PLEASE NOTE: Due to extenuating circumstances, Olivia wasn’t able to upload the post and requested I (Todd Simkover, Blog Editor) do it on her behalf, which ironically relates to a skill the article is ALL about! – Olivia is the sole author.
Over the course of my life as a neurodiverse person — identifying both as with comorbid learning and physical impairments — I have become accustomed to not just self-advocacy, but self-accommodation. I choose to define self-accommodation as I can do for myself to accommodate my own needs, since this “can do” mindset has been essential to maintaining independence throughout my life. When combined with self-advocacy, which I define as what others can do for me, I have been able to make tremendous progress with both my education and professional writing projects I have taken on.
Accommodating my own needs started out of necessity. When I was living in Toronto — from 2018 to 2020 — I found the sound of the subway cars on the tracks too overwhelming. The problem was, without usage of the subway, it made travel nearly impossible because of the increased travel time. I eventually figured out that if I wore high-fidelity earplugs, it made the whole experience on the subway far less overwhelming due to the decrease in noise they provided. That was my first real usage of self-accommodation, and since then it has become my primary means of making my way through challenging situations. Recognizing patterns in my responses to different situations and sensory inputs has enabled me to better manage situations I find difficult. This is because I have prepared ahead of time to make sure I am able to make it through independently.
Self-accommodation is not the only important thing to be mindful of, however. Despite the desire to always be able to control of all aspects of a given situation, I’ve learned and come to accept that I’m only able to control my response to it. In that case, it is very important to advocate for my needs when accommodating them myself is not sufficient or possible. Learning to accommodate your own needs is a process, and it takes time to learn not only what’s causing barriers in a situation, but ways to make those barriers either less significant or to eliminate them entirely. Moreover, it’s made even more difficult when there are a variety of different factors that affect your response to a situation, as is the case with me.
A balance of self-accommodation and self-advocacy is often the best way to approach a challenging situation and overcome it. Anticipating certain challenges in a given situation, such as restlessness during a long meeting, can be self-accommodated by bringing small fidget toys and incorporating planned breaks, so you don’t burn out or lose focus in the process. Moreover, a trip to the grocery store could be made less sensory overstimulating with earplugs for the noise and a baseball cap or sunglasses to keep the lights out of your eyes. Although these solutions may sound very simplistic, applying them regularly may requires sacrifice and planning, which in turn can significantly reduce anxiety and improve your well being.