An autistic’s perspective to climate change and disasters
The world around us is susceptible to multiple hazards, few of them have the potential to turn into disasters and the only way one can be safe is by being prepared and by reducing or mitigating the risk. Disasters usually are associated with a prolonged period of uncertainty and chaos which are usually a trigger factor for any autistic person and even for me.
I have autism and I am working in the field of disaster preparedness. Sounds interesting and challenging and it is indeed. It is a stressful job but the idea that all that stress can go away by just planning and preparing it makes sense to an autistic mind. Most of the autistic community has a heightened stress level even on a regular day. Many of them are unable to express it by saying they are stressed but it starts getting reflected in their behavior. So, how does a person on the spectrum manage stress? They plan their day out. They keep a track of their timetable, having a control on the future events and actions help us keep the stress level low. This makes sense for anyone out there who is dealing with stress, a sense of control is all what is needed.
This is exactly what I try and help the people with in my present job, this is one reason why I enjoy my work, even though it doesn’t pay much.
In a recent event with Action for Autism, I learned about few techniques which many autistic people use, developing a visual timetable and story telling. The idea that it is told in advance to an autistic person help them plan their day, week and even month in advance.
I realized this is a great way to communicate with the neurotypical world as well and realized I have been doing it for years for myself and for people I deal with. But then I realized that no matter what I do the message is not reaching out.
I live in a society where the value for human life is next to 0. We are a country of more than a billion people and if few die it doesn’t matter to anyone. We saw that in the recent response to the covid-19 pandemic as well, where lockdown was initiated within four hours and people were left to fend for themselves. We still have no information how many people lost their lives during this time. We are an economy dependent mostly on informal sector and agriculture and now many such practices have come to a halt leaving people without food, money and even a home.
The only thing I can think about is what if we had planned it properly, what if we have charted out days on a planner or calendar. What if we have prepared in advance for it, all this anxiety, all this pain and suffering could have easily been avoided.
I work in the humanitarian sector because I come from a family where I have learnt to be gentle, polite and helpful. The thought of seeing someone distressed or in pain is disturbing because I am sensitive, I can empathize with others. I need to help and make this world a better place.
And so I am dedicated to my job, I make sure everyone gets the idea why I am there and how they will benefit. Why I talk so passionately about disasters, climate change and how to be safe. But like I mentioned, the idea is not passing to others, many don’t even want to practice it. People live with the belief that nothing can happen to them. That they will be fine and yet I have seen death and suffering. The turmoil it brings for years after the incident, the post-traumatic stress, sleepless nights and what not.
I see people making fun of the little girl, whether its Greta or Licypriya, they are there telling you that you are in danger but the world doesn’t want to believe. I have seen people waiting for the day it will happen and then suffer in silence, not learning from our mistakes and going on with life as if nothing matters.
I feel the autistic way of life is so easy, rules are meant to be followed, time and instructions are valued, things are planned, no one say something and mean something else and when in chaos we got each other’s back, we take care, we comfort, we get back on our feet and we plan to be better.
I guess the neurotypical world has a lot to take from the autistic community, especially in the difficult times of Covid-19 when the entire world is talking about social distancing and good hygiene. How difficult is it for you to practice social distancing? A small step today will help us to break the chain and stop this disaster in its track.