Autistic Pride

June 18, 2016                                                                  En español/In Spanish

Today is Autistic Pride Day.

So what does Autistic pride mean?

I lived most of my life not knowing I was Autistic. Since I was 11 years old, I knew that I was Kinetic[1], but I still felt different from other Kinetics. I went through various phases in my life. When I was a little kid, I didn’t try to fake my behavior. I would hand flap, pace, and stim freely. I was my authentic self and I was rejected for it. So, I decided to isolate myself to avoid further social rejection. I remember watching the other kids as if I was one of those explorers from Animal Planet studying an animal’s behaviors. I never could quite understand them. I could never make friends, and I always felt very lonely.

When I was 16 years old, I was diagnosed as Autistic. At first, I thought I had found the answer of why socializing was always so difficult for me. However, as I did my research, I kept finding all this misinformation that told me that I was supposed to lack empathy, emotions, and a theory of mind. Those were things that I clearly didn’t lack, so I thought that the diagnosis was a mistake. I could not really be Autistic.

Later on, I tried to act as neurotypical as possible. Eventually, I found out how difficult it was to act neurotypical. I would go into shutdowns or meltdowns at parties. I kept entering those types of chaotic environments because I somehow convinced myself that I was doing something wrong. I thought that if I found the right way to have fun and do things like everyone else, then my life would change. That everything would be better. But, it became too much for me. It all seemed hopeless and I went through many cycles of depression for a while. One day, someone convinced me to go to a meeting where there would be other Autistic people. I went reluctantly, but to my surprise, they were not at all how I pictured them. They had emotions and they had many of the same problems that I had. And that was probably the first time that I felt like I fit in. As I started meeting more and more Autistic people, I found myself saying, “Hey, I do that too” a lot.

It took me 5 years after my diagnosis to find the Autistic community and culture. Autistic culture taught me to spread a message of love and acceptance that helped me rid myself of my internalized ableism. Autistic culture taught me to become a social justice activist and to fight for the empowerment of all marginalized groups. There is also an innate part of Autistic culture that comes in the form of talking with our hands, rocking, flapping, spinning, echolalia, pacing, and other forms of stimming. We share something that’s very deep. What we share transcends culture, religion, race, ethnicity, and gender. I finally have words to describe my experience of the world. I have validation for the ways that I move. I finally found and accepted myself for who I am. I found my people and I am not alone anymore. I know where I belong. I am proud to be Autistic. To me, Autistic pride means love, acceptance, validation, and empowerment for my people and for myself.

I am Autistic and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Happy Autistic Pride Day!

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[1] Kinetic comes from Kinetic Cognitive Style (KCS), a term coined by the neurodiversity activist Nick Walker. I advocate for the use of KCS instead of ADHD/ADD. Kinetic comes from the Greek κινητικός – kinētikós “to move”. So the term refers to the fact that Kinetic people have an attention that moves more than the attention of non-kinetic people. And for some Kinetics this also means behavior with more physical movement than the behavior of non-kinetic. And instead of using phrases like “person with ADHD / ADD” or “she has ADHD / ADD” or phrases like “person with KCS” or “she has KCS” I promote the use of phrases like “I am Kinetic, I am a Kinetic person, There are Kinetic people in my family.”

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