Autism spectrum disorder comprises diverse conditions related to brain development. June 18 marks Autistic Pride Day. This day is dedicated to recognising and celebrating autistic people and commemorating the role autistic pride has played in bringing about positive change for people on the autism spectrum all over the world. First put forward in 2005 by autism rights group, Aspies For Freedom, the celebration is intended to focus on the achievements of the autistic community – emphasising that it is an event for autistic people, created by autistic people. Furthermore, the movement aims to educate the public that autism is not always a disability, and never a disease which requires a cure. Rather it is a diverse range of conditions, which differs starkly from person to person and evolves over time, incorporating both advantages and disadvantages.
The puzzle piece has been emblematic of the autism spectrum since 1963, when Gerald Gasson, of the National Autistic Society in London, designed a logo featuring the silhouette of a crying child foregrounding a green and black puzzle piece. This logo was intended to symbolise both the complexity of the autism spectrum as well as the commonly held view of autism as a “puzzling” condition. This initial design also represented the struggle faced by autistic people and their families in handling a condition that was seemingly filled with riddles. At the time very little research existed. In 1999, this puzzle motif was incorporated into an awareness ribbon. The brightly coloured puzzle pieces displayed in the current logo emphasise the diverse faces of autism as well as the hope that early detection and intervention in the form of holistic support and appropriate services will equip individuals on the spectrum to lead full and happy lives.
It can be heart-breaking to watch your child struggle against barriers they cannot control, but with hard work and patience, great progress can be made. Despite all the hard work, there will be times when progress is slow, and frustrations build up. It is incredibly difficult when you feel as if you are not being seen or heard regardless of how hard you try. Schools such as Vergezicht Private School are specially catered to providing children with the remedial assistance necessary to reach their full potential. These schools are a great boon to society and impart essential aid to many students who may have floundered in the public school system. That said, it cannot be left solely to remedial schools to be empathetic and supportive of children and adults who suffer from communication impairments.
Empathy and compassion are universal currencies often only directed at causes that can easily be represented visually. Autism Pride Day reminds us of the champions involved in a silent struggle, the progress made, and the work that remains for everyone.