Autism acceptance advocate wins statewide contest to design New York's first neurodiversity flag

ByAmanda Saintina
Thursday, December 22, 2022
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NEW YORK -- 29-year-old Joshua Mirsky won the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) flag contest to design the first neurodiversity flag for New York. The flag, which is red and gold and features an infinity sign inside a diamond, symbolizes strength and value. "I chose red because it is a powerful color; we want society to take us seriously. We are not blue. The gold means "1st place," it represents value; we are not second or third-class citizens," Mirsky said. The infinity symbol stands for autism acceptance. According to Josh, it has become the symbol the neurodiverse community uses to represent themselves.

On October 7th, the New York State (NYS) Autism Spectrum Disorders Advisory announced the contest to submit designs for the neurodiversity flag to "serve as a statement that the societal contributions of neurodiverse people should be recognized and celebrated," the chairperson, Courtney Burke, said in a message.

After being appointed a member of the NYS Autism Spectrum Disorder Advisory Board in 2020, Mirsky knew he wanted to use this opportunity to make a change. He introduced the idea of a neurodiversity flag to represent those on the spectrum after feeling that his community was not being represented the way it wanted to be. He spent a year calling on senators to implement this plan. "There needs to be a symbol of change, something that people can rally around," Josh said. "Every movement has a flag; the neurodiversity flag will give our population a sense of identity, a sense of purpose, and people can come together around that." His goal is to usher in a new age of neurodivergent advocacy.

Image credit: Joshua Mirsky

Mirsky imagines a world where his future children will have more opportunities than he did growing up. He says the neurodivergent population will see that change if they do it themselves.

"I feel blessed that I am in New York, I would not be able to do this if I were anywhere else. If the people listen and give the neurodivergent population a chance their minds are going to be blown because people who think differently are going to change the world," said Mirsky.