and symptoms , management and treatment. The family members will also be taught how to participate most fully in the life of someone with autism and to embrace their neurodiversity.
You might provide financial support for the organizations that pioneer autism research or volunteer and give to those groups who promote awareness and provide support to families and those with autism.
Caregivers and those with autism can come together and share their stories of life with autism or loving and caring for people with autism. This will help to reduce any stigmas associated with the disorder as each person expresses themselves.
Message Shared on Autistic Pride Day
Autistic pride day is a time set aside to appreciate and celebrate those who live with autism. The message shared on this day is that the people who suffer from autism are not sick, they are neurodiverse. Autism should not be viewed as a disease but as a different state of being.
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