Sunday, June 24, 2007

Eight (mostly) positive encounters from the conference

I spoke with one of the presenters I had met a few times before. He asked me if I'd heard of someone called christschool. He had recently discovered some enlightening work on youtube and was including it in his presentation. He also used (unprovoked by me!) the word "eugenics" in reference to autism cure groups.
Actually viewing christschool's videos in a room of people who had never seen them before, who had not been exposed to the ideas presented and watching their reactions. This was a nearly transcendent experience. "16 Ways Neurotypicals Can Empower Autistic People" was at the very beginning and worked well to set the tone for the session. The highlight, though, was watching "Repetitive Behaviors like Rocking and Flapping", which is my very favorite christschool video.
The same presenter asked me to meet with him and an autistic man for whom he is trying to find employment. This is someone working in the field who really "gets it" and understands that as autistic people, we may have something to offer other autistic people beyond what NT's have. This was the last session of the conference and left me feeling significantly more hopeful.
Though few people I met had ever heard the word neurodiversity, "neurotypical" has made a lot of progress. Last year, no one was using it (at this particular conference); this year, every single presenter I encountered used it. I find this somewhat encouraging. If we have been able to affect the language in even this small way, there is hope that sometime in the near future, professionals will start getting over the idea that "autistic" is a negative word.
Toward that end, I was able to distribute nearly all of the literature I had brought, and to speak with several people individually and in groups about the use of person first language and other matters of importance, such as expectations of conformity. After the first day, I decided I would just speak out every chance I got. Someone may be listening...I can't always tell for sure.
I met some cool autistic people, mostly there with their parents. When the keynote speaker was unable to keep the engagement due to an airport closing, the coordinators chose a nine year old autistic boy to fill in. He did a great job, using a PowerPoint he had given before in smaller groups. Though I did not agree with everything he said (or for that matter with everything said in the presentation given by two autistic adults), the choice to include these voices here was an important one.
I made several useful connections which I hope will result in finding more participants for my research study. They have been difficult to come by.
Seinfeld episodes as studies in effective vs. non-effective social behaviors were discussed at length by one presenter and he uses these with his clients frequently. I nearly didn't include this as a positive point, due to Seinfeld's association with an organization I despise. However, the show's humor is something I've always found very autism friendly. Jerry was never that important to the show, despite his name in the title. Larry David rocks (in more ways than one, just possibly).
The same presenter did an exercise which required everyone to engage in a conversation while looking only at his/her shoes. This was fun, though it seemed to make the NTs a bit uncomfortable for some reason. I found that I had a better sense of who my conversational partner was through this exercise than through the more "normal" appearing conversations I had with others throughout the 3 day conference.


  1. Thanks for the overview----hope the (mostly) positive encounters continue.

  2. How do you tell an extroverted Finnish person from an introverted Finnish person???

    The extrovert looks at YOUR shoes when he's talking to you.

    (It's a joke. Finnish people are supposed to be very boring, and maybe very introverted. I don't know if they are more auitstic than any other group.)

  3. Thanks for the report! I always have to explain to people that Joey can listen better if he ISN'T looking at you. Few folks get it, until they have him looking right at them- and not hearing a word they are saying...

  4. When I was 13 I remember the thing I liked a lot about Seinfeld was how they came up with rules and terms for dating and social interactions. Forget conventional social education, this was very useful!

  5. I often wonder: how often are autistics used as props by organizations such as Autism Speaks to further their agenda? Especially children, who themselves may be heavily influenced by their parents agendas.

    Such props can afford such organizations false credibility. It is a concern of mine.

  6. Plus Seinfeld himself has said that he suspected himself to be autistic and then later retracted that as he seemed to either be ashamed of it or was concerned with how it was going to affect his career (the label, that is)

  7. My brother is autistic. He is also orthodox. He rocks when he prays. In his orthodoxy it is actually socially acceptable in those circles to rock in such manner. I feel that he has found an outlet for his rocking wherein his peers just see him as deeply religious.

    Makes me also wonder about how many more are like him in his group.

    I chose not to be orthodox

    It's interesting though. In those circles it can be more masked as rocking with a purpose. It seems he feels comfortable in prayer groups where other fellow worshipers are rocking with him.

    As an outsider to his congregation sometimes to me it seems like one massive group swimming session.

    -just "thinking out loud"

    1. Stimming, not swimming. Gotta love autocorrect


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