Let me start this piece with a massive shout out to Lyric Holmans (Neurodivergent Rebel). Their recent livestream with Aucademy provided a huge deal of inspiration for me to write this, and I can’t go ahead without giving credit where credit is due.
Autism. Is it a disability, or not? That question will have different answers depending on who you ask. The prevailing opinion is that, yes, it is a disability, but under the social model of disability. To define that in a nutshell, autism is a disability because society is not designed for autistic people.
So, why make accommodations?
By adapting the environment to be more comfortable for autistic people, autistic people feel less disabled. Our world is full of sensory bombardment, requirements for neurotypical time management skills, and things that need our attention. All of these things can be distressing to autistic people, and it is when an autistic person is distressed that they are at their most disabled.
But Lyric also illustrated a flip side to this. When we make the environment more comfortable for neurodivergent people, we generally make it more comfortable for everyone. When people in charge respond with “But everyone wants that!”, that’s the point. Make the environment comfortable for EVERYONE. No one group should get special treatment, neurotypical or neurodivergent.
This also feeds into “cure” culture. I am yet to see a “cure” or behavioural intervention that doesn’t increase an autistic person’s distress. However, making accommodations, in general, reduces distress. Lyric Spoke of square pegs being forced into round holes, why not adapt the hole to fit any shape of peg?
It is the status quo in society that makes autism a disability. That’s literally what the social model tells us. What we need is to rethink society to be inclusive of everyone, not just to have special designated spaces where autistic and otherwise neurodivergent individuals can feel comfortable. This applies to Autistics of any age.
Until we liberate society from its neuronormative approach to inclusion, many autistic people will continue to be disabled. It’s on all of us to create a world where anyone, regardless of disability, can enjoy a society free of ableism and truly inclusive of all.