Autistic people typically experience the world with greater intensity. Their senses, emotions, and thoughts are more heightened than neurotypicals and thus they take in more information.
This heightened sensitivity can lead to great insights, empathy, and connections. Within a neurotypical world, it can also lead to exhaustion and overwhelm.
I recently suggested that my autistic client brainstorm what cultural norms would be different if the world was designed by autistic people. It was a suggestion born from the deep discussion of the moment.
As soon as the suggestion came out of my mouth, I realized I had never thought about it myself.
Instead of just cultural norms, my mind expanded the question to how our world is designed - from our architecture to technology to everyday gadgets.
I instantly thought of leaf blowers (the bane of my existence every Wednesday and Thursday morning). I am autistic and find the noise generated by leaf blowers to be overwhelming to my ears. In a world designed by my autistic self, leaf blowers would either not exist or be powered by solar energy, purify the air that passes through them, and silently blow a gentle breeze.
This is my dream, unique to me. Given that no two austic people are alike, how could my question of a world designed by autistics possibly have a unifying answer?
Yes, every autistic person would have different ideas (which would be delightful to hear). I would also surmise that all of these ideas would be unified in their intent: how to make the world a more comfortable, enjoyable, and respectful place to live in.
Autistics deal frequently with sensory overload, so many autistics would come up with ways to have our creations and structural living be more pleasurable (such as apartment buildings with more sound insulation, clothing that doesn’t have seams or tags on the inside, etc.)
Autistics want to connect with others, but often struggle within societal norms that rely on masking behaviors, such as “being nice.” In a world designed by autistics, we would have social norms that value direct communication and not hiding one’s true feelings.
Autistics also are deeply concerned about the well-being of our earth and its species, both fauna and flora. Many ideas would center around how to better protect and honor the natural wealth of our planet (such as more protected wilderness or green areas within cities).
The answers to what would be different in a world designed by autistics would be endless. I’d love to hear what you think would be different.
If you suspect you might be autistic, I work with autistic clients
and those who are exploring if they could be autistic.