Xiahui Lin

Long Live the Difference

Astrid Poot's perspective on autism and work

Activist, freethinker, designer, writer, maker and blue collar philosopher…Astrid Poot puts on a lot of hats, but what does she say about neurodivergence and being different?


In the beginning of the 2022 academic year, Astrid welcomes the first-year students of CMD Amsterdam wearing a t-shirt with the print “autist” on it. Among the many things that she shares with the freshmans – from culture to care to the city, being autistic is only one of the many intersecting dimensions she consists of, but it can quite often override the rest in people’s opinions and bring discomfort. “I thought it was a brave statement.“, Astrid said. “The stigma is really life-sized”. 


Astrid Poot -

Autism is thought of as inherently bad, and Astrid wants to challenge that idea. If we celebrate all kinds of neurological conditions, and if we believe that we are different but equal beings, why is it always the autistic that need to explain themselves and become the object of sympathy? In a neurodivergent future, the autistic would not have to do so, but it is yet to happen. With the same courage, Astrid starts to say more about it in her blog.

“Although autism is sometimes difficult, I mainly experience it as something positive.” 

For Astrid, the influence of having autism in her life is multifaceted and she found some of these aspects good in instinct. For instance, experiencing a bunch of flowers is no less stimulating than being in a party, and the consequences of this are multifold. The explosion of ideas and impressions that a thing leads to when she sees it is actually her source of inspiration, and all the knowledge just comes in handy through this instant mind map. However, she needs extra effort to channel her attention so it is not expended for example on every bunch of flowers. It is not easy, but when this special power is recognized it shows us the way how it can be enabling. On the contrary, the more Astrid tried to be as normal as possible, the more she was overtaken by the stigma.


Photo by Astrid Poot from her blog article "Van zij, via jij, naar wij" - https://astridpoot.nl/2023/02/05/van-zij-via-jij-naar-wij/

Astrid gives more pros and cons about autism. The autist values sincerity and looks for clearness, which can also make them insensitive to hierarchy and insistent to do the right thing. They want to figure out the answer. They would try to use drawings, models and summaries, but they can also ask uncomfortable questions. They are a misfit. They come up with unusual solutions and can be a bit weird. When it comes to work and ethics, these characters carry a lot of things that we actually anticipate:

    • Be honest about why, how and what you do.
    • Fight backroom politics and scheming.
    • Use hierarchy only for streamlining processes.
    • Pay attention.
    • Give space.

Not only as an autistic but as a designer Astrid delivers a message:

We need to search by ourselves to find out what is good. It is not defined by the corporate culture but we shouldn’t be afraid of that, as our difference is also our power and we will shine when we are open about it. 


DIY Ethiek Handboek Gedrukt from Goed Maken - Credit to Astrid Poot , sourced from goedmaken.org 

In this light we are asked to rethink the autistic as the other, in the tricky scenario when someone tells us that they are autistic and we respond something like “I never thought that. You really don’t notice it!”

“[...] it is not despite my autism that things are going well; it’s also thanks to my autism”,

As Astrid puts it: 

“People who feel different are not difficult, they are enriching and give others the space to feel special and to let go of the norm. Because everyone is in something different. From that vulnerability arises trust and connection. And from that trust we come to sincere and beautiful things in our work. And the world desperately needs beautiful things.”



Interview with Astrid 

A/artist event 'Playing with Ethics and Rhythm', in which Astrid was featured as a speaker 

Astrid's website

Astrid's Goedmaken project