The Power of the Home Environment for Autistics
Living alone has been one of the most deeply healing and transformative experiences of my life.
I was single and living alone through the pandemic, which meant I spent a lot of time in my home, by myself.
It was a wonderful opportunity to learn what I felt like doing. It was also a chance to shape my physical environment to my exact preferences. I had the time to do so, and I didnt have to justify myself to anyone.
I painted my kitchen orange because I love the boost of energy it gives me. My kitchen is connected to my living room, which is where I do my artistic work and writing. I want that extra energy.
I made my bedroom a sea of soft blues. I want to peacefully drift to sleep in there.
Every space of my house is cultivated with pictures, items, and organization systems to enhance how I feel.
Autistic individuals are hyper-attuned to their environments. While this is normally touted as a negative thing, it is also something that can be used to our advantage. In my case, I tailor my environment to give me the feelings that I want.
My home is so beloved that I let very few people in it. It is my sacred space tailored exactly to me. When I want to socialize, I typically meet people outside my home, such as on a hike, at a restaurant, or at my art therapy studio.
I like to keep my home free from other’s opinions or any unexpected conversations or events. As an autistic person, I can vividly recall the environments where painful conversations or things happened. I do not want to look around my home and see those things. I want to associate solely positive things with my home.
My relationship with my home works well for me. It sustains me. It provides a place of refuge.
I am moving into a new phase with my home though. In the future, I will move in with my partner. We will share a home together.
What will it mean to share decisions? What if he wants to invite someone home I do not feel comfortable with? What if he wants a certain painting up because he likes how it makes him feel, but it doesn’t feel good to me? What if I want the furniture a certain way because when I sit the light isn’t as glaring … but he doesn’t like it that way?
What will it mean for my strong preferences to be questioned? For example, after my mom died, I couldn't stand to look at the color blue. I bought a yellow comforter and changed the decor of everything around me. What if my partner can’t stand the color yellow?
Let me be clear, I am perfectly capable of getting along with others. I am capable of setting my preferences aside to co-exist.
However, my home is the one place I have not had to do that. The one place I don’t have to think about anyone else and can just be. It means it is the one place I can fully decompress.
What will it mean to not have that anymore?
I don’t have answers for a reality I have not yet lived. I have trust in my partner. I have hope in our ability to find solutions. For I know the power of the home environment for an autistic.
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