Sometimes we realize it consciously; other times we feel it subconsciously…
…that the world is not built for us.
At home, we’ve instinctively created an indoor atmosphere and environment that is friendly and unassaulting to my senses and is perfectly adjusted to my needs and preferences. But the rest of the world, the world that begins outside the walls of our apartment is completely different.
That world was not built for me.
I have a lot of not-so-nice things to say about that world. I find it obnoxious, petty, drama-filled, bureaucratic, irrational, illogical, frustrating, primitive, and ridiculous. It assaults my senses in a way against which I simply cannot defend myself. It’s intrusive, invasive, rude, obscene, crude, and barbaric.
Fluorescent lights flicker, unmaintained. Cracks in the sidewalk rise up to meet our big toe. Restaurant music plays too loud. Children shriek and run around, under-attended. TV commercials are much louder and crisper-sounding than the show I was watching. The voices on those commercials are too perky and estrogen-soaked.
There’s too much traffic, too-thick crowds, too many people. Those people talk too loud, walk too close or too slow, drive too fast, and preoccupy themselves with insignificant and boring obsessions (it took me years to find out who on earth Kim Kardashian was and once I did, I thought who the hell cares??) And don’t get me started on sports or the news…
The internet can either be a safe(r) haven….or not. I feel that I need to install ad-and-popup-blocking browser plugins just to survive a surfing session. I find myself covering up columns of moving or transitioning pictures, especially when they obnoxiously fly in from the side. (Do advertisers really think that these tactics are supposed to attract us? What kind of person are they actually successful in attracting??)
At the risk of sounding egocentric (which I don’t mean to be), my (non-autistic) partner and I often remark that the world would be a better place in general if it were engineered and built by and/or for people on the spectrum.
Here’s how I imagine such a world might look…
I’ll start with our homes, since the home is our sanctuary and serves as the starting point for each day. I imagine that there would probably be some housing options we don’t (usually) currently see, such as strict rules on noise. There may be the option to have child-free or pet/dog-free housing in some neighborhoods or apartment communities, and children’s play areas or animal parks may be located further away from residences (not that I’m against children or pets, but I’m aware that some of us are, and I believe that those who are should also have access to housing options that promote their comfort). Lighting would most likely have to be kept within certain hues/color ranges, and below a certain wattage or candlelight power. All structures would probably be well-constructed. Multi-family units may be built with extra reinforcement and soundproofing material between units. Dehumidifiers (or humidifiers, depending on climate) may be installed on a central system, much like we commonly find heat and air conditioning today. Fluorescent and CFL lighting would probably not be allowed, except for use by a cleaning staff when residents or office workers have left. Subwoofers and other loud stereo systems would probably be banned–both the sale and ownership thereof.
Since much of our time is spent at home, premium cable and broadband packages might be made more widely available, either more reasonably-priced, or maybe even included with rent. The power supply infrastructure would be buried underground, so that the power is less likely to be interrupted during severe weather. There would probably be a ban on harsh, piercing, constant outdoor lighting. Keeping one’s untrained pet outside all day or all night might also be prohibited. There might even be mandatory training for owners of loud, barking dogs.
The neighborhoods would be more walkable, with minimum acreage for each property and minimum space between each building. All events like concerts, sports games, etc, would likely need to be held a certain distance away from residential neighborhoods. Public transportation might be expanded further into neighborhoods, and more easily used by more people. It would be made safer. The stops may be more convenient and logical, with more frequent stations and a reliable schedule. Park-n-ride areas would be more plentiful and located in more sensible areas. There’d be plenty of parks and scenic walking space, plenty of libraries. Relaxation-based services (such as massage therapy, yoga, etc) would probably be plentiful. I’d also build a community center with a consistent schedule of classes or workshops on crafts, art, music, computers, science, writing, yoga, role-playing games, Qigong, meditation, and entrepreneurship. And don’t forget the science/history/art/culture museums and botanical gardens! There might be corner grocery stores near (or in) residential neighborhoods, too.
Street/road intersections would be engineered sensibly, with plenty of infrastructure (travel lanes, etc) to properly accommodate traffic. Business hours may be staggered in order to avoid peak rush hour congestion and the aggravation that invariably arises. Working from home would be encouraged, and businesses might receive tax breaks for creating/having programs in place that allow for it. All brightly-lit or “flickery” older-generation LED light-bulbs would be removed from all billboard signs. All light beacons (usually on top of taller towers or antennae) would be sure to default to their night-time setting after hours (the exceptionally bright ones at night give me the creeps!).
There may (or may not) be limitations on store, strip mall, or mall sizes. (Big-Box stores are hell!) Stores (and other businesses) would likely be quiet, carpeted, and ambiently-lit. Employees would not accost you the minute you walk in, or continue to pester you while you’re trying to shop. (Mall stores are hell, too.) If they play music, it’d probably be ambient or relaxing music (classical, smooth jazz, new age, ethnic fusion, contemporary lounge, etc), at a low volume. The stores would be free of all strong scents. Businesses and healthcare facilities would all have plenty of (or exclusively) spectrum-trained staff. Law enforcement would also be spectrum-trained. There might be a curfew for all children in shopping and restaurant establishments, even if accompanied by a parent or guardian. Many of my fellow spectrum members have called for at least a few hours per day in which children aren’t allowed, and some places are doing it! If childcare facilities at educational or business buildings are still allowed, they might be located further away from any office.
Grocery stores would be more focused on food that is free of over-stimulants and excitation-promoting ingredients, such as gluten, casein, MSG (and its aliases, such as yeast extract), aspartame/Splenda, and artificial flavorings and colorings.
Other stores might be affectionately known as “spectrum supply stores”, 🙂 that carry noise-cancelling headphones and earplugs, sunglasses, weighted blankets, music players, Rubix cubes (and other things to play with to keep hands busy as needed), white-noise generators, guided imagery/meditation devices/tapes/books, and chew toys. They might sell clothing that is comfortable and durable, essential oils known to reduce stress, and other items. They might even carry adaptation technology (if it existed) for TVs and computer screens to mute colors as needed. They might sell software that stops all distracting movement of images, turns off all audio autoplay, and strips all sites of popups, ads, and other annoyances.
I might also publish a calendar of community events, including Aspie-exclusive socializing (maybe 3-5 people in each group, if that). These events may be themed, such as “intellectuals”, “computer geeks”, “cultural diversity”, “spirituality”, “card/board/role-playing games”, or other low-key socializing. An annual Renaissance Festival (quiet, Medieval, and intellectually-appealing) might be held, with electricity used only for food storage and beverage ice production. I’d also publish an annual, bi-annual, or quarterly directory of Aspie-friendly healthcare professionals, stores and businesses, educational institutions, therapeutic and relaxation services, workplaces, events, and other venues or amenities; it’s helpful to be aware of all of the avenues of support available to us. Both the events calendar and the directory would contain full descriptions and customer reviews, with a list of categories and an alphabetized subject index for searching. I would make this available both in print and online.
Since many of us have chemical sensitivities, many chemicals would likely not be allowed, instead opting for natural, equally effective alternatives. The water system would not be fluoridated or chlorinated, but rather ozonated or cleansed by UV light (as parts of Europe already do!) Flame retardants and artificially-scented products would probably not be permitted.
Public schools would all have spectrum-trained and spectrum-friendly teachers and staff. Teachers would be paid very well, and the schools would have high standards when selecting teachers. All schools would need to have Gifted & Talented programs in a variety of subjects (this isn’t as expensive as one might think), and families could obtain vouchers for their children to attend schools that focus more on their child’s special interests. Schools would offer unusual classes such as entrepreneurship (as a requirement), and electives such as graphic design, software coding, high-end math, martial arts, creative writing, foreign language, world cultures, world history, comparative religion classes, music theory, geology, and self-directed education/exploration. Life skills taught would actually be supportive and helpful, such as recognizing neurological or emotional overload, making friends, maintaining friendships/relationships, stress management, self-defense, how to tell if someone is lying, how to tell if someone is threatening you, how to spot a scam/scammer, communication methods, coping skills (in stressful situations), and self-expression. There’d be a vast network of small homeschooling nodes, so that working parents’ children need not attend public school and those parents need not shoulder the burden of paying for private education.
I’ll probably make a separate post on ideas for the type of education I would have LOVED to receive, in the near future.
I know that I used the words “prohibited”, “not allowed”, “banned”, “not permitted”, “required”, etc, quite a bit, and that that may make me sound like an Orwellian sergeant. I promise that I’m actually pretty “live and let live” and I’m not out to steal anyone’s rights, promote a socialist state, dictate society’s every move, or be a control freak. In fact, I don’t advocate that; I’m just hoping that as awareness spreads–IF it truly spreads–that some of these concepts could be voluntarily adapted. 🙂
I just think it’d be kinda refreshing to have these types of options and support available. Maybe this starts with an individual business, workplace, office, school, or housing community. Maybe it starts with a homeowner’s association. Maybe it starts with a small town. Or maybe it doesn’t “start” at all, but perhaps the world at large can become more aware of various ways in which we could actually be supported, and in ways that would actually benefit us. And maybe…just maybe…these individual entities may begin to want to cater to us. (After all, we’re quite the growing population segment, and we often have the very-real potential of being high income earners!)
(I haven’t seen any particular “spectrum-supply store” (please excuse the term; I don’t mean it to sound derogatory!) in existence yet, so if you see one pop up in the next few years to come, I’ll know they read this post, took it, and ran, which I DO hope someone does!) ❤