In a couple of days 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 last weeks before New Year I post 10 concrete actions that can make 2022 a happy/happier year for autistic people. No super big, impressive, world changing actions, but small 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 realize autism friendly well-being actions. And remember: no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
Tip #9: A meaningfulness project
If happiness would be a mountain, the summit would be the experience of having a meaningful life. When psychologist Abraham Maslow created his hierarchy pyramid of universal human needs, he placed self-actualisation and self-fulfilment at the top of his pyramid (physiological needs were at the bottom).
Each one of us perceives this need in a unique and specific way. Some of us want to be successful in our professional career, other people may have a strong desire to become an ideal partner or parent. But for all of us, there’s one thing that adds significantly to achieving the top of our needs, namely the experience that other people need us, that we mean something for somebody else, that we have something to offer that is being appreciated by other people. This does not necessarily mean that we have to do big, great and spectacular things. One can also experience fulfilment without winning the Nobel price. Happiness is not one big project, it is the result of many little projects.
People with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum often hear that they need support, that they need other people. But how often do they hear other people say to them: I need you? I am strongly convinced that every autistic person has something to offer. So, let’s find out what that is and do something with it.
So, here’s the penultimate tip to increase the well-being of autistic people in 2022: set up (at least) one meaningfulness project for a person with autism. Look for interests and strengths in the person and actively do something with them that creates added value for other people. Look for projects that have a concrete end result, because many autistic people are concrete thinkers and they love seeing (or even touching) the end result of what they did. Here are some examples of projects that could give the autistic person an experience of meaningfulness:
- For someone with an interest in food or cooking: set up a small business selling pizza, donuts, cupcakes etc. Or bake and cook together and sell the food in a food stall at a neighbourhood party, a school open door day…
- For someone who loves working with his/her hands and being outdoor: create a potager or kitchen garden, grow vegetables together and either sell them, donate them to the neighbours or make a meal with it and invite other people…
- For someone with an interest in computer games, organize a master class where you and the autistic person teach how to become more skilled in playing these games; or make a blog, where you and the autistic person review games…
So, next year, organize at least one concrete project where a person with an autism diagnosis is actively involved in creating something that other people need or appreciate. Give the autistic person the feeling of being important.
And, you know, this will make you feel more meaningful as well. So, another win/win.