I’ve always been really bugged by that thing where we autistics try to share what life on the spectrum is like, and the reaction of NTs is 'well, we're all a little bit autistic aren’t we'. Firstly, because it denies and diminishes our very real difficulties. And secondly, because it’s simply not true. If your naturally white skin is deeply tanned from exposure to the sun, that doesn’t mean you’re ‘a little bit black’, and if you tried to claim so, it would be recognised as nonsense. Yet people insist on equating their occasional moments of social awkwardness or whatever, with actually being autistic.
So I’ve long wondered what the world would look like, if we really were ‘all a little bit autistic’. About a year ago, I asked around in several autistic groups, what their vision would be, of a world where everyone was autistic, with the idea of writing a post on it. Unfortunately, I went through a period of ill-health shortly after, and then got immersed in other projects, and never got round to writing it. But recently I revisited those conversations, which I’d saved in a file, and realised there were some good ideas in it. Plus, it’s still a Thing, where NTs do that. It hasn’t gone away, and I want to supply people with some ammunition to counter it.
So here’s the suggestions people made, divided into several categories, for simplicity’s sake. It turned out to be a long list! I want to thank all those who contributed. I’ve edited some of them slightly, made clear where people offered alternative ideas, and anonymised them all to protect peoples’ privacy.
Foods would be automatically separated.
No forcing kids to finish their dinner.
No Styrofoam… Not just Styrofoam - polystyrene in general.
Weighted blankets would be sold as the norm rather than as an (often expensive) specialist item.
No unwanted touching.
No-one, on complaining about smells, would ever again be told "stop your whining, it's not that bad."
‘Smell pollution’ would be recognised as a thing. It would be considered a social offense to overload with perfume, for example.
[Or] No one would wear perfume or scented deodorant.
[Or] Perfume would only be smellable when you actually sniff it.
No-one would have invented fluorescent lights!
It would be totally acceptable to wear sunglasses year-round and indoors and no one would make jokes about someone giving you a black eye or suspect you of being a shoplifter.
Lighting, music etc would all be customisable to the individual.
Sunglasses would always be available at the dentist or any medical exam with bright lights.
Waiting rooms would be lit dimly.
[Or] Bright lighting would be non-existent.
They would come up with tech that doesn't buzz just below the range of hearing.
All motors and buzzing noises in the house and office gone.
Central heating would be [truly] silent.
There wouldn't be a need for earplugs.
Normal earmuffs would have an option to be ear defenders.
No-one would play their music on their phones, in the street. Ever.
Applause would not be a goddamn thing.
Wild or screaming children in small public spaces where waiting in line is required, like post offices, waiting rooms, etc [would be removed].
[Or] A quiet and softly lit room with individual cubicles in every building open to the public. If there is a line that you have to wait in, you could take a number and wait in the quiet room.
Supermarkets and shopping centres would have noise baffling technology. No more echoes.
And the lighting in the supermarkets would be different and there'd be no irritating music or loud tannoys.
There would be no muzak in shops. Ever.
Everyone would get private soundproof cubicles with soft lighting.
Clothing [wouldn’t be like] sandpaper, oddly put together, things glued and dangling, embroidery overloaded, etc.
Clothing labels would be easily removeable from clothes.
[Or -] No tags on clothes ever.
Socks wouldn’t have seams!
They would ban that weird plastic elastic stuff they put in seams in ready-to-wear clothes. Digs in and itches and scratches like mad!
All swimming pools would have the non-chlorine cleaning system. No kid at school would be forced to go to the public swimming pool.
Children's toys would have no battery-operated lights and noise. And the toys would not be all tied in the boxes so much my son gets so upset trying to get the toy out of the box.
There would be no spontaneous social events.
Small talk would not exist.
No one would expect eye contact.
People wouldn't shake hands to greet each other.
People [would say] "hello" as a greeting instead of "how are you". They would only say the latter if they really mean it.
The phrase would you like to go for a drink would mean drinks, and there'd be a different one for 'I've assessed you as a life/night partner, shall we?'
No 'social niceties' - people would just say it how it is & not dance around the truth.
People wouldn't lie so much.
Everyone would trust one another and take people at their word.
People would actually say what they mean and then give you a chance to do it.
People wouldn't assume intent from tone and body language and you could safely take things at face value without the danger of realising, years later, that you were being mocked.
[People would recognise that] stating facts is not being rude.
No one would ask, if they looked good in an outfit, then be offended if you said no.... Or if you liked their new hair etc.
People would not talk to you about things that they know you cannot relate to… then be upset that you told them the solution options. Or finally said something honest that may be considered harsh.
The concept of "reading between the lines" [would not exist]. Along with there not being a singular "right way" to do things.
When something really cool happens no one would care if someone gets very excited and starts flapping or waving their arms. In fact, that's what most ppl would be doing.
No stims would be mocked.
Phone ‘seconds’ would be available to make important calls with your voice and manner.
There would be no socializing over meals. My food [gets] cold.
One sided restaurant tables, to discourage eye contact.
[There would be a] 'quiet please' side of the restaurant.
"I need some time alone" would be totally respected.
Sporting events wouldn't be a thing.
Sales people would be very clear what they were trying to sell you.
No criticism of special or unique interests.
No-one would be made to feel that they were less because of functioning labels, no invading personal space, sarcasm would be always marked with /s so people can tell, it would basically be utopia in an all autistic world for me.
Job interviews wouldn't ask stupid gotcha questions.
Apprenticeships for teens so you got to learn your passion under an expert without having to go through an interview.
No open plan office/classroom designs.
All workplaces would offer quiet rooms for random breaks whenever needed.
Lunch/breaks would not be mandated at a certain time - if you were on a roll they’d leave you be.
Work from home would be available in all jobs where practicable.
Meltdown leave would be available.
Instructions would all be written and verbal. With no more than 2-3 at a time.
No-one would consider you anti-social at work for sitting at your desk with ear buds in instead of making chit chat about last night's episode of whatever.
DC transformers wouldn't whistle, no-one in the factory could bear it.
We'd probably all be happier in our jobs as we'd have created jobs that focus on our strengths and things we like doing.
I could have a working environment where it was perfectly okay for me to have a balance between work and social skills... In fact, I could easily get a job, for that matter.
School bells would gently chime, not ring shrilly.
Subjects at school can go all day/week not 6-8 subjects/day, different classes, teacher, room, students...
Schools would not change daily routines or specific plans so often or without good reason and would give a lot more notice.
Education would allow for different rates of progress, would encourage people (the young and adults) to learn what they were passionate about and help find ways to build on that passion.
Also, education would be from home if desired.
Classes would encourage people to take breaks with a quiet room available at all times.
There would be no more Group Work in schools except where the task *absolutely requires* a group of people to complete it.
There'd be playgrounds with more tactile play for the kids.
No compulsory team sport classes for kids.
Flexible unisex natural fibre uniforms.
Nature designed integral to classroom, outdoor classrooms.
Low noise classrooms.
The [education authorities] would not think mainstream is inclusive and other professionals would not blame parents and also not ignore them over school. Professionals would be agreeing with parents and there would be a partnership. There would be less mental health issues based around autism and related conditions.
The television programming would be radically different. More documentaries, intelligent written scripts, less celebrity driven reality shows. No ads, marketing is such shameless fake manipulation.
Maybe even channels dedicated to different topics, like there would be a train one, a biology one, an astronomy one, a history one....
An Architectural one, actual engineering details, with professional experience not the glut of terrible building makeovers, a photography channel, a drawing channel…
Theme park rides system would be different... You'd have to pre-book your time slot for each ride... No queues and you can book up to 3 goes per ride (so it works a bit like fast track) only fair to all.
Ponderer societies, chess clubs, salons for philosophical debates would be the norm not fringe.
Social justice would be universal.
Places like Alton Towers or Drayton Manor wouldn't exist.
We [would] just accept that religious beliefs [etc] are personal and as individual as being autistic is.
No war, no famine and no poverty.
Nobody would be at war. We would work together to build a unified, accepting world, for the purposes of bettering the lives of every person on earth. We are the innovators that these NTs take for granted.
The planet would have guardians and caretakers, lots of volunteers...
All drivers would use signals appropriately, travel within speed limit, and stop tailgating.
Buildings would be honest and have integrity of materials, not the faux finishes, opulent facades masking crappy design.
Houses would be soundproofed.
Baths would be bigger.
Bedrooms and private spaces would be bigger, and shared/living spaces smaller.
[Subway stations would not] be a huge challenge… [In an autistic world] these issues would be dealt with at source through design and construction.
Transport would be different, it would be larger and have enough room for everyone to have their own space.
Things would run on time, updated info would be spot on and asap.
Supermarkets would have larger aisles so you don't have to go near people to go past them.
Products would [always] be displayed in the same place in supermarkets, [but] if moved instructions for where to find that item would be available.
Everything would be planned and thought out, in a particular routine. There would be no change whatsoever.
[Or] THEY WOULDN'T CHANGE ANYTHING WITHOUT GOOD REASON and would give notice AND also carry on the original version.
Also, we probably would have conquered the rest of the galaxy by now.
There are probably other things you can think of to add to this list. I offer these as ‘food for thought’, as to how different the world would be, if we really were all ‘a little bit autistic’.