Category Archives: Culture

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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Holiday Card Creations Workshop – Toronto

Join us on Sunday November 8, 2015  for an afternoon of creating cards for the holidays! Whether you are making a card for yourself, a teacher, parent, sibling or friend, come to the Holiday Card Creation workshop and make something awesome for any occasion.

Cost: 5$
Location:  George Brown College, 341 King St. E

Our main focus is on cut and paste style of cards, as you can see in the pictures below, but there is no limit to your creativity. Create your card using any style you desire! We will supply a silhouette cameo, different kinds of shapes can be cut out for you, or use a variety of different paper cutting tools to make various cards. Questions about this program can be directed to Krystal at engage@every1games.ca
Here are some of the Holiday Card Creations you can make!


Learn more about this program and register here.

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.

#EatPlayMingle and Global Game Jam

eatplaymingleposter

Last month Every1Games sponsored and hosted #EatPlayMingle along with the International Game Developers Association from George Brown College. The event was an opportunity for programmers, artists, designers and students to come together and enjoy a night out while networking, playing games and eating pizza. There was a great turn out and a lot of connections were formed.

The attendees had the opportunity to learn more about Every1Games as we surveyed interests from excelling students who’d be interested in mentoring high school students.

They also got to engage with the members of 13AM Games on their process of making their new release Runbow which was created at a Toronto Game Jam and is coming out soon for the WiiU. (Runbow was also showcased at last years Level Up Student Showcase which is coming up again in april). 13AM Games spoke about their experiences making their game but also gave advice to those who want to follow in their footsteps. During the event there was an open opportunity for everyone to have a chance to play Runbow before it’s release.

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Every1Games also recruited a team of 10 students who participated at this years Global Game Jam, a world-wide game development event where teams spend 48 consecutive hours developing a game based on a theme. This year 21,000 people in 78 countries participated. Check out the games!

We plan on hosting more #EatPlayMingle events in the future, subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed of all our upcoming events.

New in Niagara: Comic Book Design Program – Begins Feb 7th!

Comics have been a great tool to deliver powerful messages and give a voice to someone who otherwise might not be heard.  Every1games is offering a 5 week introductory workshop on comic book and graphic novel design, enhancing skill in art and storytelling. We will be taking a closer look at how comics are designed and what makes each one unique.  We will also have the opportunity to take a look at how digital arts technology has influenced the comic book industry.

READ MORE OR REGISTER

SpecOps Video Game Development Program – Begins Feb 7th!

Now 8 days! We listened to your feedback and have extended the Unity program to a full 8 days so that you can accomplish more. 

Join the Every1Games team at George Brown College’s School of Design for an 8 day program to become familiar with Unity, the most popular professional game development tool used in the best post-secondary game development programs and studios.

READ MORE OR REGISTER

 

New Program: Introduction to Portolios Begins Feb 4th!

Do you want to explore a professional career in the arts? Be prepared and discover how a Portfolio can help you communicate your talent. The Every1Games Prep.Succeed: Introduction to Portfolios program will provide examples of different portfolio types with a focus on self-branding. By the end of the program you will have your own website to showcase your best work no matter what your style! Work with our facilitators to learn more about how to reach your educational goals and prepare to succeed in life after high school.  Read More and Register Now!

#EATPLAYMINGLE for Free!

Programmers, artists, designers and students from different programs are invited to eat pizza, play games and mingle to meet like-minded peers.

REGISTER NOW

Come to #EatPlayMingle January 7th 2015 at GBC School of Design 6pm – 9pm for a chance to…

  • Meet 13AM GAMES – the team behind the upcoming Wii U game “RUNBOW”.
  • Win IGDA GBC RAFFLE PRIZES!
  • Meet creative George Brown students.
  • Bring your 3DS or jump onto the Wii U for a night of gaming.

eatplaymingleposter

connect 2014 conference may 8 and 9 at the scotia bank convention center in Niagara Falls

Every1Games at Connect 2014; Canada’s Learning and Technology Conference May 9!

Every1Games is proud to announce Sarah Drew will be presenting “Every1Games; Autism, Neurodiversity and Transitions to Higher Education” at Connect 2014, Canada’s Learning and Technology Conference. Connect 2014 provides the K-12 and higher education community with an unique opportunity to connect with educators from across the country and explore how technology can be used to enhance teaching and learning.

Join us in the Exhibition Hall Friday May 9 at 1:30 PM! 

Every1Games; Autism, Neurodiversity and Transitions to Higher Education
  (PFR3-4)
Discover what it means to accommodate Neurodiversity in every classroom and how Every1Games prepares youth on the autism spectrum for post-secondary education. Every1Games co-creates low-anxiety, collaborative learning environments using a variety of digital tools and online resources. Students explore the inside of the video game industry and engage in academic culture building valuable life skills through individual and team-based game development, social learning activities, and networking guidance.
Grade 4 Teacher Skype in Class

Connect 2013

Connect 2013