This is a video from CBS about some of the programs major companies like Microsoft and SAP are using to invite and grow autistic talent to them. I attended part of last year’s Autism at Work conference mentioned in the video, and it was a very inspiring and informative experience. Here’s my blog post about that experience.
Thanks to @beautmindstalk for posting this, and for the follow!
A lot of you probably have no idea what the title of this post is concerning, but I also bet that a good number of you do.
Since I work with kids, I am slightly familiar with Overwatch. It is an extremely popular, shooter-style video game with a multitude of characters to play as. In fact, the sheer diversity of the characters is one of the game’s best attributes in my opinion, which leads to the article below and my thoughts on it.
It is mentioned in the article how introducing a character on the spectrum in such a subtle way as it is done in this game is a deviation from the normal approach by the entertainment world. Usually, it is either blasted in neon letters that a character is autistic, or there are no such characters to begin with. Symmetra, the character who is at the center of this article, is a female fighter with a love for order. She is perfectly content to leave a battle to set up a stronger defense, tends to miss social cues, and can get overwhelmed. Even her name suggests a desire for balance, for all things to be in symmetry.
Another aspect of the article that I appreciated was the note that the word autistic is still used as an insult online, which is very true. I cringe when I see it hurled in such a manner on message and comment boards, and rarely is the speaker corrected. The author of the article, Andrew McMillen, and many that he interviewed echoed my hope that introducing more characters like Symmetra may lead to wider autism acceptance.
The article is below, from WIRED magazine:
Video Games Are Being Transformed By This Autistic Character
So first, if you haven’t seen the Seriously TV “Shutting Down BS about Autism” segment, here it is:
This video caused a firestorm in the comments on both Facebook and YouTube. It wasn’t necessarily because of any factual information that was or was not presented (although that came up as well), but about the fact that many autistic adults felt that Avery, who has autism and is in the still shot above, was not given much opportunity to really speak. His dad’s segments were often cut in over Avery’s. Dylan, who runs these segments, explained that he wanted to make sure the message got across and that it may have been difficult doing this with Avery alone. His explanation, as you can guess, did not ease the firestorm.
My take: I have seen other channels do this much better with regards to letting autistic people “shut down the BS” themselves (see BBC’s Three video “Things Not To Say To An Autistic Person”). Granted, these are all people who are very much verbal, but it is a step up from the Seriously TV attempt. Even better is basically any interview with Carly Fleischmann, who is considered severely autistic and cannot speak (she uses a keyboard). Better still? The countless blogs and vlogs from autistic people themselves; those are first hand accounts at their best, and they run the gamut as far as diversity on the autism spectrum. A couple of my neurodiverse followers with awesome blogs include: David Snape and Friends, Anonymously Autistic, and Neurodivergent Rebel.
Bottom line is that I understand what Dylan was trying to do with this segment, and I think that if he can take and listen to the feedback, he could make this into an amazing series. Personally, reading the feedback made me think quite a bit about my own business and how to avoid those same pitfalls.
What do you all think? Did the “Shutting Down” video completely miss the mark? What about the BBC Three one?
Quick update on where I am on everything:
I have now added “The SPARC Program” page and the “Staff” page. These will probably be fine-tuned even more in the coming weeks, but right now I’m just happy I figured out how to link everything! I will probably add a FAQ page once the blueprint for the program is formally written.
The thesis is now moving on to Final Edit check. After that, I plan to add it to ProQuest (which will make the thesis searchable) and start looking at journals for publishing.
I am starting to outline the entire SPARC program, including its format, questionaries, and variations. Right now, I’m also looking at creating supplement programs for parents, siblings, and even schools.
There will be a YouTube channel, so stay tuned for that!
There will also be a book, which I will start writing in July. The book will have a similar theme to the thesis and the program. I will be posting soon about a call for interviews.
So yes, lots going on right now, but I am super excited about all of it! There’s something amazing about doing what you feel called to do, and I want as many people as possible to know that feeling as well. I can’t wait to share all of this!
It’s written. Holy cow, it is actually written.
Yesterday morning I sent my thesis to both my editor and my thesis committee to start the editing process.
I have finished documents before: I have won the National Novel Writing Month contest 7 of the 8 years that I entered. The big difference there, though, was that no one saw my work. It was word counted by a bot to confirm 50,000 words, and that was that. This is the first time that I have written an entire document that I am deeply passionate about, and sent it out for several people to read (and probably rip it apart in some sense). I actually know that it can better, and I’m actually really excited to see how to expand it and make it better.
This process showed me aspects of the autism world that I thought I knew, but really didn’t. I had an inkling of the effect some forms of therapy have on autistic clients, but I had no idea about the depth. Some approaches can be absolute confidence killers if not executed properly. I also learned that, contrary to popular belief, these kiddos don’t have just one specific interest. They sometimes have several that have some general tie-in to each other. One of my interviewees, “Sarah,” loves studying insects, is fascinated with the California drought and how to reverse it, and likes playfully debating about the science of flying cars with her dad. All of this falls under one heading: science. Using Gardner’s breakdown of multiple intelligence, she appears to fall into the Naturalist and perhaps the Mathematical types.
As small as this thesis is (I don’t think it will pass 70 pages in the end and I only did 3 case studies), it has given me a starting point for both a book and a business. It gave confirmation of what is missing. Strangely enough, a phone conversation I had last week with an ex also confirmed to me that a strength-based enrichment program could do wonders for “neurotypicals” as well.
I took this weekend off to let my brain rest after being turned to complete mush from all of the writing, but I’m going to be doing some serious planning starting tomorrow.
It’s time to get to work.
The last several weeks have been a whirlwind, but I am super excited at the fact that my thesis on autism and spiritual/creative gifts has a thesis committee and is in the process of going through the ethics committee! My thesis committee has been amazing at helping me fine tune and enhance the proposal so that it is concise, understandable, and academic. The part that I really love, though, is how excited the committee is about the topic.
There is certainly something to the saying “when the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear.” In the last 2-3 weeks, I have seen several teachers appear. These are others who, like myself, refuse to look at autism as just a set of behaviors to be corrected. Some are on the spectrum themselves. The teachers have also been of different ages, as several of my young clients are also teaching me every day.
In the next few weeks, I will be moving into the interview stage. I have a couple of kiddos and adults in mind, but I am always open to more voices. Even if they don’t end up in the thesis paper, they will probably be in the book I’m planning to write about the subject/program once I graduate in June.
I’m in the Bay Area of California, but thanks to this lovely invention called the Internet, I can also include people who are from all over. Even if you don’t want to participate in the thesis or the book, I love to chat with people about this subject. In my area, there are a handful of us in the field who feel this way. We would all like to see that handful grow.
Interested in participating, or know someone who may? Have a question about what I’m studying, or my plans for the SPARC program? Just want to say hello? Shoot me an email at email@example.com.