By Joshua Berger-Viflanzoff, November 16th 2020.
There are several problems in modern society that might make autistic people - particularly young autistic adults - experience stress, anxiety and depression, in many cases leading them to take medication. Some of these problems are rooted very deeply into Canadian society as well as the society of other countries. This post is the first of a series in which I discuss what these problems are, how deeply ingrained into society they are, and how they can be solved, or at least partially solved.
Problem # 1: Lack of Access to Adequate Employment and Housing Opportunities:
Difficulty securing employment is an issue that affects all younger Canadians, but it affects autistic people the hardest. According to one statistic, the unemployment rate for autistic adults is 85%; this is primarily due to the challenge of being successful in a job interview with autism and also due to the fact that there are many social rules in the workplace that autistic people can’t comply with. My proposal to solve this problem would be advocate for expansion in anti-discrimination laws; the proposed expansion would be to prohibit employers from refusing to hire, or firing employees already hired for “weird” or “bizarre” traits and behaviours associated with autism or other related conditions, provided that reasonable standards of politeness and decency are met.
The second solution to the high unemployment problem that will help all Canadians, regardless of their neurotype, that I propose is to advocate for a ban on retired people from re-entering the workplace unless they can prove they need to work for financial reasons. This will help by reducing youth unemployment by the lack of competition in the workforce. If retirees feel the need to contribute to society or participate in social activity there would be other options available to them. For example, they could join a club or similar association, or they could volunteer for a cause they support.
Ironically, if autistic people are unable to find a well-paying job (and if their parents are not paying for their medication), they may have to go off their medication in order to save money. At a glance, this might appear consistent with goal of reducing overmedication. However, it is not the kind of change I want to see. I do not condone poverty and I want people to stop using medications voluntarily, because they are no longer needed. I don’t want people suffering from depression or anxiety forced to choose between needed medications and groceries or rent.
An additional problem that must be addressed is the issue of affordable housing; this issue affects many young Canadians regardless of their neurotype but, like the majority of societal problems, it hits autistic people the hardest. I think that there are ways that this problem could be solved. One approach to lowering housing prices would involve banning people who are not residents or citizens of Canada from buying houses in Canada. This may seem radical, but New Zealand has already banned most foreigners and non-residents from buying houses, in order to cut housing costs. Some other countries have similar laws, besides New Zealand; Hong Kong has a 15% surcharge for homes bought by foreigners, Mexico prohibits foreigners from owning property within 100 kilometres of its borders or within 50 kilometers of its coastlines and Switzerland has quotas on how many properties can be owned by foreigners.
In conclusion, if these problems in society were eliminated, or at least greatly reduced, there would almost certainly be less stress, anxiety and depression among people on the autism spectrum. This in turn would likely result in less reliance on medication to cope. Of course, proposals to address social
problems will not completely reduce overmedication of autistic people, due to the fact that not all overmedication of autistic people is caused by stressors in society. Nevertheless, understanding and addressing the societal issues that impact autistic people would be an important step in the right direction.