When an autistic person requires “low support needs,” does this mean the so-called accommodations?

Many people view “support needs” as a type of help or assistance that’s given by caseworkers or caregivers so that the autistic individual could function as productively as possible and live the life they choose.

However, there’s also the school of thought that the support actually doesn’t have to be provided by people in order to be considered a support need.

Even those in the autistic community are unable to unanimously agree on what actually constitutes a support need, whether it’s defined by human involvement and whether or not accommodations that are generated by the Autistic only should be considered a type of support need.

I have a clinical diagnosis of ASD, and I was inspired to cover this topic after reading a thread about it in an online autism community.

Some really intriguing ideas were posted.

For instance, one line of thought was that support does not need to be provided by humans in order to be support.

In fact, human-generated support may be difficult to find.

Furthermore, many Autistics wouldn’t want some caseworker following them around all day – while others, though, would seemingly be unaware of their omnipotent caretaker.

One thread contributor pointed out that “support” may mean that Autists can benefit from any of the following provisions.

• Sensory aids such as sunglasses, earplugs and dental guards

• Stimming implements such as spinners on tops of pens, finger rings that spin, “chewelry” and puddy.

• An augmentative and alternative communication device (for those with speech difficulties)

• A modification at the workplace such as a quiet area with soft lighting

• A service dog

As you can see, none of the aforementioned supports require the presence of another person or any kind of facilitation from another person, for that matter.

Neurotypicals Also Need Support

Many NTs hire a professional to do their taxes. Many NTs will also hire someone to come to their home and set up a new computer.

But these support systems are considered mainstream.

When it comes to Autistics, support needs refer to a level of assistance or accommodation – in order to function optimally – that would be considered outside the mainstream or norm of what typical people would need in order to function optimally.

Thus, support needs can be something that an Autistic is perfectly capable of supplying for themselves without any external assistance.

For example, I can’t stand hearing the sound of the four young girls two doors down playing in their trampoline.

I also find it very distracting to hear their parents and other adults socializing on their deck.

I can’t stand to hear an engine idling for no good reason (hey men, what’s UP with this?).

To block the noise I’ll run a fan. Oddly, these sounds bother me only when I’m inside MY house.

If I’m visiting someone and hear kids playing outdoors or an engine idling, it won’t bother me.

That’s because my home is my castle. Needless noise from outside that’s caused by inconsiderate people is an intrusion into my privacy.

I’ve also decided to move, and this time, it’ll be in an area where the houses are very far apart.

The fan, noise cancelling earmuffs and the decision to move are all accommodations to support my autism.

The hum of the brand new refrigerator, which came with my current new-build house, interfered with my sleep, even though my bedroom is upstairs, even when the door was closed.

Accommodation: I purchased a new refrigerator (sleeping with earplugs is not an option).

I hate clothing tags. Accommodation: I cut them down to the nub with a toenail clipper.

• An Autistic may have music going every minute to conceal outside sounds.

• They may not mind clothing tags, but may avoid buying clothes of a certain fabric or avoid wearing short sleeves due to their feel.

• They may avoid foods of certain textures or even colors.

• They may suffer freezing hands during winter because they can’t tolerate confining their hands and fingers inside gloves and mittens – such as my brother, who’s always refused to wear gloves or mittens no matter how cold.

Needless to say, he doesn’t own any. Though he hasn’t been assessed for ASD, I and other family members fully believe he’s on the Spectrum.

These adjustments are how the Autistic provides self-support.

Autistics who self-provide their support system don’t need a caseworker or other human to help them through daily living.

Without these non-human supports in place, the Autistic can become moderately to highly distressed.

The level of distress may result in impaired productivity with whatever task the Autist is trying to perform.

Or, it could mean a debilitating meltdown.

In my case, it would be the former: impaired productivity from the distraction.

If I don’t happen to be in the middle of a task when I suddenly begin hearing those four sisters two doors down — who are literally addicted to jumping up and down like automatons in that trampoline — I’ll try to avoid using the room from which I could hear them until they’ve gone inside (which could be quite a wait time — but then they’ll be back in that thing within 15 minutes…)

In fact, sometimes I’m so fed up with the fact that neighbors feel a compelling need to idle noisy engines or be noisy in their backyard, that I cease whatever task I was doing and “escape” to my treadmill.

This then becomes an opportunity to contribute to my daily step quota of at least 8,000.

The treadmill’s noise conceals outside noise, but when the treadmill motor begins getting annoying, I’ll put on my noise cancelling earmuffs.

In summary, a non-human or inanimate support, provided by the Autistic themselves, is just as important as is a caregiver for another Autistic who requires that level of support.

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical and fitness topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. In 2022 she received a diagnosis of Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder. 


Top image: Freepik.com/valuavitaly