As an autistic adult, I spend a lot of time encountering the word independent.
In the world of disability, we often talk about whether or not someone is independent. We ask if someone lives independently, if they can hold down employment independently, if they can accomplish daily living independently.
The longer I’ve worked in the disability field, the more obvious it’s become to me that no one lives entirely independently. Every human relies on others – farmers who grow our food, the workers who pave our roads, the electricity company that keeps our lights on – the list is virtually endless. There is no shame in living a life that relies on others.
This is interdependence. The simplest definition of the word is “the fact of depending on each other.” It refers to the ways that humans build relationships and communities, contributing in different ways and receiving in different ways. It helps us remember that we survive as humans because we are in community.
This conviction, that each human gives and takes to the communities we inhabit, was what inspired me to create AuSM Celebrates Interdependence, a yearlong initiative of the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM).
To carry out this initiative, AuSM will share new, original resources with information about relationships, families, environment, and community; we will host educational opportunities connected to interdependence; and we’ll seek community questions and concerns to tailor our information to the needs of the people we serve.
AuSM Celebrates Interdependence will look at disability from a new viewpoint that will allow us to celebrate neurodiversity and highlight the amazing ways that our autistic community members participate in their communities, families, relationships, workplaces, and other spaces.
Throughout the year, we’ll be focusing on four areas of interdependence:
Relationships form the backbone of interdependence. A relationship is about connection between two individuals. That connection is what allows us to offer support to each other and, in turn, depend on each other. Relationships allow us to trust others when we need support. Without trust and communication, we would not be able to offer each other resources and skills. Without relationships, we cannot form interdependence.
Building Strong Families
Interdependence is larger than relationships between individuals. It’s also about the ways that we build networks and systems. The basic unit of interdependence is a family. Families come in a wide variety of types, sizes, and structures. This section of the initiative will help you translate your healthy relationships into a family system. We’ll discuss topics including parenting while autistic, resources for siblings of autistic individuals, the role of genetics in autism, and the ways that family relationships change over time.
With a solid foundation in our personal lives and families, our concept of interdependence can grow outward to our larger communities. Strong communities rely on the skills and abilities of a variety of people, and they give back to members in different ways.
In this section, we’ll talk about advocacy on a larger scale, using the Autistic Community Summit to discuss the autism community in a larger context. Topics will include the intersections of race and disability; the concept of mutual aid with tools like pod mapping; and how non-traditional supports like skill trades can allow autistic adults to connect with their communities and build interdependent relationships. Resources that can help autistics and their family members conceptualize who is in their community and what each person brings will be provided.
Independence and Interdependence
Interdependence is not just about connection. It’s also about understanding your own strengths and abilities, as well as where you need support. In the final months of 2021, we’ll look at the ways that individuals can support themselves, with topics including self-care, sensory regulation, and executive function. We’ll talk about how individuals can advocate for themselves and for others, and we’ll discuss the important role autistic individuals have in autism research.
In each of these areas, you can look forward to finding graphics and PDFs with information, articles, educational opportunities, and more! Check out all of the information about AuSM Celebrates Interdependence at https://ausm.org/education/ausm-celebrates-interdependence-2021/.
Zephyr James (any pronouns)
Community Engagement Manager, AuSM
Schedule care today: https://bit.ly/3lOmeoj