At Aucademy we have long talked about our vision of a perfect Autistic utopia, affectionately called “Autopia”. The vision is of a collective living scenario, away from the pressures of a world that puts neuronormative standards and culturally accepted neurotypicality, ahead of any neurocognitive type that does not fit into its restrictive box. We often imagine a world with sensory safe spaces, collaborative living arrangements, and a distinct lack of hierachy.
Such a world would be brilliant, and beautiful. However, the reality of creating a world where Autistics can live in peace and comfort as their authentic selves is more complicated.
As discussed in a previous article, we are at a transitional point for the world. The neurodiversity movement fights every day to ensure equitable and fair treatment of all neurodivergent people, but we are still some way off from a world in which no one is given privilege, and all can access the world comfortably.
What would such a world look like?
The world we wish to create is not as simple as safe spaces and collaborative living. It first must do away with the pathology paradigm. Currently, neurodivergence is treated as a medical issue, with any associated disability often being viewed through the lens of the medical model of disability. Converse to this we have the social model of disability.
Our first steps towards Autopia require us to understand the ramifications of the social model. Under this model, disability can be considered to be the result of oppression. Rather than arising from a medical deficit within the person, the social model suggests that we are disabled by a society that fails to give us equal access to the environment. Thus, this failure can be considered a form of oppression. In some cases the oppression is a direct thing, with those responsible intentionally refusing access to disabled people, in other cases the oppression is more indirect, caused by a lack of understanding that inadvertently perpetuates the oppression of the disabled person.
Ableism is also another consideration. Once society has effectively oppressed and disabled a person, it then discriminates against them. Many disabled people are forced out of the work force by such ableism, forced to survive off of whatever money their government decides is appropriate (often with little care as to whether or not that money is enough to survive on). People are judged by societies standard of what a disabled person should look like, and what they are capable of, with little interest in what the disabled person has to say about their experience.
Understanding the ramifications of the social model, and the ableism that follows societies oppression of those who do not fit into culturally accepted standards, allows us to start seeing the pathology paradigm that has kept the neurodivergent on a lower rung of the ladder for quite some time.
This is where the neurodiversity movement comes in, and where an understanding of the neurodiversity paradigm becomes paramount.
To create Autopia, we must do away with cultural neuronormativity, and accept that human minds are diverse and beautiful. We must understand that no single neurocognitive style is superior to another. Ultimately, we must create a world where words like neurotypical and neurodivergent become irrelevant. This bold new world would not need such words, because no one is considered “normal” or “typical”, and no one is considered “different” or “atypical”. It is a world in which we all simply co-exist. No one has privilege over another. The world and society at large are accessible to all.
Unfortuantely, such a world is quite some time away. There is a great deal of work to be done to achieve it. The current world we live in traumatises Autistic and otherwise neurodivergent people on a daily basis. For more reading on how society harms Autistics, please see the Creating Autistic Suffering series housed on this blog, the series is authored by myself and Tanya Adkin.
To achieve Autopia, we must challenge our beliefs and thoughts. Society has done a good job of forcing the pathology paradigm on us. Now is the time to unlearn those lessons.