Basically, he clearly outlines a lot of the issues that make being an adult with autism complicated. When should we try to change the way kids with autism do things? When do we stop doing that and start accepting them as full adult contributors? It’s not like we have this down pat with typical kids either, but the issue is pretty muddled when it comes to autism or other different kinds of minds.
Anyway, the article is great, and I was so pleased to read something intelligent that echoes my own beliefs.
Ben Mason is an NC local with a creative designer with a unique mind. I’m impressed with the way he expresses his ideas. Check out his new paper on cognitive media!
Here is a portion of his paper that I like:
Milestones in informative artifacts, such as the advent of
written language, have introduced new cultural and social
dynamics to the human race. From the womb to the grave,
the things that we are close to, that we experience
conversantly, contribute continually in defining who we are
as individuals (Myers, 2008). As more becomes virtual,
augmented through digital technology, new media have an
increasing impact on personal thought and expression
(Schniederman Et Al., 2006). These shifting information
platforms also accompany new modes of interpersonal
development, challenging the relative boundaries and
assumptions of cognitive ability and disability. Building on
our genetics, our exposure to richer environments and peers
elaborate not only our personal potential, but act deeply on
the cultivation of our in-born humanity (Bandura, 1986).
When these processes break down, as in the socio-cognitive
disabilities of autism spectrum disorders, we see that they
reflect the core of our behavior, touching the patterns of our
neurons and the very architecture of our brains.
Thanks for sending me the paper, and letting me post it, Ben!
This is Bailey, who has been developing her art skills for a long time. I really like her characters. You can see more of her stuff over at Deviant Art!
This is Zoe, who studies math with me. She has come so far this year and last! I’m proud of her hard work, and wanted to show you her system for multiplying. It is often hard for her to remember all the times tables, but she understands the idea of multiplication, so she uses this visual system to structure it for herself. She writes the numbers 1-10 vertically, then makes dots for the numbers she is ‘counting by’, so she can actually count them if she gets lost skip-counting. Its not perfect yet, but she is working so hard that it won’t be long before it’s flawless!
Blue Ridge Bags and More is a small business, owned by the Autism Society of North Carolina, which employs adults with autism. As part of my job at the Autism Society, I am the official director of Blue Ridge Bags, which is how I know that we need some serious help! See, we have a really cool business, that is actually useful for folks (with and without autism), but nobody knows about us!
We have two parts to our business, and sadly, neither of them is making any money, so I’d like to appeal to you, dear readers, to help me spread the word about Blue Ridge Bags, in the hopes that we can boost sales.What We Do at Blue Ridge Bags
Our adults with autism assemble TEACCH Home Teaching Kits, which are actually pretty sweet. I have seen a lot of gimmicky autism products in my 10 years in the field, and I can safely say that Home Teaching Kits are useful. They consist of a collection of tasks for a person with autism to do (usually sitting at a table), and an instructional video of how to run the tasks as a parent or helper. The coolest part about them is that parents or helpers who use Home Teaching Kits will actually learn to run any kind of task, and possibly invent their own tasks.
The people with autism who work for us also produce art, which we heat transfer onto canvas bags, mouse pads, cards etc. This part is so fun for all of us. We get to set up environments that are inspiring to the artists (nice lighting, spinney things, photos of their favorite stuff on the walls), and offer a variety of supplies, and then see what happens. Each artist decides if they want to donate their art to the business, or if they want a percentage of profit.
Right now, we employ people with autism who have job coaches (publicly funded), who help them manage their time, take breaks when they need to, and organize their workload. Our accounting and marketing is done out of the state office of the Autism Society of NC, but I would like to hire people on the spectrum to do those jobs for our business. In fact, I would prefer that someone with autism ran the business, but we don’t have money to pay for any of that. SO. If you would like to buy teaching kits, or art, NOW IS THE TIME! If you have any great ideas for helping Blue Ridge Bags, please be in touch!
In order to increase our revenue, we are also offering our services in bulk mailings, or other such office-type tasks. Please email me email@example.com!
I met Zachary about 6 years ago, when his mom called me to tutor him in writing. Tutoring worked out well, so his mom and I designed a homeschooling program, and Zac and I worked together at libraries all over town for a few years. Then, we got sick of hanging out with each other all day, and decided to find him some fresh tutors, who he worked with a few years. Nowadays, we are friends, and we hang out about once a week, talk about his writing, and anything else that interests us. Recently, Zac let me interview him about his life.
I am so proud of Zac’s story, and the adult that he is growing up to be. Honestly, Zac works harder at his entire day than a lot people do at their job. It is not easy for him to stay organized, communicate what he needs to say, and to get what he wants in general.
My favorite part about our educational journey together has been learning about Zac’s sense of humor. In the beginning, we didn’t joke, and I didn’t know anything about his internal life, but after about a year, he started voicing observations and opinions which revealed his perceptive mind, and his wonderful mix of potty humor and slightly dry sarcasm. Since I am somewhat sarcastic myself (my friends are rolling their eyes right now), this new medium for interacting really improved our friendship.
This interview was even more fun than I expected it be because it started Zac and I down memory lane for a week or two. Since Zac is not a fan of surprising probing questions, I emailed him a list of stuff I was going to ask him about a week ahead of time. Then we met and talked about his responses.
We had a great conversation about all his collections over the years such as string, car parts, toy planes, and, of course, pens. Zac had, according to him, “enough pens to last a lifetime..well… that was back in 1999…maybe they would last a lifetime now that we have iphones and nobody even uses pens anymore…”! We chuckled over our trip to Washington DC, which was the setting for one of the few times I lost my temper with him (he wouldn’t stop munching potato chips and crinkling the bag at 2am in the dark!)
We also had an interesting conversation about some habits that Zac said he’s glad he doesn’t do anymore, like twisting his hair, and playing with a mole on his neck. When he told me this, I asked him why he was glad, and he shrugged and said he thought he looked like a weirdo. We both love that word, so I grinned, but pursued the topic:
Sylvia: Why do you think you did that stuff more in the past?
Zac: I don’t know…Because I was anxious….and it was just a habit.
Sylvia: When did you decide that you looked like a weirdo when you did that stuff?
Zac: I don’t know
Sylvia: …Well I don’t care if you do it. I mean, I twist my hair and wiggle my feet. It seems like everyone does something like that when they are zoning out, or anxious.
Zac: Yeah, I noticed that. I mean, what’s the big deal?
Sylvia: Well, how did you stop twisting your hair and doing the mole thing?
Zac: I don’t know…I guess I’m just not anxious all the time anymore. And when I am anxious, like at camp (Zac was a counselor in training at Dragonfly Forest) I don’t allow myself to do it.
Sylvia: Well everyone does little habits when they are anxious, it’s kind of dumb that some are considered acceptable, and some are not.
It with great pleasure that I write about one of the best projects I’ve ever worked on. Dragonfly Forest is a camp in the Philadelphia area that serves kids with serious illnesses and disorders. Two years ago, they decided to run a session for kids with autism, and I had the privilege of designing the program.
First, let me say that the camp is FREE for parents/families. Each session is about a week long, and it’s an overnight camp.
Part of the reason I was so excited to work on this autism program is because I truly love summer camp. I’ve worked at lots of camps, usually with my friend and mentor Scott Arizala, and I believe that everyone grows at camp. Kids, counselors, directors, and parents…everyone make these inexplicable leaps in understanding that most people do not understand. Camp is corny, it’s passionate, and it’s magical, and I highly recommend it for kids of all ages.
My other passion lies in the autism field, and connecting these two interests was and is thrilling for me. I decided to design the program to be very similar to other camp sessions, but with extra structure (& explanatory visuals), additional activity choices, and some extra staff.
I did not want to leave out any opportunities for fun, so we included the ropes course, campfires, canoeing, archery…the whole enchilada. Coming from a camp background, I felt very strongly that our camp was NOT supposed to be ‘therapy’, we were NOT going to shove any lessons down anyone throat. Instead, we were going to teach stuff the good way-by cramming as much freaking fun as possible into each day, and working to appreciate people for who they are, without trying to change them.
I was really nervous the night before the kids came…what if I forgot something? What if I was wrong and I accidentally over-estimated what the kids could do? What if someone gets hurt, or runs away (we had several runners signed up)? Did I sleep that night? Maybe an hour or two, tops.
Over the next few days, I was relieved to see that I had not underestimated anyone, my wonderful staff performed beautifully, and compassionately, and the kids loved camp. Let me be clear: autism camp is definitely not melt-down free (that would be ridiculous), instead it is a place where having a meltdown one minute doesn’t keep you from having fun the next minute. We accept meltdowns, and we move on. And the crazy thing is, that’s just one tiny slice of the magic that is camp.
Mike Belleme is the photographer who shot these great photos.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is what I’m talking about!
Isaac Dealey at Autelligent Laboratories is, as I like to say, “Handling His Business“! Autelligent Laboratories is working to create jobs for 40 million (no, that’s not a typo) people with autism, worldwide. Their plan is described much more eloquently on their website, but the basics idea is this: design a reproducible business model, so that people can tailor it to their talents. Recruit autism-specific talent for their company worldwide, using the internet, and then help other business to do the same.
Check out a more in-depth document about AutLabs.
What I like the best about this project is that it is based on the strengths of autism. Mr. Dealey is talking about making money designing software for businesses, using what is awesome about people with autism (often strong analytical thinking, ability to focus, ability to see patterns etc). He wants other people to use AutLabs’ open-sourced business model to design business based on what they love to do. Our great country, and the autism community, has waited too long to capitalize off the strengths of autism! Why not set up a web-based business that doesn’t require a whole lot of politics, schmoozing, and small talk? Great idea, AutLabs.
Mr. Dealey has an Aspergers diagnosis himself, and is unhappy with the unemployment rate for adults with Autism and Aspergers (over 90% in the United States!), and guess what? He’s designed this really cool project to do something about it, not just for him, but other people too! Not that he needs it, but this project, and Isaac himself get an EmpowerAutism 10 out of 10 points.
This cool autism business project is still in the design phase, and could use your input. Please visit their wiki, and contribute ideas, time, or money if you can!
What do you think?