As an autistic individual, my relationship with people is more complex and nuanced than a neurotypical person. While I deeply enjoy other people, I also desire a lot of time by myself. I have certain structures, patterns, and ways of being built into my daily life that help me to work with my neurodivergent brain and not come to a place of overwhelm.
I am currently single, live by myself, and do not have children. I enjoy my life, but I still want meaningful, long-term connection with others at a pace that is sustainable to me.
I think an intentional living community would be a wonderful place to provide just that. Intentional living communities are geographically and architecturally designed so that individuals can live in community with one another (such as a cluster of houses around a community center with shared gardens). There are also expectations and rules in place so that individuals live within a community structure(such as helping maintain the grounds, community meals, etc.).
When I discussed this topic with an autistic therapy client of mine, we both agreed that for us to feel comfortable in an intentional living community, there would need to be an understanding of neurodiversity. As we let our brains run wild at the thought of such a place, I realized how deeply I want someone to create such a place: a neurodivergent intentional living community.
What might be unique about a neurodivergent intentional living community?
It could accommodate sensory sensitivities, such as not using chemical cleaners, pesticides, leaf blowers, lawn mowers, or other common chemicals/machinery that can lead to sensory overwhelm
The grounds could be designed to enhance sensory stimulation, such as lush landscaping, ornate designs, and artwork throughout
There could be a social understanding that people will need breaks, such as signs you hang on the door that says, “I love you, but we’ll need to socialize another time”
It could provide community meals for those who want them, as well as opportunities to cook those meals (some neurodivergent people love cooking, while others find it incredibly taxing)
The community could be designed to be environmentally friendly - a topic that is very important to many neurodivergent people
There could be optional planned community outings and trips where transportation is provided (many neurodivergents find it overwhelming to plan and travel to new places on their own, yet deeply love adventure)
There could be flexibility around roles and expectations. I don't like my free time to be locked into hard fast plans or expectations because I never know how I might feel that day.
There are many, many more examples of how the community could be lovingly designed to enhance life for neurodivergent people. It could provide the understanding, community, and support we all deeply crave.
If you have other ideas of what such a community could look like, or if such a place exists, I would love to know.
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