Autistics need neuroinclusion. Here's how friends, family, and caregivers can help create neuroinclusive spaces and resist neuronormativity.
1. Promote Autistic pride
There is nothing wrong with being Autistic. But there is something wrong with the way society conceptualizes and treats Autistic people. If you want to get to know someone who doesn’t share your culture, it makes sense to learn their culture. This includes Autistic people, who are commonly blamed for our own challenges.
If you learn about Autistic neurotypes and culture from openly Autistic advocates, you can learn common Autistic challenges. These aren’t the same challenges doctors are talking about. If, for example, you’ve been lead to believe Autists lack social skills, you can move toward neuroinclusion by pausing and reflecting on where you’re learning about us.
Consider whether your sources are Autistic, and whether these sources operate with empathy toward Autistics. Consider the double empathy problem, Autistic cultural differences, and alternative communication methods like augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).
Learning about these and other aspects of Autistic culture will equip you to help your Autistic loved one(s) learn who they are. You can teach them not to believe in the negative Autism cultural messages that pervade society, that there is nothing wrong with them. And they are worthy of receiving the same love and respect they want to give.
2. Examine your Autistic loved one’s environment for neuroinclusion
Disability is largely a result of how a person’s bodymind interacts with their environments. Since Autistic minds absorb large amounts of information from their environments, we tend to experience variations in light, temperature, and sound more intensely than the neuromajority.
So you can enable your Autistic loved one by examining how certain aspects of their environments disable them.
A great way to start is simply to talk to the Autistic(s) in your life about their specific challenges and needs. Also consider turning off unused items like televisions, lights, and air conditioners to avoid neurological dysregulation (which all humans experience).
Every Autist has unique, specialized neurology. We’re different from each other but share many similarities. So it’s always helpful to consider common accommodations for Autists such as sunglasses, blue-light blocking lenses, stim tools. headphones, ear protection muffs, and earbuds.
3. Honor, accept, and accommodate Autistic challenges and limitations
Autistic people will always be Autistic, so the best time to start learning your Autistic loved one’s unique limitations is right away. Consider learning about spoon theory.
You can also read APC Founder Doug Blecher’s insightful essay on honoring his Autistic limitations as an Autistic entrepreneur.
Autism is simply a neurotype, a cognitive style, and is not inherently disabling. But since society does not consider Autists when constructing the world we live in, Autists are more likely to experience neurological dysregulation.
Accepting Autistic bodyminds as disabled bodyminds may be difficult at first, but acknowledging this reality can feel liberating and can alleviate common Autistic challenges, including:
autistic burnout/chronic exhaustion
4. Encourage and engage Autistic passions and interests
Autistics will always think and behave differently than allistics, and most Autists are logical and dedicated to honesty. So even if someone’s speech, behavior, or interests seem “odd,” “strange,” or “inappropriate” to you, please avoid pathologizing them (judging them as “abnormal”) and try to find what their language and behavior means.
Keep in mind that trying to read neurotypical behavior within Autistic bodyminds is counterproductive and will result in confusion. This is why it’s important to learn Autistic culture—so you can read Autistic behavior.
Another way to connect with Autists by engaging us in our interests and passions. (It helps, too, to engage us in conversation rather than going off-topic to critique Autistic behavior.)
Engaging Autistic interests leads to Autistic joy and enables Autists to trust you. You’ll learn something, too, as Autists commonly infodump about their interests.
Always, always, accept each Autists’ various, intersectional identities and communication methods. Promote Autistic joy, daily, by encouraging Autistic interests.