Saturday, June 18, 2016

Autistic Pride Day - It's Not What You Think It Is.


So, I got a comment on this photo I posted.

(Note: I have deleted the comment so please do not attempt to track it down.)

This guy's comment makes sense to an extent, considering the fact that autism is labeled as a disorder and it does come with struggles and comorbid conditions. Plus, this person has a right to their own opinion, as does everyone else.

However, to someone who has spent most of their life coming to terms with my differences and accepting myself, his comment was unnecessary and a bit insensitive.

Autism is a huge part of who I am, as it affects just about every facet of my life.
Either this individual doesn't understand that, or perhaps he is an undiagnosed aspie with low self-esteem, or a stressed parent of a severely autistic child. If it's either of my last two assumptions, I'm guessing that he posted it out of bitterness. Either way, I disagree with his perspective.

I try to be a peacekeeper. So instead of replying to his comment, I decided to use it to educate others on the meaning of Autistic Pride Day in this blog post. I will also mention Autism Acceptance Day since they are related.

---Autism Acceptance Day---
This is the alternate name for Autism Awareness Day, as dubbed by autistics. Amongst the fear-mongering messages of those pushing "cures" for autism, autistics have begun to take a different approach, promoting acceptance and positivity towards autism, since it there is no cure. This positive perspective is often attributed to the Neurodiversity Movement, which is based on the idea that everyone's brains work differently and that's perfectly okay.

P.S.: I would have shared this for Autism Acceptance Day had I not been a bit paralyzed by all the negativity spreading around on social media... it still applies to Autistic Pride Day, so feel free to share it!

Autism is Me meme3
---Autistic Pride Day---

While Autistic Pride is similar to the Gay Pride movement, it is not the same in the sense that it has less to do with changing laws and more to do with changing perspectives. It seems to focus on dispelling the negative stigmas of autism to encourage a positive self-image in those on the spectrum.
Here is the definition:
Autistic Pride Day, an Aspies for Freedom initiative, is a celebration of the neurodiversity of people on the autism spectrum on 18 June each year.[1][2] Autistic pride recognises the innate potential in all people, including those on the autism spectrum.

How I see it, it’s a way to humanize autism. It shows that we are not just a cluster of symptoms. It shows that we all have a place in this world. It shows that like everyone else, we have our own unique personalities, perspectives, strengths, and weaknesses, and
we should accept each other as humans even if we are different.


Like any social movement (i.e. gay rights, women’s rights, etc.), there are
several sides to the issues surrounding autism. And like any social movement, there is the potential for (and has been) much hostility between those with different perspectives.

Here are several sides that contribute to the debates on autism:
(Note: By “cure” I don’t mean treatment, I am referring to the elimination of autism.) 
- Autistics- supporting Neurodiversity, supporting treatment
- Autistics- supporting Neurodiversity, opposing treatment
- Neurotypicals- supporting Neurodiversity, supporting treatement
- Neurotypicals- supporting Neurodiversity, opposing treament
- Neurotypicals- supporting a cure
- Autistics- supporting a cure (ironically)

Among these, it seems that the three groups where the most dissention occurs is between parents of severely autistic children, scientists with the curist mindset, and autistics supporting Neurodiversity.


In addition to everyone getting their metaphorical panties in a bunch, here are two reasons for hurt feelings and senseless arguing in the autism debate that I see in other movements:
1. Those on opposing sides cannot empathize with each other, and/or do not attempt to understand the other perspectives.
2. There is a severe lack of sensitivity and caution in interacting with opposing sides.

Allow me to elaborate...
1. Let's face it: Everyone's metaphorical shoes are a different size. We may be able to relate on some things, but each person's experience is unique to them. When people of the same social group ban together, it is more difficult to see an individual's perspective due to unavoidable stereotypes and generalizations of that entire group. Unfortunately, many contributors to debates are rigid and unwilling to listen to those they disagree with.
2. Those on either side may demonize the perspectives of opposing groups, even if the opposing opinions are shared in a sensitive way. It doesn't help that some make hurtful statements and generalizations without considering its impact.

In conclusion, there will always be someone who disagrees with me.

That's fine.

I'll do my best to ignore unhelpful comments, but I will surely speak up when someone crosses a line.

I used to be as (internally) negative about autism like the fellow who commented on my page (mostly involving hating myself rather than lashing out), but I realized that got me nowhere. Especially since releasing my documentary, I am finding others like me and learning how to slowly repair the damage done by the negative stigmas attached to my diagnosis.

That is why I embrace Autistic Pride. Because to me, accepting oneself is important to having a fulfilling life.

This is what Autistic Pride means to us.

(actual quotes from autistic people)

"I can stop hiding in the shadows and shine bright, how I was meant to."
~Tracey Maksymowicz

"Autistic pride as a movement is very, very meaningful to me. I was diagnosed in July 2009 at the age of 20 - late, because girls are inevitably diagnosed later and that needs to stop - and I initially felt so, so alone, almost as if I was now officially on the outside looking in at society. It felt like a label that said 'I don't belong here.' When I started blogging about my autism, however, I discovered a huge community of fellow autistic adults, people like me who were seeking to be understood and accepted by society, and I realized that yes, I do belong here. I belong on this earth, in this society that may not be ready to accept me yet but someday will. I'm determined to insure that this society takes me as who I am, not who it wants me to. I am good, I am valid, I am autistic. And nobody can take that away from me."

"Autistic pride to me means embracing the special operating system you were created with. It means shining like the star you were born to be. Autistic pride is my driving force to help other autistics learn to do the same, and to flourish!"

"To accept and be proud of who I am and what I can achieve if I believe. To find happiness my own way and to never let limitations set by others stop me from accomplishing my dreams."

“We're different than normies, but we are equal. We have disadvantages and advantages just like they do, but different sets.”

"Enjoying being me, the real one that stops and stares at a tiny water drop slowly falling from a leaf, the sun making it shimmer and dance, while the world scurries past and misses the beauty of the world around."
~Heather Lamb

"Not proud to be autistic but proud to be openly autistic. To be able to say loudly I'm autistic without thinking it's something to hide or to be ashamed of. Being able to defy the paradigm of pathology and give others a new, more self-caring way, to see themselves."
~Mónica Vidal Gutiérrez

"Autistic pride means being sure of your self-identity, and not ashamed of it. It means knowing you are different, and celebrating those differences and not hiding them. It's about saying that autistic is not less, it's just a different way of being human."
~Shayna Gier

"It means finally being able to celebrate all of me... even the parts I had hidden away."
~Jennifer Felden

"Autistic pride means having a solid understanding and acceptance of who you are deep down -- both your strengths and your challenges -- and then knowing that you absolutely belong in the world and sharing yourself with others."
~Nadya Gomez

"Being happy and proud of who I am. Even if other people don't see my accomplishments or personality the same way I do."
~Shmoo Zissou

"For me, Autistic Pride means happiness in finding my own ways of living life. My mind is wired differently from most people, and my real self is almost always evident."
~Noah Weiss

"For me that term would mean to acknowledge and celebrate that autism and Asperger's Syndrome is an integral part of who you are."
~Michael Lopez

"Autistic pride means for me is that you shouldn't let having Autism limit you from being able to do things that you want to do in life."
~Emily Caron

"It means that I can be myself, no matter if the majority of people don't understand, simply put."
~Ryan Duffy

"What that means to me is embracing who I am, with my strengths and weaknesses. I love knowing that my creativity can bring me joy and good humor when I share it with loved ones. I love that my gifts can also be a fundamental aspect of expressing my thoughts and feelings. I've learned to like the unique quirks and tics about myself along the way. But most of all, I love how working with my condition has inspired me to become a better human being and it has helped others see the world from another angle. That is what I am proud of."
~Nathan Cook

"For me, it means pride in my son, who is different, not less."
~Kristina Murray

"It means that I'm weird, you're weird, we're all weird let's all go be weird together."
~Kayla Gasztonyi

"It means I am not alone. I am not some one-off broken person. I am special and unique but there are others like me. Others have the same benefits and deficits I do just perhaps differently, but we are all family. Not feeling alone, feeling like part of a community."
~Arianna Christina Brandstetter
“I am proud to be Autistic simply because I am proud of being me, and autism is a part of it. <3"
~Tina Robol Scricciolo
“It means being proud of our differences. And accepting ourselves for who we are no matter what others think of us. Being able to live every day to the fullest we can and make of it. And not worrying so much about what others think. Especially if we have even just a few people who we know deep down love and care for us.”                                  ~Sarah White Wolf Whalley 
"I understand Pride as a perversion of self-respect. My Father created me, and he makes no mistakes, I'm just called to overcome I rely on my Father to cause me to overcome. And my love for him grows."                                                                             ~Daniel Gow 
"It means accepting myself as I am instead of trying to force myself to emulate a level of normal that I will never achieve. It means understanding my limitations and knowing that it's alright to take care of myself. It means speaking up for other, nonverbal Autistics, that we are still human, many of us are intelligent, and we are not a blight to be cured, but a difference to be embraced. Neurodiversity is as important as Biodiversity, and it's long past time society acknowledged it."
~Kat Nelson

What does Autistic Pride mean to you? Comment below! :)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Pet Therapy for Mental Health

I find that a lot of aspies I know (including myself) own pets, and they seem to benefit from them (I know I love my dog!). Pets can offer unconditional, non-judgemental love, not caring whether you have a disbility or differences.

The following are stories about two aspies and their pets. I uploaded a video so you can see some footage of them, but their full stories are below.

Katie and Her Dogs, Molly and Max:
KT Molly
"Molly was everything to me. She was by my side when no one else would or could be. She stayed with me at night when I was alone and afraid of everything. When I could not sleep because of self-deprecating thoughts or nightmares she stayed by me and let me hug her till they went away. She never made me feel like I was stupid or dumb or pointless or worthless. She never told me who I was supposed to be, just that I wasn't a bad person. She never judged me or told me that wanting to hide was a bad thing. She stood by me and helped me feel strong when everything else said I wasn't. She never complained when I would hug her for hours on end. She was smart and loyal and loving. This is why she is one of the best things to ever happen to me, and this is why my boyfriend is now the best thing to ever happen to me. I love them both."
~ Katie McKellar

"Molly was adopted from Anderson Animal Shelter when Katie was 10. She was a mutt, very smart with a wonderful personality. We visited the shelter many times looking for the right dog. Finally we saw Molly. All the dogs were in their pens. The other dogs were barking like crazy and Molly was sitting quietly looking at us. We took her for a walk to get to know her, she began to respond to basic commands, sit, etc. The kids picked her. Molly had to stay a few days until she could be spayed. We went back to visit Molly everyday until she was ready to come home. Katie and Molly made an instant bond. Molly was 1-1/2 years old at the time.
Some friends owned Max when they decided he wasn't a good fit for their family of young children. Max is a Mini Australian Shepherd, he was born to herd, and he constantly herded their toddlers. Our children were older so he was a better fit for our family. Max was 6 months old. Katie was 19 when we adopted Max.

Molly was Katie's emotional foundation. But, when she got her first hamster we discovered she could focus on studies better if she held the hamster. Holding the hamster while she did schoolwork seemed to eliminate her ADD fidgetiness so she could think and focus."
~ Carol McKellar, Katie's mother

Stephanie and Her Cat, Murphy:

(View the original post on Tumblr)

“This is going to be a pretty emotional story, so brace yourselves if you haven’t heard about my cat Murphy yet.
In 2009, when I was a sophomore in college, I suffered a mental breakdown due to my OCD taking over my brain. I wasn’t able to concentrate on my schoolwork, my social life, or really anything because the OCD thoughts were constantly in my brain and wouldn’t shut off. They were the first thing I thought about when I woke up and the last thing I thought of before I eventually drifted off to sleep after agonizing hours of laying awake and trying to make the thoughts stop.

The thoughts were so relentless that my brain even suggested that the only way out was to die. I didn’t want to commit suicide and the fact that my brain even thought that in the first place terrified me, so I started getting help from one of the campus psychologists. She told me that I definitely did have OCD and began seeing me weekly, but I was still struggling mightily - even two of my professors that semester noticed that I was off and asked me about it. (To this day, their words mean a lot to me - it’s so nice to know when your teachers care.)
And then I found a cat.

A friend of my future roommate and I had been walking back to his dorm with one of his roommates when they’d heard a kitten crying. Some other people in the building had attempted to coax him out with a can of tuna, but he refused to budge. My future roomie and I sprang into action and went over to help. I used to volunteer in the cat ward of a local non-kill animal shelter, so I instructed the others to nudge the kitten out from the back into my arms. They did so, and I picked him up and wrapped him up in my jacket.

He didn’t shut up. (That’s him and me.)

After a while, he settled in and fell asleep in my room. I then attempted to bring him to the animal shelter near my college, but it was closed on Tuesdays. It was fate, so I named him after my current favorite player on the Mets, Daniel Murphy, and he stayed in my room for the week until my parents came out and picked him up.

We practiced eating dry food - he was only six weeks old or so when I found him and hadn’t been weaned when he was separated from his mother. We cuddled and played and learned how to use the litter box like an adult and were generally only separated when I went to class. It gave me a purpose again - I had someone to take care of and worry about, someone who unconditionally loved me back.

It’s been almost four and a half years since my mental breakdown now. Murphy still lives with me and we adore each other’s company - he cuddles with me at night, follows me around the house, and chirps at me when he wants my attention.

He never stopped talking.

This cat indisputably saved my life. He’s the reason I’m writing this answer for you to read right now. He’s the reason I graduated on time and am now in graduate school. He’s the reason I’m still breathing. I owe him absolutely everything. He’s the most incredible cat I’ve ever had the fortune to meet, and he means the world to me.

I may have saved his life that night by bringing him into my dorm room wrapped up in my jacket, but he definitely saved me, too.”
~ Stephanie Dioro

Looking into animal therapy or Emotional Support Animals? Resources below:

The Health Benefits of Dogs (and Cats):

Pets for Depression and Health:

Benefits of Pet Therapy:

What is a Service Animal?
"Service animals are dogs (and in some cases, miniature horses) trained to perform major life tasks to assist people with physical or severe psychiatric impairments/disabilities. Service animals are sometimes referred to as assistance animals, assist animals, support animals, or helper animals depending on the country and the animal's function."
- NSAR (National Service Animal Registry) Website
More info on Service Animals:

Register a Service Dog:

What is a Therapy Animal?
"The primary purpose of a therapy animal is to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas, and to people with learning difficulties."
- NSAR (National Service Animal Registry) Website

More info on Therapy Animals:

Register a Therapy Animal to help others:

What is Animal Assisted Therapy?
Animal assisted therapy (AAT) uses trained animals to enhance an individual's physical, emotional and social well-being
- American Humane Association
More info on AAT:

What Is An Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?
"An emotional support animal (ESA) is a person's pet that has been prescribed by a person's licensed therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist (any licensed mental health professional). The animal is part of the treatment program for this person and is designed to bring comfort and minimize the negative symptoms of the person's emotional/psychological disability."
- NSAR (National Service Animal Registry) Website
More info on ESA's:

Do you qualify for an ESA?:
Register an ESA:
Alternate ESA registration: