Dying/broken/forgiven.... now I begin

Born: 17-06-56....gemini.... monkey
re-born: 3-09-80
born again\found: 14-04-08
other notable dates: 10-03-68; 03-09-87; 23-03-96;
1-05-98; 31-01-02; 5-04-04

Interests: movement, stressed/transgressive embodiment, lived experience (body\space\time\relation)
expression ( word, dance, text, image, story, music, poetics)
learning, yielding......

Hopes for the blog:
offer up the wild intersectedness of lived experience and engage others in creative, expressive, perhaps irreverant, hopefully playful, and respectful encounters....
enact kindness
create moments of pause for disclosure, discovery, stillness

Saturday, September 12, 2015


and on it goes, tales from Autism camp...

Victoria is my most senior camper. She has been attending for 20 years. I first met her when she was a few months shy of her 11th birthday. She has given me smiles, tears, a concussion, her trust and her friendship.
And, of course, her logic.

One theorist I study, Joseph Straus, proposes an alternative 'reading' of the 'symptoms' of autism. Rather than whatever edition of the DSM manual's rehash of 'make the call' one consults, there is usually a version of obsessive fixations, purposeless repetition, and deviant sociality (oftentimes known as 'the triad of impairments') as the markers of the disorder. Straus proposes fixity of focus, local coherence and private meanings as being more resonant with the lives of Auties and Aspies who are increasingly finding their own ways to tell the rest of us about their lives and experiences. Further, these characteristics are not deficits, but rather, ways of being in the world that are idiosyncratic, meaningful, functional and helpful. Other theorists of cultural semiotics, notably  Harwood Fisher, suggest that personal and embodied logics precede meaning... necessarily. I mention these two theorists' examples not to launch into a black hole of theory, but rather to contextualize a point that I want to make: that Victoria LIVES what many theories and theorists work hard to express.

Back to Victoria's logic.
We are on a mini-train at a Niagara Safari  venue. The train chugs and rolls and wobbles with stops along the way of the large and sprawling park. Whenever ASD camp goes to this venue, Victoria and I take a train ride around the whole property. She is taller than I by about a foot, and outweighs me by about 90 pounds. Throughout the ride, she makes imperious proclamations. Here is an example of her logic.
We stop to drop off and pick up passengers. She is ready to go. She shouts "Green light GO!" The driver obliges. On the ride to our next stop Victoria lays out her logic. Green lights go with red lights on the Christmas tree. At our next stop, we drop off passengers and pick up passengers. Victoria is ready to go. She shouts "Christmas!". Nothing happens. She looks at me, puzzled. How could the driver not have understood that connection? Green lights go with red lights on the Christmas tree. ERGO, Christmas means... GO. Duh. Eventually, the driver starts up the engine and we do, indeed, GO. I suspect, however, that this happened in spite of, rather than because of, Victoria's enthusiastic encouragement of the driver.
Victoria's reasoning/connecting of ideas is known as metonymic logic. Victoria builds this in her mental landscape as a set of private and coherent structures that lead her to a conclusion which, when examined with an open mind, does indeed have a logical structure which precedes meaning (what does Christmas 'mean'? it means GO).

Welcome to ASD camp. Again and anew.
Never dull; remarkable in so many ways.
My scholarship, my pedagogy and my open mind remain in awe (and in debt).

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Only Son

today you were born
and I was reborn.

you were the astronaut
navigating the next moon
and the next stars

and I was
and have always been
pulled, even as the tides are pulled,
into that terrible wonderful time of wondering, wandering, hoping 

no regrets
only son
only love

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Wild Dogs, Hell Cats, Savage Beasts, Bloodthirsty Cannibals

This is my 20th summer of my Autism Movement camp. I began with a desire to offer movement opportunities for kids and teens with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) who would typically NOT have an opportunity to attend a summer camp of any kind, much less a movement based camp. In many ways my camp back then was 'the last house on the block'.... that is, it was the last choice for the desperate parents who had been looking for programs for their kids but who were getting refusals or costs that were untenable. 20 years later, that is, my here and now,  my camp still seems to be serving the same function, although I am happy to say that there ARE other organizatoins out there that are taking up the responsibility of offering camp experiences to ALL kids and teens, not only the neuro-typical and high functioning ones. I began with 23 kids; now, typically I accept between 35-65 kids per week ( it is a two week camp) depending on how many students and volunteers I can attract and train.
The title of my post is the list of the names of the four groups at camp. That first summer, my campers decided that they wanted to name their groups, and so they did so with much gusto and not a little irony (for example, the group of kids who had those who tended to bite out of anxiety decided on the Bloodthirsty Cannibals. Ha ha. Funny; unless you are the one getting bitten!!). The names have stuck, and this summer's campers have embraced them in their own sweet ways. :)

I have not posted since June. Amazing... July and August have flown!! I have been teaching, prepping this summer's students and volunteers, and planning the camp. Wow. I have more supports than I had 20 years ago. And I am lucky to have them around me. I thought I would give you today's highlights... then as this week unfolds, give a few other tidbits from last week as well.
and, so, today's highlights....
The five pound poop.... one fella came in looking distressed; allergies, odd gait, moaning a little bit. This young man does not use speech for communication, but he has other effective strategies. After some distressed wandering, he made his way to our sensory room, let out a massive grunt and produced a truly epic shit (odor and volume, if you need the criteria). He is also diapered, so my students were elbow deep in poop as they assisted him in cleaning up and getting changed.
The intrepid hiding man... another fella likes to find small sheltered places to hide... usually he is not actually hiding... we know were he is. Today, he found an excellent hiding place and evaded us for about 10 minutes as we were attempting to load campers on the bus. You know that feeling when you think you have lost your child?? Yeah, that one. Awful. But, we hunted and found him huddled and snickering behind a huge pile of mats. He skipped onto the bus with three or four of us chasing behind.
Another little guy will be attending on Wednesday only (a few glitches with student and volunteers saying they will attend and then not showing up.... sigh) but he called me and my colleague a total of 20 times on our cells.... to confirm his attendance on Wednesday. Likes to dot the i's and cross the t's, this one. We cannot answer, of course... or we will be getting ten times that many calls... OCD is a common co-occurrence with ASD.
Then there was the spectacular nudity scramble in the family change room after swim where another young fella was not happy about something and needed to slam himself into the floor and the walls to get out his rage... and punch a few students in the process. We got his mom in there as fast as we could get her there and then things calmed down....
I could go on... but as you can see, it is thrilling, demanding, absurd, heartbreaking and utterly delightful. Every emotion you can imagine.... every intense moment partnered with a supremely tender one.
More to come.
So much to say about the students and colleagues on this journey with me. They care in ways that go beyond words and deeds... it is the work of the heart. It is my deep privilege to work with them.