|4 people in different colors holding hands|
Concept: community inclusion
I have autism, and sensory processing disorder. The latter is the big hurdle keeping me from making friends due to the fact I don’t get out of the house unless I am with my safe person, who is usually my older sister.
What I need is inclusion that takes into account my sensory processing issues.
Noisy places like coffee shops, bookstores, even libraries are unhealthy places for me to be. One of my sensory agonies, crying/screaming kids is like putting my hand on a hot stove. I cannot relax let alone contemplate socialization. Earplugs and earmuffs only take the edge off long enough for me to walk away.
This is a letter I have written to community developers everywhere.
To community developers who work to provide a more inclusive environment for those on the autism spectrum:
Firstly, thank you for the hard work you do in including autistic people.
That said, I cannot access any autism friendly activities in my community. This is most likely not your fault. You’re probably not aware of a verbal, intelligent autistic woman who cannot socially engage in public places due to sensory processing.
Children are everywhere. They are included in many everyday activities. Guide dogs are also becoming integrated into public places. Public transportation is already a non-issue for me due to my sensory issues. It also doesn’t help that I live in a service desert.
What I need is a child free zone in which to meet. Kids are unpredictable. They are quiet one minute and emitting uber decibels the next. Creating a childfree time zone, even if it is only once a month at a coffee shop, restaurant, recreation center (where you can isolate this activity to a room) would mean that I could participate in my community.
I understand and empathize with the person who needs a dog to alert them to danger or a health issue such as seizures. For me, a dog’s bark is like having my inner ears scraped out with metal. My psychiatrist nailed it when she said, “It’s not your fault. Your filters are damaged.”
I am nearing 40, and my parents are deceased. I am thinking beyond recreation. I will also need a place to live free of already stated sensory nightmares. Affordable housing and contributing by way of part time work and/or volunteerism are also needs that have to be met.
I will always need a safe person to go to when I am overwhelmed. Having people who can detect when I am in sensory overload and can help me process it is key to my safety and that of others. My meltdowns are verbally and physically violent, because my entire being is on fire, and that fire engulfs those around it.
I realize this isn’t a popular or convenient subject, but it is one that must be addressed if I am to do more than sit around the house.
I don’t want to wind up in a bad way when the time comes I am family-less. The precious few people who care about me are much older than I am.
I need sensory safe inclusion. I need it now.