ID: Beige background with the text ‘Autistic needs are human needs.’ in the middle of the image. ‘@AutisticallyScott’ is displayed at the bottom centre of the image.
Autistic needs are human needs. The term ‘special needs’ is still used to define and categorise the needs of Neurodivergent and otherwise disabled people. It is rife with ableism as its connotations suggest such people’s needs are burdensome to society. They are described in ways that imply there has to be an extreme amount of effort for professionals meet these needs, or that they are time consuming and drain resources.
All human beings have their own individual needs. One person may learn best and process information through movement activities. Another person may need more space to themselves and benefit through listening to music to focus. There are people who are more extroverted and need to seek a lot of social input, while others are introverted and can be exhausted through a high amount of socialising. People’s support needs can fluctuate on a day to day basis, where some days a person can complete several tasks and activities, while others they have less energy and could be in need of support during the day.
Sensory needs are human experiences as everything around us is sensory information. For Autistic people, their experiences of sensory information and any sensitives can call for necessary adjustments to be implemented. Some may need headphones to reduce noise, stim tools for focus or transitions, spaces for quiet areas, or to be able to eat their same foods during mealtimes. When someone requires new glasses to aid their vision or shares dietary needs when booking accommodations at venues or events, this is not called ‘special’ and the person is just given what they need to reduce any disadvantages or harm they would of experienced had these things not been put into place.
Stimming is a human need that serves many purposes. It can be a way for us to regulate ourselves, explore environments, and to just be. It is something that every human being does in some form but Autistics have a tendency to stim more often with greater depth and focus. No person can sit still in the same position listening to the same person while staring at their eyeballs for several hours of the day. Being able to stim is essential to our wellbeing and it allows us to balance our minds, bodies and spirit.
Communication is a human need and there are numerous ways to communicate other than just speaking through mouth words. There is alternative communication such as texting, drawing, emailing, signing etc. All human beings have the right to be able to express themselves and share their views and perspectives. One person might need to communicate through email or text instead of phone or video calls. Another may require a notebook during meetings to retain information and remember what to say. Those who don’t speak may need a communication device or a type of signing. These are natural communication needs and are completely valid.
Many Autistic people will advocate for supports like the examples above only to be dismissed and told they cannot have these. They are told the requests are “unreasonable”, yet what is deemed ‘reasonable’ is usually decided by those who are not disabled and whose needs are already being met through the environments designed by society. Human needs are a subjective experience and the divide caused by terms such as ‘special needs’ has further stigmatised communities and infantilised people’s true experiences. When Autistics are advocating for adjustments, they are usually not asking for enormous changes to current infrastructure and systems, but rather just simple changes that would allow them to participate in society. It takes collaboration between different groups of people to create an inclusive and accessible environment.
Acknowledging that being Autistic is a disability does not devalue us or infantilise our needs, but it recognises the disadvantages and barriers we encounter. This can also offer us some protection as disabled people per UK legislation are entitled to adjustments in education or the workplace. Many Autistic people are also multiply Neurodivergent and may have co-occurring medical conditions that require other specific supports, however these are still just human needs.
Ironically, what are often classed as ‘additional supports’ would actually benefit all human beings. If environments were designed based on the principles of universal design, things would be put into place from the foundation stages. This would reduce societal barriers and create more accessibility for everyone, regardless of being disabled or not.
Through focusing on equity for all human beings, rather than separating into groups of those with ‘special needs’ we can provide everyone with the accommodations they need to access the same opportunities. All humans have needs and the right for these to be met.
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