Hopes and Dreams for the Neurodiverse community

Sometimes we get so caught up in the everyday tasks of living that we forget to dream.

Hopes and Dreams for the Neurodiverse community

Along with dishes, carpools, piles of laundry, last minute school projects, and doctor appointments, we also get to ponder the future, create a bucket list of adventures, and imagine a mental utopia of what life could be.

Join me for a moment. Yes, push the laundry aside, settle on the couch, take two or three breaths, and consider your utopia.

• Strengths based acknowledgement, acceptance, integration, leadership

About a year ago some great pieces were written about Autism Awareness Month, with the hope we could move past awareness toward acceptance. I have a couple of thoughts on that: as long as I still hear “Really, moms can be on the spectrum?” then we still have an awareness problem in my community. Maybe your community is different, but we likely still have some awareness issues. But since this is dreaming…

Honestly, I want to move past acceptance toward something that looks like integration, or preferably leadership. Imagine how different our various landscapes (employment, housing, health care, government, education, etc.) would be if YOUR family member could be in charge. Those mind numbing intake forms? Gone. The budget deficits? The lengthy delays for, well, most things of importance? Solved.

A reasonable job interview or demonstration of learning? Taken care of. Let’s look to our neurodiverse community members and ask them how to solve these problems instead of insisting that neurodiversity is a disability requiring bubble wrap.

• Not having to explain your child in public

Just sayin’—wouldn’t it be cool to just parent the child you have, in the way he or she needs, without also apologizing and justifying and explaining? Yes, I solidly hope for that.

• Funding

Funding for what? Well, what would you like funded? Education, job training, training of employers? Medication, treatment, and transportation to all those appointments? Advocacy? Yes, I dream of all those things, too.

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• Jobs

We know most folks on the autism spectrum are either unemployed or underemployed. What a waste of talent. I dream of my client base being properly employed, though I understand that will require modifications of “the typical workweek”—you know, that work week that only works for so few as it is. Maybe adjustments like working from home, or with regular check-ins with a supervisor, or working non-standard/night-owl hours would make employment more accessible for everyone.

We often find that when a business modifies their practices to meet the needs of someone with autism, other employees benefit from similar levels of structure/flexibility. So, is hiring someone with autism a burden or benefit? In my dream, it’s a benefit. Full stop.

• Housing

Once again, in my dream, which I can acknowledge is not today’s reality, we have an array of services to help with housing. We don’t think a person is independent only if he/she solves 100% of his/her problems himself/herself. (Honestly, do you solve all your problems yourself, or do you call in specialists such as plumbers and tax consultants?) We don’t think independence happens at a magical age (18? 21?).

We understand some people will continue to need help with shopping, cooking, cleaning, and paying bills, and we are open to the notion that some people will live with their families full time, forever. We don’t judge people who make decisions we don’t understand or really agree with. (Wait, did you just judge that last sentence? Ouch. It’s my dream!)

We offer more solutions families can readily consider, rather than shaming them when they ask for help. Housing stops being a conversation that frightens people, and instead becomes as pedestrian as “What’s for dinner?”

My hopes and dreams probably won’t match yours. (Full disclosure, my utopia includes some non-autism related topics! I’d really like a chef and a personal trainer.) What would be in your utopia? What dreams do you hold for the autism community, or for your family? What non-autism related dreams do you nurture? What great thoughts! Shall we join together and make some of this happen?

This article was featured in Issue 101 – Balancing The Autism Journey

Rachel Bédard

Rachel Bédard,PhD is a licensed psychologist practicing in Fort Collins, Colorado. She uses a strengths based approach and her clients note she has the ability to help them laugh about even the most stressful or embarrassing events in life. Dr. Bédard has co-written two books with her favorite Speech Language Pathologist, Mallory Griffith. Their most recent book is You’ve Got This!: The Journey from Middle School to College, As Told by Students on the Autism Spectrum and Their Parents. Learn more about Dr. Bédard and the collaborative books on her website www.drrachelbedard.com and thesociallearningproject.com

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