In 3 weeks we will all wish each other a happy New Year. And many people with autism will also receive that wish. But what if we turn that wish into concrete actions that can really make a difference in the happiness of people with autism? In the coming weeks I will post 10 concrete actions that can make 2022 a happy/happier year for autistic people. No super big, impressive, world changing actions, but little things that can make a difference. Small interventions, based on theory and research, that can easily be applied and that can make life in 2022 a (more) H.A.P.P.Y. life for someone (or more people) on the autism spectrum. Make your New Year’s Resolutions for an autism-friendly 2022 concrete and join me in 10 easy to do autism friendly well-being actions. And remember: no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
Tip #2: Learn once a month from the lived experience of autistic people
The needs of autistic people are basically not different from the needs of people with more typical brains. All are human beings and share the same universal needs, from basic physiological needs (such as drinking and eating) to higher psychological needs (such as competence and autonomy). Just as every other human being, autistic people also want to be…happy.
However, the concrete things that makes them happy might be different from what makes neurotypical people feel good. And on top of that: well-being is very personal, so the well-being profile of every individual is unique. This is also true for autistic individuals. As Stephen Shore, the autistic professor and advocate, said: “”If you’ve met one individual with autism, you’ve met one individual with autism.” Autism friendliness cannot be based on stereotyped one-liners about autism.
Therefore, meet different autistic people and learn from them. Get to know their unique views and experience the variety in what makes autistic people happy. Don’t do that with yet another online survey or questionnaire. Make it more concrete and join autistic people in their experiences of well-being.
So, here’s tip #2: join once a month an autistic person in an activity that he or she enjoys and prefers to do. (Obviously, you ask them whether you can join them!). You can go cycling with a person on the autism spectrum who loves cycling, go and have a beer or coffee with a person on the autism spectrum, walk in the forest, watch planes going over and name the airline or type of plane, play a computer game, watch a film together, play with Lego Technics, and – why not – join them in an activity that neurotypicals describe as stereotyped or repetitive. Show interest in the autistic good feeling activities and learn from it. Once a month. That’s not much, isn’t it? It will not only create a connection, you will learn more about autistic well-being than you will ever learn from books or lectures.