Job Well Done: The Neurodiversity Alliance of Southern Oregon University poses for a photo after a successful presentation at the Annual Social Justice Conference. I feel so honored to have been working with NASOU over the past few months, and I hope that you take the time to look over these posts, or even do some research on your own, to learn more about what it means to be neurodiverse and what the neurodiversity movement is all about.
Small Steps, Big Impact: Looking forward, there is much hope for the future, and it does not take much on your part. There are many things you can do to help society (and yourself) better understand neurodiverse individuals and the neurodiverse movement, such as being patient and understanding of neurodiverse individuals. Take time to get to know them, and take the time to educate yourself by dispelling myths about what it means to be neurodiverse, and never assume that somebody is neurotypical because of the way they look. Small steps can have a big impact, and I encourage everyone to take a moment to reflect on this in order to create a more tolerant and accepting society.
“Is This How Society Sees Me?”: While media has begun to include a larger representation of neurodiverse characters in their stories, these characters are often portrayed in a less than positive light. The neurodiverse character is the atypical and viewed as a tragic character, generally serving as a teaching moment for the neurotypical characters. When the media does this it allows audiences only a limited view (as accurate or inaccurate as the depiction may be) of how neurominorities are and perpetuates the misconceptions about neurodiverse individuals. However, characters such as Julia, an autistic character recently introduced by Sesame Street, sheds a more realistic light on the lives of neurodiverse individuals and serves as a positive example and a step in the right direction towards better representation in the media.
“The World Needs All Kinds of Minds”: Yesterday, February 19, 2016 was the annual Social Justice Conference at Southern Oregon University. The Neurodiversity Alliance of Southern Oregon University was one of the conference speaks, and it was a pleasure to get to watch the group get to speak on important issues surrounding the Neurodiversity Movement, specifically addressing how society needs to change the way they different brain wirings within the population. Topics ranged from how neurodiverse individuals are portrayed in the media (in both negative and positive ways) to the importance of awareness training for law enforcement and other safety public officials, especially in a time of crisis. One of the most important messages of the speech echoes autism activist Temple Grandin’s quote, “The world needs all kinds of minds.”
One of my favorite things about travel is that positivity seems to be in abundance, and is often quite contagious. I have never met more happy and positive people than when I travel overseas, and Haiti was no exception. From the moment I arrived at the hotel I was met with smiles, curious questions, and lessons on how to live a happy life. Even the simplest of things, such as seeing a picture of themselves, was enough to produce the widest of smiles. It was a lesson in enjoying life’s simple pleasures.
Cambodia was the first step in a journey I am still on today, a journey I will be on until the day I die. The land, the food, the culture, the people: I am forever indebted to it all. Thank you for welcoming me into your culture, into your school, and your home. Thank you for teaching me about the important things in life, and the secret to being happy.
Not only did I get the opportunity to teach English to the kids, but I was also asked to give a few lessons to the local teachers as well. I felt honored that they asked me to spend extra time to help them. The teachers were young, most in their early twenties, and they were very passionate about their careers. They felt it was their responsibility to help children in need, so that each would have the better opportunities in their futures.
One of the things that all of the children seemed to enjoy was playing with all of the volunteers technology – phones, cameras, and in this case my iPod which had the game Temple Run on it. They had never played the game before, but in a matter of minutes the kids had mastered the game. I am always amazed at how intuitive children are.
I loved all of my students, but I can honestly say these three boys were my favorite. Each day they would come running to the school and greet me with a wide smile. They genuinely enjoyed the opportunity to learn and they made my entire experience amazing. They were enthusiastic about every subject, even Math, and we had fun playing games inside the classroom and outside – we played basketball and soccer and rugby. Their love of learning reminded me to appreciate my own educational opportunities.
Besides the elephants, the biggest thing that drew me to Cambodia was that I was going to get the opportunity to build a schoolroom (more of a school hut really) and teach English to students. The students were from different villages around the area of Siem Reap. For many it was their only opportunity to get the amount of education they deserved; many families could not afford to send their children to school all day, but this school opened their doors to them. I wanted to make a difference in the world and in a small way I feel like I did. My wonderful students made this so easy. The way they treasured education was very inspiring and I am so thankful for everything they taught me.