My pal Ian has calcuably the grandest vocabulary and eloquence in his writing. Big props to him for this piece. Inclusion is important and I wish it wasn’t a necessary word because we should all just be accepted for who we are.
Let’s listen carefully to Ian’s message.
Thank you to my friend Jordyn for inviting me to write on his blog, as a guest this month. To think that I once wished I could spell as well as Jordyn, since he was more skilled and further along the path of communication than I was when we met two years ago! And now I am here totally rocking the words like him. The words have been unlocked inside of me and the encouragement my fellow spellers, like Jordyn have given me, has been tremendous.
My work since I began communicating by spelling has been to get myself more purposeful as far as my body can be. This includes things like typing, working on my handwriting, my speech and more challenging physical activities like rock climbing and martial arts. With regard to others like me on the spectrum it is so worth the time to work on skills and activities that have meaning and purpose and make us feel useful, capable and human.
My current message to the world, with the autism community in mind, is focused on making sure to stress inclusion. I want to move beyond awareness and acceptance into fully participating in my relationships with my family, friends, and society. So, to that end, I ask that my dear allies and neurotypical friends work to actively create ways to include autistics in the mainstream world. What does that look like? Well, some ideas that I have are:
Take the initiative to talk to us, reach out, suggest activities and find ways to alter and accommodate the hobbies and every day things you do to make it possible for us to join you. There is a movement toward inclusion, but I think there is a tendency to “dumb things down” for people on the spectrum. This is frustrating and ineffective. Respect our inherent potential by presuming competence and challenging us. The success of my learning to spell on a letterboard came from my mom and other teachers strongly initiating and challenging my brain and not shrinking from the task when faced with my totally unruly body.
The motor challenges of my autism make it really difficult to initiate and perform the most basic tasks. This is true for many on the spectrum. But our brains are neuroplastic wonders and can make new and strong motor pathways toward speech, more coordinated movement and others goals like independence and greater self-determination. This is where the necessity of being challenged comes in. What muscle grows big and strong without being progressively challenged with more weight-bearing exercises? So too does a human brain need healthy engagement and challenge to grow and develop.
Too many people on the spectrum are not given opportunities that will help with and encourage full participation in life, especially if we are nonspeaking. We are assumed to be mentally incapable. I believe we are all capable but some of us need more patience, consideration, perseverance and hard work to get there.
In closing, here are some examples of ways my family, friends and neurotypical allies have not only included me in meaningful ways, but have also contributed to my continued growth and development:
- My friend Amy introduced me to a cool guy named Taqqee and he is teaching me Silat, which is an Indonesian style of martial arts. I love how Amy thought to take the initiative to set up training with Taqqee. So far I really love the style of martial arts. It feels good because I get to master strength and control of my body.
- Amy is also helping me learn to care for and play with her dog Olivia. This is so helpful because my body tends to freak out around dogs.
- My Aunt Debbie has always made an effort to include me and spend time with me. She lives an hour away from me and we decided to do a book club through the mail. So we picked a book to read and began writing back and forth to each other about our feelings and thoughts on the book. This has been a special project. I loved the time my aunt dedicated in sharing her thoughts in writing to me. I am grateful to have her letters as keepsakes. It was also wonderful to share my thoughts with her.
- And finally, my mom continues to create inclusion at home for me by adapting activities with my dad and siblings. Recently we began to play Dungeons and Dragons role playing game. This is a very involved game that gets players enacting a story as fantastical characters on an epic mission. It would be way easier to act out my character if I could speak, but I participate with my letter board, roll my dice in battle and listen to the story as it unfolds through my mom the Dungeon Master and the other players. It is harder for me, but so worth it. I really get to be part of this game and it feels good!
Thanks for reading my guest blog. I hope it inspires you to action.
Way to go Ian!
For more from Ian, follow his blog at