Night Owl Ramblings

I just put the finishing touches on the first of many different classes that I believe to be my life’s work. While helping people uncover their purpose is the biggie, I also have a strong desire to educate others about autism. The training I finished up tonight is the latter.

I drew this from the many experiences I have observed, participated in, and read about from those on the spectrum. I don’t like just getting up and spewing facts and diagnostic criteria. I really want people to understand what the autism experience is like, and in understanding, learn to approach with acceptance rather than judgement or fear.

Despite the years of Autism Awareness Month, I am quickly learning that many people still have no real idea of what autism is. In fact, their understanding is limited to Rain Man and “out of control” kids, and that’s about it. Kids have started using the word “autistic” as an online insult, much in the way that “retarded” was used in the past. For all of the walks and fundraising that is done every April, why is it that such a large percent of the population do not have a more accepting view of it?

I kind of answered my own question there: awareness and acceptance are two different ideas. I have definitely seen evidence that a lot of people are aware that autism exists; I think that goal has been fairly well achieved. It’s time to switch gears to acceptance. Unfortunately, the very agencies that started the awareness campaign do not seem too keen on promoting acceptance of autism. They’d prefer if it was “cured.”

I find myself in a unique position to change the narrative, a few people at a time. I have the opportunity to help shape a different way of looking at not just autism, but the power of human spirit and potential overall.

The awesome thing is, so do you.

Conversations on Facebook have opened and challenged some of my friends to think beyond their ideas of what “special needs” really means. I have other friends who do this everyday as well. We can make a difference. We can teach others. Speak your stories. Share your knowledge. This goes triple if you are on the spectrum yourself, because YOU are the expert on it. Not me, not a BCBA. YOU. Everything I learned, I learned from my clients. They have taught me and made me a better person.

I went off on a bit of a tangent, which is typical for me after midnight, so I’ll end by saying that I am super excited about tomorrow (a little nervous as well), and that hopefully all will go well.

Testers Needed!

I am finally at a point where I can start trying to get this kite in the air! First things first, though: I tested the Core Questions out on myself and was pretty amazed at what I got from it (along with how they changed as I went). Now I want to test them out on others to see if they are valid. These questions are the heart of what I do and what future workshops/classes may look like, so it is very important that they are asked correctly and can be understood. See below for info on how you can participate. If you choose not to, that’s fine, but do me a huge favor and pass the call on! 🙂

The SPARC program has an introductory class in the works! Before I offer it, though, I will need about 10 beta testers. The testers can be kids, teens, or adults, neurotypical or on the spectrum (but verbal), and available by phone, Skype, or in person (FYI, I’m in the Bay Area, California). I’ll just ask you some questions to test the validity of the workshop’s focus (there are about 4-6 questions, depending on age). Ideally, I want it ready by the end of the year at the latest. If you’re interested in helping out, email me at sparcguidance@gmail.com! Also, here is the link to SPARC’s new Facebook page, which just launched.

Oh, and the picture is a little hint about the workshop…

carl_jung

Figure Out How You Learn

This video is a great introduction to some of the issues my thesis, and the SPARC program, addresses. Howard Gardner is featured heavily in my thesis, and his theory is part of the backbone of the SPARC program. We are all different types of learners, and we all have a wide variety of gifts to share with the world. What are yours?

Updates

Hi everyone!

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!

Thesis Is Written!

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.

Thesis Update

Hello all!

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 sparcguidance@gmail.com.

Neurodiversity and Autism

After going through what I can only describe as a “dark night of the soul” over the last two months, I have emerged happily…way behind schedule on a lot of things, but happy to be back on my grind.

One of the books I started diving into was NeuroTribes, by Steve Silberman. It is a huge book, over 500 pages, but it reads like a novel. This was my first introduction into the term (and movement) known as neurodiversity. It is a new concept, the idea that many neurological “hiccups” are more a natural variation of the human condition than a disorder. Right away, you can probably see why this idea would ruffle some well-established feathers.

Any of us who received degrees in the medical and health fields were more than likely taught the traditional “medical model;” anything not meeting the definition of normal (that could be an entire blog by itself) was considered pathological and must be treated. Recently, the medical field has tried to lean more towards preventative health to avoid problems later on down the road, but few have ventured far from the traditional viewpoint of identifying a problem and throwing everything we’ve got at the problem to stop it.

This brings me to autism. The traditional medical model holds to its same prinicple: throw everything we’ve got at it to make it go away. We have therapy/healing approaches that stretch across the board, from discreet trials to Reiki. Millions of dollars are being put into research to uncover autism’s cause and, in turn, its cure. Parents, desperate for answers, are falling prey to snake oil merchants and charlatans who come with both herbs and stethoscopes. Autism has become a business.

What if the answer is as simple as this: Let’s focus on what they can do, instead of what they can’t.

I’m going to answer that for you. It’s not that simple, obviously. How I wish it was. But, it is a decent starting point. That is what I love about this neurodiversity movement. Because in all honesty, how good is our “normal” really going, at least in the US? We are stressed out, unhealthy, clinically depressed, and on every legal and illegal drug known to man. In one interview that I believe appeared in The New York Times awhile ago, a 19 year old who had been “cured” of his autism was asked if he missed anything about it. He answered that he missed “the joy.” That made my heart ache.

If NeuroTribes is showing me anything, it is that autism has potentially given us just as many answers as it has questions. Known scientists in history displayed many of the traits associated with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) long before we knew what it was. I myself have met many kids and teenagers on the spectrum who have amazing knowledge of different areas of math and science, but feel limited by their current schooling.

I could go on and on about this subject, but I’m saving that for my thesis and, eventually, my book. I will say that I greatly appreciate what the neurodiversity movement is trying to do and make aware. I hope to join them in helping those with ASD identify their often overlooked or under-appreciated gifts, and change the world as so many did before them.

PS- I will be attending Pantheacon this weekend in San Jose, and one of the workshops I’m attending is about creating materials so that autistic kids can participate in spiritual rituals with the family. Love it.