Category Archives: Autism Friendly Series

Presented by Autism Canada and Every1Games Professional Services Inc.

Meet the Au-Some Conference Speakers

The Au-Some Conference is taking place Saturday August 20th at McMaster Innovation Park in Hamilton. This event is an opportunity for autistic youth and adults to meet informally with other autistics, self-advocates, educators, students, support workers, and business owners to identify and plan action to combat societal barriers to education, employment and personal support. The event features 6 topics of discussion. Each topic features a speaker with lived experience. Lets learn about these remarkable Au-Some Conference speakers.

(No picture) Yvonne Spicer was diagnosed in childhood with ADD, and ADHD and later diagnosed with Autism at age 35. Yvonne has received an award from Milton Town Council and is presently enrolled in Conestoga College in Kitchener. (Opening Remarks – The person in control of your life is YOU!)

Kelly JohnsonKelly Johnson was diagnosed with Autism after her son received his diagnosis. Kelly maintains a blog called “One Quarter Mama” about Autism, Advocacy, Feminism and Racism issues. Kelly started a consultancy firm called “The Autistic Expert” giving advice. (Presentation A – Autism at Work.)

(No picture)  Brandon Williams was diagnosed with Autism as an adult. Brandon is living with HIV and is working with AIDS Committee of Toronto, the Ontario HIV Treatment Network and the Redpath Centre. Brandon is a life coach educating Autistic people about risk management. (Presentation B – Sexual Health, Are We at Risk?)

(No picture)  Zachary Smith was diagnosed with ASD at six years old. Zachary is currently working at Western University in the Department of Hospitality Services and lectures at Fanshawe College for students training to be social workers and personal support workers. (Presentation C – Building Your Social Network.)

Jackie Mcmillan

(No picture) Jackie McMillan was diagnosed with Autism at age 11. Jackie turned her life into a science project identifying her challenges and connecting with other spectrum teens and adults. Jackie’s website and blog post is, “How to Thrive with Autism” as an autistic teen or adult. (Presentation D – Optimizing Autism Through Managing your Health and Environment.)

(No picture) Kaitrin Beechey was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Kaitrin paints the way she views the world. Some of her paintings underlying themes of acceptance, equality and social responsibility. Kaitrin call’s her art “Windows by Kaitrin” because windows go both ways. (Presentation E – Self-Discover and Successful Outcomes.)

(No picture) Georges Huard was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Georges is currently employed fulltime at Université du Québec à Montréal. Georges gives lectures at schools, colleges and universities about Asperger’s Syndrome and how to adjust to a neurotypical world. (Presentation F – Interpreting People’s Emotions.)

Laura Nadine

Laura Nadine was diagnosed with Autism as an adult at age 27. As a student of the Suzuki Method, Laura progressed quickly as a musical prodigy for her ability to play songs after only hearing them once. Laura currently runs her own music school called Enlightened Audio Academy. (Closing Remarks – “Let Me Fall A Legend.”)

Register to attend The Au-Some Conference.

 

See the Spectrum differently

The Au-Some Conference – Featuring Leading Advocates

Every1Games, Autism Canada, and an amazing team of au-some spectrum adults have come together to bring you The Au-Some Conference. This is a day of learning about the diversity of the autism spectrum. If you have questions or can offer a perspective on what it means to be autistic, join us! Meet informally with other autistics, autistic self-advocates, educators, students, support workers, and business owners to share perspectives and come to a better understanding of autism in our community in a judgment free zone.

At this event everyone belongs and everyone is valued. Together we will identify societal barriers, share successes and start a plan of action to ensure an autism friendly future.

The Au-Some Conference features autistic advocates Laura Nadine, Kelly Johnson, and Brandon Williams! Full list of presenter bio’s will be posted soon.

See the full list of presenters, the schedule and register for the event here or at autismcanada.org.


If you are a participant of Every1Games programs, use the code e1galumni for $5.00 off :)

3 years ago we started The Autism Friendly Unconference an event that brings together autistic youth and adults to identify societal barriers and come to a plan of action to improve infrastructure and employment opportunities. Our goal as change makers was to help change the way organizations engage with autistic youth and adults. It brings me so much joy that in just 3 years we’ve made an impact that is going to make its way across the nation thanks to Autism Canada recognizing the value of The Autism Friendly Event. Together with Autism Canada and an advisory board of 15 autistic adults from across Canada (part of Autism Canada’s ASD Advisory Committee) we are giving a generation of youth a platform to meet other autistics to collaborate in life, love and business.

Every1Game 5 Amazing Strategies to Change Ableist Culture

5 Amazing Strategies to Change Ableist Culture

Helping Creators Create Change!

Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children, is an amazing effort to help neurotypical children learn more about their autistic peers but the responses from autistic advocates are not all positive, and for precisely that reason. As Erin Human points out in her blog post Not in Love with Julia, “it’s all about autistic kids, but it’s not for them”. Human is a blogger who writes about the deeper messaging,  the ableist messaging that needs to be addressed, in an effort towards social change.

Since the launch of Sesame Streets’ autism resources I’ve been experiencing #seeamazing for myself. I’ve watched the videos of the different parents and children at home, at school and in the playground, read the resources and watched the responses flow on social media. I have no doubt that Sesame Street’s brand power will help to change to world. But its important to also provide the criticism that will help the public have an understanding of ableism and help creators avoid an ableist message. That’s why I’ve decided to use Erin Human’s blog post and Sesame Street’s See Amazing as inspiration to write… 5 amazing strategies to help creators change ableist culture.

First some personal context and background! In 2012 I had an opportunity to meet theEvery1Games CEO Sarah and Murray Monster Muppet folks from Sesame Street while working with the video game studio Game Pill in Toronto.  I was was excited to hear that Sesame Street, well known for representing cultural and social difference in children’s media and entertainment, was going to be making something for my autistic friends! I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to offer my allied expertise and chat about neurodiversity and the advocacy groups that were influencing what would soon become Every1Games. In 2014, after establishing our awesome skills development programs, Every1Games hosted the first Autism Friendly Unconference where one of the most popular sessions was Autism in the Media, discussing the representation of autism on screens. I asked, should we be asking creators for more autistic characters, and what could that look like? One participant had us consider that most characters representing a minority group are shallow representations of stereotypes that further stigmatize people. This was something I feared when Sesame Street started talking about an autistic character and what I thought Erin Human was going to be addressing in her blog. But its not. She is addressing ABLEISM. Not Julia’s character. I really like Julia, she is a smart, female, autistic character who likes to sing and play. I am very excited to see what adventures she will have.

See 5 Amazing Strategies to Change Ableist Culture

1. Consult with Autistic Advocates - every1games

14 different organizations are listed as advisors for Sesame Streets resources. This is a good number of perspectives to consider. But in the face of social change it has to be acknowledged that current perspectives are in need of change. Just because an organization has autism in its name, or is really popular, does not mean it is a good resource. Be sure you are speaking with advocates that can help you understand neurodiversity and ableism.

2. Parents are important resources, but not always. - every1games

Sesame Street’s autism resources was intended for communities with children ages 2 to 5, offering families ways to “overcome common challenges and simplify everyday activities”. As a result, the resources are actually mostly for parents, not for children (and I have a feeling that this was influenced by parents who were a part of the initiative). Sesame Street has used a number of videos that Human describes as “classic complaining parents”. Parents play a significant role in the public understanding of autism and changing ableist culture.

They are also the crux of Jim Sinclair’s “Don’t Mourn For Us” (1993) that spurred a revolution and generation of advocates.  To better explain, I found a quote I like that might help readers understand what advocates are fighting for… “We need to go to a world that finding out your child is autistic is no more tramatic or horrible or scary than finding out your child is gay (yes, I realize some people don’t have parents that can accept LGBT people – but that’s changing and the next generation will have an easier time, until one day no child is rejected on the basis of LGBT identity).

Human points out “there is a time and place to talk about how hard parenting your autistic kids can be, and it’s the same place you talk about how hard parenting your typical kids can be, how hard your marriage can be, how hard your friendships can be – privately, with trusted friends and family.” Though I value media for expressing all types of narratives, I still strongly believe she is right. I see the result of parents who will not stop trying to normalize their child, the guilt, the negative emotional effects of the children who are now grown up and are still thinking they have been a burden on their parents, or still are a burden.

3. Understand Ableism and Neurotypical Social Conventions - every1games

Okay, this may require some explaining too, especially if this is your first resource about ableism at this given point in history. Let’s use eye contact as an example. Eye contact is a social convention that can have different meanings across different cultures, but here we talk about eye contact as something non-autistic people do, and expect, that an autistic person might not do. Making autistic children learn to look people in the eye only has one purpose, making them do what neurotypical people do, despite the physical, emotional and social distress it may cause the autistic child. Can you see the problem here? This is seen over and over again in the video resources Sesame Street has put together.

Yesenia being restrained

“She doesn’t like the way the brush feels”

Here is an example! Why are Yesenia’s sisters physically restraining her so that her parents could brush her teeth and hair? This is something that Yesenia is going to watch and remember. This is not appropriate anymore. We need better products and services, like hair brushes that do not have teeth, dental care that is not intense and burning, etc. We are in need of love, innovation and understanding that will help children like Yesenia take care of her physical health without being restrained.

Barber James Williams lies on floor to give autistic boy a haircut

A PERFECT EXAMPLE! This awesome barber (above), James Williams, who is currently going viral for being accommodating and understanding while giving a 3 year old autistic child a hair cut.

4. Mix IPL and PFL - every1games

People with autism? Autistic people? We have been asked many times what is the proper terminology when talking about autism. It is also the very first thing I noticed when meeting Julia. Sesame Street used PFL also know as “Person First Language”. When you hear some say that a child “HAS” autism its PFL. Most autistic advocates do not like this. It is offensive to many and that is why at Every1Games we use IFL also known as “Identity First Langauge”, or as user kategladstone commented “Inclusion First Language” which I also like. But lots of people believe that PFL is just as good as IFL if used in a positive affirming way. You can see this in the comments of Humans blog, and I have pasted a few resources below that speak to why IFL is important to change with way autism is perceived. The good news is Sesame Street got the message and is now using IPL and PFL!

5. Partner with the Public - every1games

Keep Amazing Going! Sesame Street is encouraging everyone to share stories, pictures, and videos on social media using #SeeAmazing! This is what I think will have the most influence and will help change the world. The staff at Sesame Street are listening to the feedback from advocates, responding with glee and appreciation for the insight!

In the face of social change it has to be acknowledged that current perspectives are indeed in need of change. Be mindful of what is being shared. I think we will see a conversation that will lead to the understanding of autism and the non ableist culture we are all working towards.

We can learn a lot from Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children, and the responses from the advocacy community. All things considered,  what we love most about media is that anything is possible! Creators have an opportunity to develop autistic characters,  narratives, and resources, that have depth and challenge stereotypes. I hope that this has been helpful as you consider what stories you want to share!

Blog Post By Sarah Drew

Resources Cited!

Human, Erin. “Not in Love with Julia.” Personal Blog. eisforerin.com/2015/10/23/not-in-love-with-julia, WordPress, October 23 2015. Accessed 11/3/2015.

Joel. “Don’t Mourn For Us. Even as a Phase.” Personal Blog. http://evilautie.org/2014/03/31/dont-mourn-for-us-even-as-a-phase, WordPress,  March 31, 2014. Accessed 11/3/2015.

http://autism.sesamestreet.org/

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Enjoying our lunch

Neurodivergent Love, Life and Learning at Autism Friendly

Autism Friendly 2015 LogoI’ve been to a lot of ‘autism’ conferences, but have never seen this many autistic youth engaged in advocating for themselves.

On August 21, 2015 Every1Games hosted the 2nd Annual Autism Friendly Unconference (AFU). AFU aims to bring together autistic and neurodivergent advocates with peers, employers, educators, agencies and government to come to a better understanding of the diversity of the autism spectrum and to inspire innovative services and supports for each other.

  • Identifying meaningful issues
  • Sharing opinions without judgement
  • Listening to the lived experiences of neurodivergent peers
  • Building relationships with other autistic adults

 

Friends!

Read the Every1Games AFU 2015 Summary, a short event report that focuses on the issues raised specifically acting as barriers to entering post secondary school and a professional career.  The summary identifies stigma, funding, parent involvement and access to information as key areas that need to be addressed to improve the quality of  life for autistic youth. Though the theme was life after school, the result was truly understanding neurodivergent love, life and learning.

 

There was a good, frank discussion about romantic relationships and how difficult it is to obtain one.

Heart design by Nicky Sztybel

AFU 2015 resulted in more than talks about jobs and education. Every1Games Administrative Coordinator and Program Developer, Christine Hughes, lead a popular discussion about sex and intimacy. We need to continue to come together to talk openly about experiences with love, sex, romance and companionship in the autism community. We are certainly excited to plan more events with this in mind so if you have any event ideas that you want to share with us, be sure to contact us either on facebook, twitter or our contact page and let us know so that we can make it happen together!

Enjoying our play lounge!

Enjoying our play lounge!

At AFU we also provided spaces where people can relax if feeling overwhelmed. Our multi-sensory lounge and play lounge were well received by participants who spent some time there.  We got some great feedback to have even better options next year (which reminds me, thanks to the folks who responded to the survey!). We also had a separated lunch room with a variety of different foods to accommodate allergies and sensory sensitivities.

 

But it’s not all fun and games. It was agreed that we need to have more engagement from the private sector, government and medical communities.  When these  groups come to a better understanding of neurodiversity it will reduce serious problems raised at the event including police violence against neurodivergent citizens and doctors refusing to believe neurodivergent people’s self-reports of symptoms.

Thank You. This event was hosted by Every1Games made possible by George Brown College, Ryerson University and Autism Ontario Toronto Chapter and the neurodiverse organizing committee made up of staff and students advocating for themselves and their friends.

Autism Friendly Logo

2nd Annual Autism Friendly Unconference; Life After High School

AFU header

Every1Games invites you to Autism Friendly, a free event that brings together people to share questions, answers, and experiences related to autism.

If you’re autistic or neurodivergent and are willing to share something of your experience, or just want to meet informally with others, come on along. If you have questions or can offer a perspective on what it means to be autistic, join us at George Brown College on Saturday Aug 15 (10:00am – 4:00pm) to participate in Autism Friendly.

Participants of last years AFU were clear that Ontario’s support system needs improvement especially in the area of employment training and ASD sensitivity from co-workers. The autistic youth at the event were very clear, asking employers for guidance and understanding, instead of doubt and low expectations.

This years event aims to provide a more in depth discussion surrounding higher education and employment to identify issues and barriers as well as a plan of action that will lead to a better understanding of the diversity of the autism spectrum.

We again invite autistic self-advocates to come together with their peers, employers, educators, agencies and government to take another step forward in building an autism friendly future.

  • Judgment Free 
  • Breakfast and Lunch
  • Mutli-Sensory Lounge
  • Raffle Prizes

When you register please suggest a topic or as a question so that together we can address what is most meaningful to you. The most asked questions and suggested topics will become sessions in different rooms. There are 15 sessions available (5, 45 minute sessions in 3 different rooms).

Autism Friendly is an opportunity to grow personally and professionally learning more about working with diversity while supporting autism in the workplace, at school and in the community.

Thank You!

Thank you to Autism Ontario Toronto Chapter for their support helping us bring delicious food for everyone to this great event! Thank you to George Brown College for providing space and support.  Thank you to Ryerson University, SSHRC and OCE Social Entrepreneur Fellowship for supporting our outreach initiatives.

The Organizing Committee

The organizing committee is a neurodiverse group of staff who work at Every1Games Professional Services Inc.

Christine Hughes

Damian Laxton

Mark Beaudry

Matthew Pegnam

Jacob Yorke

Jeremy Lyons

Krystal Twiss

Sarah Drew

Other FAQs

What is an Unconference?

An unconference is a “participant driven meeting”. There is no pre-determined speakers or panels. Instead, we collect questions and suggestions from people attending  to drive discussion based on what topics participants find most interesting or pertinent.

Who is Coming?

  • Neurodivergent Post-Secondary Students and Self Advocates, Families and Wellness Professionals.
  • At this event, you represent you and only you.

What are my transport/parking options getting to the event?

George Brown has provided details on various parking lots for the St. James Campus. Here is a link to view the details. If taking the TTC, the closest subway station is Queen Station, you can take the 501 or 504 Street Car from there to Jarvis and Queen St. E. It is a short walk from there. Please visit Google Maps or TTC Trip Planner to recieve directions from your location.
What can/can’t I bring to the event?

You can bring comfort / stim items, questions and perspective. Due to food allergies, please do not bring your own food to the event. If you require accomdation or specific dietary items please contact christine@every1games.ca.

Where can I contact the organizer with any questions?
You can contact Krystal Twiss at engage@every1games.ca with questions about this event.

Vicon

Autism and Anxiety; “Why, exactly, am I upset?”

In January Every1Games held the Autism Friendly Unconference inviting the community to come together and address the most meaningful issues surrounding autism. Autistic youth ran workshops speaking with parents, support workers, organizations, and the larger community. 20 topics were on the agenda and we intend to explore them all deeper. The first topic is anxiety. Every1Games welcomes sci-fi author Jenn, writing on the topic of Autism and Anxiety, from her perspective as she starts a new job.

Leave a comment, ask a question, share with your friends. Enjoy!

ViconHello Internet!

Despite the long hours I have spent surfing the ‘net, I doubt you know me very well.  My name is Jenn, a.k.a. Violetlight on some of the “darker” corners of online (*cough devart cough), and in true AA fashion, I am an Aspie.  It’s been approximately never since my last meeting, and part of that is due to my topic of the month Autism and anxiety.

Now I doubt very much that anxiety is a uniquely Autistic problem Im pretty sure plenty of neurotypicals have anxious moments as well.  But, I thought it was a rather appropriate topic for my first blog post here on one of the lighter corners of the ‘net, Every1Games, due to how much it has been affecting my life lately.  I just started a new job, and my feelings about this quite major change in my life has been … well, mixed, to say the least.

I first heard of Every1Games at a job fair for English majors put on at Brock University.  I “officially” graduated last June, but had been out of full time studies for nearly two years, and had been looking for a full time job for nearly as long.  The thing is, I actually really liked the part time job I had.  Yes, it was minimum wage retail with lousy hours, but it was at a place I think most of the people reading this would equally like to work at a video game store.

Despite the usual setbacks of retail, ones that us Aspies are stereotypically the worst at, like customer service skills, I genuinely liked my job.  No, I loved it.  I adored it.  I went to work happy for almost every shift.  I got paid to hang around a video game store, to talk games with people who wouldn’t tell me they weren’t interested, who wouldn’t just tune out.  My co-workers, my customers, they all let me be myself.  I could discuss my hobby to my heart’s content, and it was not only encouraged, but expected!  I was there for three and a half years, and if I had been offered a full time position, I would have taken it in a heartbeat and would have been happy.

Unfortuately, the world often doesn’t care how happy you are.  Minimum wage retail isn’t going to pay the bills for long, no matter how good you are at it, and how much you enjoy it.  Not without an alternative source of income, which I didn’t have. So when one of my few, but very good friends offered to get me an interview for a full time position at her work, how could I refuse?

After two years of looking, I couldn’t turn this opportunity down.  Not when I have bills to pay, when I want a bit of extra money, to not just scrape by every month.  Not if I want to someday have a family.

The thing is, I don’t love my new job as much as my old one.  It’s not to say I hate it.  It’s at a computer store, which isn’t a huge jump.  I’m learning new skills and it’s definitely more challenging work, in a good way.  It’s for a small business, so I’m not answering to a nameless CEO hundreds of miles away.  My work directly affects my boss’s livelihood.  I like that responsibility.

But I still miss my old co-workers.  I definitely miss the scheduling.  I’m more of a night owl, so working afternoon/evening shifts definitely agreed with me more than a 9-5 schedule, with an hour’s commute each way.  It’s just … after being somewhere for so long, it’s hard to adjust.  Especially when my first day at the new job started during a blizzard, and I was stuck outside for half an hour.  I thought they had called a snow day and didn’t tell me.  I literally had my cell phone out, ready to call my old boss and beg for my job back at the game store, when my friend/new co-worker called me, saying she was so sorry for being late.

A week into it, and I’m still adjusting.  I still have moments of panic and sadness, wanting things to go back to the way they were the way I was comfortable with.  The way Im still comfortable with.  I know Im not the only Aspie out there with difficulty with change.

I don’t know if I’m qualified to give any sort of “advice” regarding this subject — not when I’ve been a nervous wreck for most of this past week.  But, one thing that I can do, that I attribute to my Autism, actually does help.

When things get bad, I take a step back, and do what comes naturally to me, as an Aspie.  I try to remove myself from the surrounding world, to focus on what I’m doing.  I asked myself a few times this week, “why, exactly, am I upset?” and then I thought about it.  Sometimes, yes, with tears blurring my vision, but when I try to talk to myself, logically look at what’s upsetting me, those tears soon dry.

People say it’s bad to detach from the world this way, but sometimes, I think it’s needed.  Why not use our Autism-given abilities to help solve some of its “problems”, like anxiety?

It seems to be working for me. What works for you?

 

Picture of E1G student leads discussion about Autism at Work

First Annual AFU Inspires an Autism Friendly Future

Everyone who registered to attend the  Autism Friendly Unconference was given the opportunity  to ask a question or suggest a topic so that Every1Games could address the most meaningful issues surrounding autism.  We had amazing feedback and can’t wait to do it again next year!

  • The list of topics addressed in this series was co-created, based on questions and topics submitted by  Autism Friendly Unconference registrants.
  • 14% of registrants self-identified as autistic and willing to discuss their experiences.
  • Most of the remaining registrants were people who supported someone on the spectrum either at home or work.

It was an awesome experience. So much new information and concepts! – Autism Friendly Participant

DMZ HouseKeeping PresentationDiscussions ranged from issues with funding processes and application criteria, to the representation of ASD in media. Participants were clear that Ontario’s support system needs improvement especially in the area of employment training and ASD sensitivity from co-workers, something we hope to address at the next AFU.  It was unanimous that employers need to be more knowledgeable.  The autistic youth at the event were very clear, asking employers for guidance and understanding, instead of doubt and low expectations.

These 20 topics listed below will help shape our discussions and together we can design an autism friendly future.

  1. Exploring Media Representation of People w/ASD
  2. Autism at School (Elementary)
  3. Autism at School (Secondary)
  4. Autism at School (Post-Secondary)
  5. High Functioning Autism at Work
  6. Life Planning; From Child to Adult
  7. Defining Social Success; The Morality of “Fitting In”
  8. Reducing Anxiety
  9. Non-Verbal Voices
  10. The Multiplicity of an Individuals Functioning Levels
  11. Social Skills Development
  12. Tips and Skills for Happiness
  13. The Language We Use
  14. Women and Autism
  15. Culturally Sensitive Support
  16. Autism and Videogames
  17. Using Interactive Media for Social Change
  18. Autistic Self Advocacy
  19. Funding
  20. Designing an Autism Friendly Future

picture of people engaged in conversation

It was the first time in my life being surrounded by other autistics. It was the first time in my life I saw myself reflected in a group of other people. It made me feel real, valid and loved. – Autism Friendly Participant

If autism is meaningful in your life, then we want to hear from you. If you’ve never even heard the word autism and stumbled upon this series, we also want to hear from you. So please share this with friends, family, neighbours and co-workers.

At the end of the day on Jan 11th, the Autism Friendly Unconference closed by asking the questions “What do you want from the Government, from educators, employers, and peers?, What does an autism friendly future look like?” Here is the link to a collaborative Google Doc that was created during the final session of the day, where we came together to discuss an Autism Friendly Future.

Thanks to the volunteer team from the UofT Autism Alliance who were taking notes in each session making it possible to share information from sessions you might have missed and to all who participated including our friends at the EDGE Lab, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Marathon Learning Materials, TAD’s Inc. and Autism Ontario.

We are looking forward to hearing from you as we begin Designing an Autism Friendly Future.  If you have questions please contact us anytime! Leave a comment, share videos, poems or what ever else you want to share to help your peers come to a better understanding of autism.

Cheers to an autism friendly future!

– Sarah Anne Drew