Blog Talk Radio

[Transcribed] AWN Radio Interview on Blog Talk with Guests Nick Walker and Jill Jones from SPECTRUM: A Story of the Mind

Text says: Autism Women's Network and Ed Wiley Autism Acceptance Lending Library / AWN April Acceptance Event / "a different sensory perception is like a domino effect impacting every area of life" / Spectrum: A Story of the Mind / and Radio Interview with Jill Jones and Nick Walker." Background is pink and purple color wash with lens flare and sparkling light effects.
Text says: Autism Women’s Network and Ed Wiley Autism Acceptance Lending Library / AWN April Acceptance Event / “a different sensory perception is like a domino effect impacting every area of life” / Spectrum: A Story of the Mind / and Radio Interview with Jill Jones and Nick Walker.” Background is pink and purple color wash with lens flare and sparkling light effects.

NOTE: all commenters on this post for the next 30 days will be entered into a drawing for a t-shirt from the AWN Zazzle store!

**Begin transcription**

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[Crescendoing electronic sound effect]

VOICEOVER: BlogTalkRadio.

SHARON: Hello everyone, welcome to AWN Radio! We’re the Autism Women’s Network on BlogTalk. I’m Sharon daVanport and I’ll be your host today. AWN had a very exciting day from coast to coast. I’m coming to you live from Omaha, Nebraska. Samar isn’t here. We had a viewing of the film Spectrum: A Story of the Mind and we’ve got two guests today that we’re going to be talking to, Nick Walker, he was featured in the film, and Jill Jones, who actually is the producer/director of the show. We’ve got an event going on in Washington as well, it’s actually the second year in a row that Lei Wildey-Miske, AWN’s Community Outreach Coordinator, has co-hosted this event with us with her Autism Acceptance Lending Library. So we want to send a shout out to everyone there who is listening in. We actually had a viewing of the film, it’s a short film, about 23 minutes long at the same time, and then we hopped over here to BlogTalk to have our show! So I’m going to bring on the guests in just a minute. Erin Human is sitting right next to me here in Omaha, and she is going to be taking names from both the event and from the chatroom and then your name is going to be entered in for a drawing, or a giveaway. We’re going to be giving away a t-shirt and a mug. Also, our show is going to be transcribed for anyone who it’s not acceptable for you to listen a radio show, and we’re going to have that transcript posted on our website, and then in 30 days we’re going to have another drawing for everyone who was able to access it through the transcript, as long as you leave a comment and let us know that you viewed the transcript of the radio show.

Okay, so let’s get started. I’m going to bring on Jill and Nick. Nick, hello, can you hear me? Hi!

JILL: Hello? Yes, I can.

SHARON: Can you hear me, Nick?

NICK: Yes, I can!

SHARON: Okay! I feel like a Verizon commercial, like “Can you hear me now?” It’s weird. Oh god. [laughter] But you know, I think I’d like to start by having each of you introduce yourself and tell a little bit about yourself and then we’ll talk a little bit about the film, and – Oh, before we, before we actually get started, I wanted to mention that we have a couple comments from Tito and Judy Endow, who were also featured in the film. They weren’t able to join us live on the radio interview but they did send in some comments and I was actually able to talk to Tito over on Skype a few days ago. So I’m going to be sharing some of their thoughts throughout the interview. Jill, can you go ahead and tell everyone a little bit about yourself and why you came up with the idea for the film?

JILL: Sure! My name is Jill Jones and I live in LA. I came up with the idea a few years ago. My cousin Grant is in his early 20s and he is autistic. He’s nonspeaking but he can communicate through an iPad, not typing, but through pictures. And I just observed growing up with him at family gatherings and such that it was clear that he was experiencing a different sensory environment than I was. For example, every year at Christmas, we would open up presents, and that was something that I really looked forward to, but he would not want to open presents with everyone, because it was too many people in the room and it was really loud and chaotic, and he would open his presents alone, by himself, and that was just different than anything I’d seen. So over the years, I became more interested in autism, but was always surprised by the lack of the angle of sensory issues, and so that’s how it really got started, and we produced the film with my fellow producer and director of photography Brett Yontz, and here we are today! So it’s been exciting to be a part of this conversation and I’ve learned so much from everyone that we interviewed for the film.

SHARON: Okay, so that’s basically how you got your idea for the film, then, is because you understood that the experience of sensory perception looks different than you did.

JILL: Yeah, I mean, I feel like his behavior was indicating that he was experiencing something different but obviously I didn’t know what that was like.

SHARON: Right.

JILL: And so one way to kind of learn more was to in particular talk to autistic adults who have been able to express more about their perspectives and kind of sound the subject through the film just by doing research, and Nick, Tito, Judy, and Temple all have contributed a wealth of information. So I love getting to, you know, read Tito’s books or reading articles that Nick had written or seeing him featured in different articles, and then you know, obviously, you know, Temple Grandin is well known. So once I interviewed her I was like “Oh, I have to dig more deeper and find some other people to share their perspectives.” So it was a fun research process.

SHARON: Right. I loved how you featured Judy as the painter, that is definitely her talent, and something she just does so beautifully. I was able to visit with Judy by email, she’s on a plane today so she couldn’t be with us. Something that Judy said that I thought was really important that we share since April is Autism Acceptance Month, she said that she believes that at this point, right now, the time that we’re living in that society is basically focused on awareness and highlights deficits instead of looking at acceptance, and she believes that when we start doing that we’re going to highlight strength. So I liked the way your film talks about sensory perception as something that is completely normal in the way people experience it individually. That’s really great, you did a great job with that.

JILL: Thank you! Yeah, and I’m absolutely on board the autism acceptance train and beyond. And that was definitely the goal emotionally with the film. I mean I can’t say that we got it right or that it’s 100 percent accurate, I think would have been impossible for me, as a neurotypical, to try and interpret autistic perception and aim for accuracy, but we did just go for the goal of representing autistic perception in a positive light. And we had an amazing composer, his name is Frederik Wiedmann, and I think music is really key. If you look at other autism documentaries that maybe don’t present autism in a positive light, a lot of it is the music. It’s kind of –

SHARON: Right.

JILL: – dreary feeling.

SHARON: It is, right? And yours, it was so beautiful, the music, and I know that what you said is exactly true. It seems it’s almost like a sensory violation in itself, the music in a lot of autism documentaries and movies.

JILL: Yeah.

SHARON; But yours definitely wasn’t.

JILL: [laughter] Yeah, okay.

SHARON: Well thank you, Jill. I hope you stay with us throughout the show, we’ll probably have more questions and stuff for you too. I want to get over to Nick right now, you still with us, Nick?

NICK: Yes I am!

SHARON: Awesome, I’m so glad to finally talk to you. I don’t think after all these years we’ve even talked on the phone or in person and I’ve never been out to your part of the country in a few years, so I’m really happy to be able to talk to you today and to interview you for the show. Can you start off –

NICK: Oh, likewise!

SHARON: Yeah. Can you start off letting our listeners know who you are, a little bit about yourself for people who don’t know?

NICK: Sure! My name is Nick Walker and I’m talking to you from Berkeley, California and I’m an autistic aikido teacher and scholar, transdisciplinary scholar and academic, and an author. And I am co-founder and editor for an independent publishing house called Autonomous Press which is mostly autistic run and operated and dedicated to amplifying autistic voices and other neurodivergent and disabled voices as well as genderqueer voices, just, we’re looking to really increase academic access and amplification for the voices of marginalized populations in general. So that’s some work I’ve been doing lately, and I’ve done a lot writing on autism and on the emerging neurodiversity paradigms, so that is who I am! And it’s good to be here today, thanks for having me.

SHARON: Hi. Well, yeah. I wanted to talk a little bit or have you actually talk a little bit to our listeners about some of the stuff you shared in the film. I appreciated how you started off by saying that the whole reason you got into aikido was because you were bullied and I know that’s something that so many of us on the autistic spectrum can really relate to. Can you elaborate on that and talk a little bit more about how you got into aikido and how that does impact your senses and why you ended up viewing it differently than what you started out to?

NICK: Mmmm. That’s a big question. And –

[overlapping voices, Sharon and Nick]

SHARON; Well, okay, well, let me break it down, I’m sorry, I’m thinking in my mind, but I’m -.

NICK: Oh, I don’t mind big questions.

[overlapping voices, Sharon and Nick]

SHARON: Oh, okay, go for it, then! I’m sorry.

NICK: As long as you don’t mind big answers.

SHARON: No, I feel like [unintelligible].

NICK: I – at this point, talking about how aikido has impacted me or shaped me is almost impossible because it is so much of a part of me and how I’ve developed that I don’t know what I’d be like, I can’t conceive of what I would be like without it. It’s been –

SHARON: Oh, wow.

NICK: – such a lifelong practice, and such a part of my life for, you know, 35 years now, so, you know, that shapes one. Any physical practice, any transformative practice that engages the entire being, and the body, and the psyche and the spirit in that sort of way, what does that over a long period of time, it shapes how one’s brain develops and how one’s body, one’s entire being develops. So, you know, I am, I’m in love with beauty, with the beauty of the world. I’m very much driven in my life by my sense of aesthetics and how deeply moved I can be by beauty, which I think is one of the great advantages of autistic neurology and the autistic experience is how deeply beauty can touch us, if we let it, and our ability to apprehend a lot of the embedded – the beauty of the embedded patterns in the universe and how the world around us works. And aikido is a way of dancing with that ,a way of apprehending that, and so it’s very much tied in with just how I experience beauty. That was – again, what brought me to aikido was definitely violence, and – but what’s kept me there is my love of the beauty and the way that it brings out the beauty in the people who practice it as well. So I’m, as an aikido practitioner, I do it to increase my ability to dance with the beauty of the world. And as an aikido teacher, I do it because I love the beauty of how people transform when they practice it.

SHARON: That’s a great explanation, Nick. It looks like your explanation has triggered some conversation over in the chatroom. Right now, it looks like someone who goes by “actingNT” says that that is their challenge that they find when trying to explain what is autism. They’ve never not been autistic, so how they supposed to even know how their senses are different from neurotypicals. So –

[laughter]

NICK: Yes.

SHARON: Yeah. You know that’s true. I can even recall throughout my life when, after I finally did get my diagnosis, I can remember finding out that other people didn’t perceive certain things the way I did, and I thought the whole world thought the way I did –

NICK: [Mmm of assent]

SHARON: – or perceived things a certain way. I was just – it just surprised me. So I can totally relate to that. Someone here has just asked – [reading] Jill has always painted? Do they mean Judy?

JILL: Yeah, I think –

SHARON: Do you mean Judy? Oh yeah, you meant Judy. You know that’s a good question we’ll have to ask, we’ll have to ask her that. We can do that and then we can post some updates when we do our transcript.

JILL: Yeah, I do remember that Judy works in various mediums.

SHARON; Right.

JILL: So one of the tricky things about creating a film like this is that I feel like every single person in the film completely deserved their own feature film. I mean, it’s really such a small sliver of presentation of who that person is. But visiting Judy was so cool, in her house, I mean she had sculptures all over the place and I believe now she does some form of artwork with glass that she could probably explain more and so –

SHARON: Right.

JILL: – she definitely has vast skills, as do Nick and Tito as well.

NICK: Yeah, if there are any other filmmakers out there listening, I would definitely watch a Tito documentary or a Judy documentary. Or a me documentary.

[laughter]

JILL: Yeah, right?

[laughter]

SHARON: Right, exactly. So this is a great time to share some of the stuff that Tito shared with me. I got – as I said before, I got to visit with him on Skype a few days ago. And he talked a lot about the way that he perceives things, that is, the way his sensory perceptions are manifested. He said that, much like he did in the film, he talked about how his sense of smell is calming, it’s something that if he feels overloaded or he needs some kind of calming, because the way he put it, he says that when his senses “fire off”, he can take refuge, in just the way the book smells to him. It smells like a nice – I always loved going to the library, it’s not exactly what he’s talking about, to have that smell of the books. So I thought that was interesting. And he said he doesn’t even remember when he started writing poetry, that it’s just something that has been a steady stream for him. So Nick, we have a question in the chatroom for you.

NICK: Okay.

SHARON: It looks like ASAN Pittsburgh, their members are listening in and they’d like to know your thoughts about sensory hyposensitivity and how it might affect the way autistics relate to the world.

NICK: Ah. Hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity?

SHARON: Uh…did they say hypo here?

JILL: It says hypo.

NICK: Oh.

SHARON: Yeah.

NICK: Because usually hypersensitivity is what we’ve got goin’ on, but I guess there’s just a whole unique sensory experience that each one of us has our own unique sensory experience which might be a combination of hypersensitivities and hyposensitivities. But how does it – I mean, we’re relating to a different world, each one of us. Each human being is relating to a different world’s experience in a different world and autistic people are an extreme example of that in how much our sensory experiences differ from – or from, to a typical human average sensory experiences, and how much our sensory experiences differ from one another’s, even. So there is – we represent an extreme, extreme end of the spectrum of the diversity of human sensory experience, or, you know, and cognitive experience, because our sensory experience shapes our cognitive experience. And, so, we do, in fact – we do, in fact, live in a different world, each in our own, and I think every human being does, but that’s more clear, more dramatic in the case of autistic people. And this may be part of what’s behind the prejudice against autism, a lot of the public discomfort with autism and prejudice against it, is what it says about how subjective human experience is and how little we actually know about reality, how many different realities there are. I think that we’re living in a time that, which, a time in which a lot of people are freaking out about the scope of human diversity as it becomes more clear. I mean we’re looking at, as Judy pointed out, we’re looking at a time when people have this very deficit oriented, pathologizing perspective on autism awareness, but not acceptance. But it’s coming in a context at the same time we’re getting, we’re seeing a lot of public struggle around transgender rights for instance –

SHARON: Yeah.

NICK: And pushback against genderqueerness in general, and increased racial tensions, a lot of very open racism and, so I think that there’s, there’s a breakthrough coming, I think there’s a breakthrough coming in how, in humanity’s awareness in general, of just how diverse we are, and how, how little we know about reality, and how subjective it is, and how many different realities are represented, that each human being has a very unique reality.

SHARON: Uh huh.

NICK: And I think a lot of people are terrified to be reminded of that. I think it’s something that a lot of people don’t want to face and a lot of the prejudice against autism comes from that, comes from not wanting to look at just how different a human’s experience of reality can be.

SHARON: Right. And, and, but like you said that prejudice that tries to say that if someone’s different, then they have to be wrong. There’s another great question –

NICK: Mmhmm.

SHARON: – in the chatroom for both of you. It says, first of all they start with a comment, they say “Thanks to the pathology paradigm, presenting the sensory explanation of autism will lead to automatic assumption that autistic people are sensing wrong, or some delusion or hallucination.” and the question is “How can we shift the conversation to more of a neurodiversity approach?”

JILL: That’s a great question. I think that making the film for me was a process of trying to shift the conversation, but, you know, it was a journey for me as well. When I started the film I don’t think I thought I was looking at autism through a pathology paradigm, but it so [?]. I was, even though I didn’t, I wasn’t aware of it. But thanks to really getting lucky with the people that I found to interview, I think I was given a great education in neurodiversity. In particular, I mean NIck’s section of the film is only six minutes long, but when we interviewed, we sat there and he talked for hours, and really gave me an appreciation for what neurodiversity means. And I think one way to kind of understand it is talking about the, the beauty of autism and also how much we as a culture need diversity in order to be healthy, and to solve world problems. And, you know, it’s – having a different perspective is not just not a deficit, it’s something that we actually need, I guess.

SHARON: Thank you for sharing that, Jill.

NICK: Yes. I agree –

SHARON: Nick, would you like to – ?

NICK: Yeah. This film, I mean this film is wonderful. Jill has really produced a wonderful film here and I think it’s an example of the sort of thing that’s needed to shift the paradigm. And it’s going to take a lot, a lot of films like Spectrum, a lot of books like the ones that I’m helping to publish these days, a lot of voices over a long time, to shift the paradigm. Paradigm shifts take a long time, it is a paradigm shift , and a paradigm shift is a shift, really in our basic assumptions about reality and that, that happens over the course of generations. If you look at it, I mean, in terms – if you’re just looking at it as a social justice issue, look at how long the fight against racism has gone on in this country.

JILL: Yeah.

NICK: And it’s still a very racist country, it’s still, like, we’re, we’re not halfway there yet, and that’s a lot of generations, and there’s a lot more to go. And with paradigm shifts, you know, how long, how long does it take something, I mean, very few people have adjusted their worldview to a quantum view of reality, most people still have a very Newtonian worldview, you know, even though that’s like a century out of date at this point from the perspective of a physicist. So it’s, it’s – Thomas Kuhn who came up with the concept of the paradigm said that paradigm shifts generally – paradigm shifts don’t generally happen by people changing their minds. You get a few extraordinary individuals in this world, people like Jill, who really had her mind changed making the film, but generally what happens is you have to wait for the people who were stuck in the old paradigm to just die off and for new generations to come along who grow up around the new paradigm. And so a lot of the work I do is really aimed at the next generations that are coming along and not at people who are around now, because I think that the real change is going to happen in the next three or four generations.

SHARON: Then you bring up a really great point, Nick, when you said that. Because I’ve often been asked “Why do you do what you do when you don’t see so much change?, but I have seen a shift and a change in the last couple years.

NICK: [mmhmm noise of assent]

SHARON: I know that it’s going to be much different after I’ve long left this earth and that’s what I think about, too.

NICK: [mmhmm noise of assent]

SHARON: You have to tell yourself what you’re doing today is going to have an impact, ten, twenty years from now it will.

NICK: Oh yeah.

SHARON: We can look back on all the civil rights movement and stuff like that that happened, you know, generations ago and look now. I mean, we still have a long way to go but at the same time we do see these changes come about, and like you said it’s going to be for the future. We can’t think that everything we do now is going to impact exactly what, you know, in this moment.

NICK: Yeah.

JILL: I’m trying to see if there’s any other questions, anybody over in the chatroom have any more questions? I’m trying to scroll down to see here, I don’t know.

SHARON: Nick is there anything, when you knew that you were going to be coming on here and we were going to be talking about different things, that you wanted to specifically share with our listeners? I mean, it doesn’t necessarily have to be about the film too, you can share other things. I know you talked about Autonomous Press which, you guys had some really great books that have come out and are getting ready to come out. You could, I mean I’d love for you to be able to share with our listeners a little bit about that.

JILL: Yeah.

NICK: Yeah, well, I do want to say, I want to highly recommend a book that we published earlier this year called The Real Experts. It’s called The Real Experts: Readings for Parents of Autistic Children and it’s’ edited by Michelle Sutton, and it is a collection of – you know, Michelle is a mother of autistic children and recently recognized herself as autistic, but at the time she was putting together the book she hadn’t yet. She’s a mother of autistic children and she, like an increasing number of parents of autistic children these days, she turned to the writings online of autistic adults to learn more about how to be a good parent to her autistic children. And she put together this very short, very friendly and readable book, that’s just a collection of the blog posts by autistic bloggers that were most helpful to her in parenting her own children. And so I’m in it, and Kassiane Sibley, and Ibby Grace, and Briannon Lee, and just a whole lot of great autistic bloggers, and it’s just this wonderful collection of essays all compiled in one little book, extremely helpful. And I love that, I love that I think that there’s been – in the early days of autistic activism, there was a lot of conflict between autistic people who were trying to get their voices heard and parents of autistic children who really had trouble hearing what the autistic adults were saying. And there’s been, for a quarter century or so, a history of some, a lot of tension between parents of autistic kids and autistic adults, which has been problematic in autistic activism. And I’m seeing a shift happen, when we’re talking about a paradigm shift, and how the discourse is shifting, I’m seeing more and more parents of autistic kids who are recognizing the value of the experience of previous generations of autistics, and more and more autistic people who are reaching out to parents. And this book is just a wonderful example of autistic people really coming together and seeing how can we, how can we help parents make life better for the next generation of autistic people?

SHARON: Right, and I was so excited when I heard about the book, Nick, I really was. Michelle started posting about it and like you said she just recently identified as autistic herself so it was, it was a great moment in time online when all of that happened. There is another question for you, Nick. It looks like –

NICK: Great.

SHARON: Can you scroll up just a little bit? I’ve got Erin sitting right here. Sorry, she’s just helping me with the chat room. They want to know if you’re comfortable sharing, they’d love to hear more about your identity as neuroqueer?

NICK: Yeah, so, this, this term neuroqueer was coined by me and Michael Monje who’s another autistic author and cofounder of Autonomous Press, and, and Ibby Grace, also autistic scholar, Autonomous Press cofounder. The three of us came up with the term and then we’ve had other people who have gradually contributed like Melanie Yergeau, an amazing autistic scholar, has hence contributed a lot to the concept. But the idea of neuroqueer, it’s a very complex idea where there’s two, there’s two aspects to it. There’s the idea of treating, treating neurological queerness, neurodivergence, as like a form of queerness, in the same way, in the same way that genderqueerness queers gender. So there’s this idea, you know, we are neurologically nonconforming in the same way that genderqueer people are, are gender nonconforming. And, and neurology can be explored and actively queered. So neuroqueering becomes a process of really actively exploring and performing the weirdness of one’s’ brain, the opposite of trying to pass for neurotypical, but really exploring the full scope of one’s neurodivergence and what it can do and what is its potential for being neurodivergent and frankly weird. The other aspect of neuroqueering is the intersection of queerness on the sexuality and gender spectrum and neurodivergence, autism and other forms of neurodivergence. Because if you – the discourse on autism, the public discourse, has really focused so much on straight white male autistics, but they’re a very very small portion of the autistic population. And if you actually, when you start polling the autistic population and get out there and start looking at the gender and sexual epxerience of autistics, the – we are, we are a very queer bunch. Autism, part of –

SHARON: Yes we are!

NICK: Yeah, part of what happens with autism, you know, because as children we are dealing with an overwhelming, intense sensory experience of the world and how to navigate that, we don’t pick up on a lot of the cultural conditioning that non-autistic people pick up very early. Our, our attention is elsewhere, and that is, that’s part of the social difficulties that autistic people have is that there’s all these cultural, culturally determined social cues that most people are picking up on starting in infancy and autistic people are distracted by the rest of their sensory environment, and so they’re off to a late start already picking up the social cues, they don’t become ingrained. But remember that gender is a social construct, gender roles are socially constructed. And so –

SHARON: Right.

NICK: – that’s one of the things that’s not talked about is, is that’s one of the things autistic people don’t pick up, and so many, many of us are gender nonconforming and genderqueer, and myself included, and so this term neuroqueer is a way of talking about that. And so again, neuroqueerness is this multifaceted thing where I’m, you know, when I identify as neuroqueer I mean that I’m neurodivergent and genderqueer and I regard the two as inseparable, and I also mean by it that I am dedicated to this process of neuroqueering, to this process of really fully exploring every facet of my queerness and giving it expression in my life.

SHARON: Jill, it sounds like Nick just described a whole new film for you! What do you think?

JILL: I know, right? That’s exactly what I was thinking!

[laughter]

JILL: Maybe it would be an element of Nick’s feature film or it could be it’s own film, but it’s so true that, that a different sensory perception, I mean it‘s like the domino effect of impacting every area of life, socially, identity, and everything, and that’s one of the aims of the film, I guess, is it just seems like the social, quote unquote social, “social issue deficit” –

NICK: [mmmhmm noise of assent]

JILL – is a primary topic of conversation and you have to go back to the roots of someone having an entirely different perspective and how that would definitely impact relationships and picking up –

SHARON: Right.

JILL: – communication through our bodies and whatnot.

SHARON: Right.

NICK: [mmhmm noise of assent]

SHARON: There’s another comment and question over in the chatroom, it says that – let me see here – something that started to turn into a script for the person in the chatroom when talking to queer people. You don’t notice a percent [?] of autistic people in the queer community but in the autistic community you notice a lot of queer people. So, question is –

NICK: [mmhmm noise of assent]

SHARON: How can we use, how can we use the neuroqueer label to unite queer community with the autistic and other neurodivergent communities?

NICK: Mmm. I, I think that spreading the concept, I think there’s more – again I would love to see a Neuroqueer documentary film or two. And –

[laughter]
NICK: As, we’re, we’re writing it, and Autonomous Press has a new imprint called Neuroqueer Books. We just put out our first literary anthology which is called the Spoon Knife Anthology which I highly recommend and that’s all neuroqueer, neuroqueer poetry and fiction and memoir. So I think getting, getting the concept out there and getting people more aware of it, getting autistic people talking frankly and other neurodivergent people talking frankly about, about their neuroqueerness and about how their neurodivergence interfaces with their gender identity and their sexuality. I think that’s important and I think, I think, again this is something that will unfold in future generations where I’ve had, I’ve had some very interesting experiences teaching, I teach at California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco which is a very progressive school, and it’s right there in San Francisco so it has a lot of queer students in the student body and an increasing amount of openly neurodivergent student so we’ve really become a school that’s really on the cutting edge of the neurodiversity paradigm, I’m not even the only autistic faculty member there now. So I’m seeing more interfacing happening, more queer people becoming aware of their neurodivergence or of neurodivergent members of the queer community and more neurodivergent people looking at how it impacts their gender identity. A lot of it’s just about bringing people together, getting them to meet each other and see each other and I see it happen more in the younger generation, again, where I see old, older generations, you know, San Francisco has an old, old longstanding queer community, and it can be very not intersectional and ableist and whitewashed, but the younger generation of San Francisco queers are really super intersexual – super intersectional, intersectional and anti-racist and trans accepting and really into the full, the full scope of queerness and they’re very open to the neurodiversity paradigm, and get very excited about it. So I think that as we get more material out there, books and documentaries and people speaking about it, it’s going to happen, the people are just going to start to come together and find each other and learn about each other and about themselves in the process.
SHARON: Okay, very good. Okay, very good. One thing I wanted to take a second to do before we end up having you guys share your final thoughts, we said that we would do a drawing. The way we’re going to do it is we’ll do one drawing now for people in the chat room and then Lei from the Washington event is going to submit a list of names and then we’re going to draw from that later and we’ll post the winner over on Facebook and Twitter and get their information, Lei will know how to get in contact with them. And then again, we’re going to do at third drawing, that’s going to be from our website for people who leave a comment that read our transcript and we’ll do that in thirty days. We should have the transcript up in a few days, so –
NICK: Great.

SHARON: It looks like Erin did a drawing, let’s see here, she used the automated, little automated app from her iPhone because everything is just so tech groovy these days.

[laughter]

SHARON : Alright, it’s Bobby Jipson, Bobby’s just sitting right across from me here in Omaha! Woo-hoo Bobby!

ERIN: Alright!

SHARON: You’re the first winner, and then you’re getting a t-shirt, something that Erin designed, it’s our new acceptance t-shirt, did you see that one? Yeah. It’s really great. So and then, again, we’re going to have two other winners, so do not be disappointed if you didn’t win, we’re going to do another drawing too, with everybody’s name with Lei’s stuff. So, I wanted to just take the last couple minutes and have you guys share something about acceptance and what it means to you, what it means to you, Jill, after the things htat you learned from the film. And then NIck, we’ll let you close out the show by sharing what autism acceptance means to you and what, what you hope the impact of that will have on our community.

NICK: [inaudible]

SHARON: And Jill, you can go ahead and go first.

JILL: Sure. You know, I think when I think about a world that has more autism acceptance I really think back to my cousin Grant, and the future that he will have. And I, I don’t know if he will outlive his parents or what, if he will end up in a group home or what might happen, but I would hope that anyone who interacts with him, in the next ten to thirty to forty years will start to have this idea of autism acceptance in their head. Because I think it impacts every interaction of whether or not someone is respected, whether or not they’re presuming competence with that person, and so that is really my hope, is that this idea of autism acceptance ripples out of the enclosed communities that already accept it, and is a part of the greater communities in schools and nonprofits and what institutions may remain, and whatnot. Which also leads me to another thought which is, if anyone is interested in doing additional community screenings, feel free to reach out to me, my email is [email protected] The goal, I guess, for me with the film is just to get the film in the hands of anyone who, you know, caretakers and teachers and anyone who has a direct impact on understanding how to, to interact with kids and adults and anyone who really needs their sensory issues to be understood, in particular if they don’t have telling someone about it themselves [?]. And we also just got our DVDs done so they’re up on Amazon and on our website. If anybody would like to hold a screening of their own by doing it that way, you’re welcome to. And I guess, yeah, that’s about it, but this has been so fun and awesome to get Nick on the phone and to hear from Tito and Judy, so thank you guys.

SHARON: Aw, thank you so much, Jill, and thank you for making such a great film and putting autistic people at the front of it all and making it about who it is about, about autistic people and what their experiences are, you did a beautiful job with that. Thank you.

JILL: Thank you!

SHARON: Alright, Nick, you get to close out the show for us. You get to talk about what autism acceptance means to you and how you hope that that will help move the community forward and have an impact.

NICK: I think it makes the world better for everyone, the experience of just being a life and the world better for everyone, for all accepting each other and looking just encountering every person with this idea of “Oh, this person’s experience is different from mine, and here I am blessed with the opportunity to interact with this person, how can I make the experience a good one for them?”

SHARON: Yeah.

NICK: This is a – I come to this, again, as someone who has practiced aikido for a very long time, and I’m – really we can talk about the theory behind these things and how wonderful that would be [?], but any change like this, any positive change in the world has to happen not just through systemic change, but through an individual change. A lot of people have to take individual responsibility for transforming themselves and that means developing a personal sense of empowerment that allows us to be the sort of strong, compassionate people who will reach out and say “How can I make this world better for others? How can I make this world better for my neighbor? This person is, is different from me and having a different experience and maybe they’re having a hard time and how can I accommodate them and how can we work together?” And what we see right now is a lot of people often, a lot of people freaking out about difference, being very scared of difference, and oh my god, it’s a crisis, this person is different, I don’t know how to communicate with them, how do I fix them, how do – and it’s a very crisis oriented sort of defensive orientation and the aikido approach to this is ground – get one, get yourself grounded, become a grounded person, it really requires a physical, embodied practice of calming and groundedness, and expansiveness, that allows one to be the sort of generous spirit who reaches out and says “How can I make this easier for anyone around me who’s struggling?” And to take responsibility and say “Okay, if I’m freaked out about how this person is moving or how they communicate, or how they do or don’t make eye contact, how can I take responsibility for changing something in myself so that I’m not freaked out about this person’s difference from me?” And that’s what it’s going to take is systemic transformation, societal transformation, but also personal transformation by a lot of people who are just ready to take this step of becoming stronger, more generous people in order to be more accepting people.

SHARON: Wow, Nick, that is, that’s powerful and that actually –

NICK: Yeah.

SHARON: I was going to end with Tito’s words after you spoke and it’s, it’s kind of in harmony with what you said. Tito and I , we visited on Skype. He ended our conversation by talking about autism acceptance and he said that he feels that it has to begin with the self, and that autistic people have to accept themselves and be willing to do that and –

NICK: Mmmm.

SHARON: – come from a place, exactly like what you said, Nick. I think that that’s interesting, you guys share some of the same thoughts on that and that’s really nice. Thank you, Nick, thank you so much for sharing all that, Autonomous Press, thank you –

NICK: Thank you!

SHARON: – for sharing the – yes! And for talking about the film, and your contribution of being featured in it, really appreciate that. And we will go ahead and sign off for now, say goodbye to everyone out in Washington, everybody in the chat room and everyone here in Omaha, and thanks all of you for joining us, and we hope to be back soon, AWN radio is going to start picking up, doing interviews hopefully maybe once a month, not as often as we used to but we’re going to try and keep the cobwebs dusted off of the radio show. So thank you again everyone, thank you Jill, Nick, and –

NICK: Thanks!

JILL: Thank you!

SHARON: Thank you again our [?] again BlogTalkRadio. Thanks! Bye.

ERIN: Thanks!

NICK: Bye!

[silence and background noise until [00:51:31]]

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3 thoughts on “[Transcribed] AWN Radio Interview on Blog Talk with Guests Nick Walker and Jill Jones from SPECTRUM: A Story of the Mind”

  1. I wish I would have been able to catch this broadcast! I had no clue Nick lived up in Berkeley (I miss NorCal!). What a great discussion. Thank you for transcribing it for those of us who miss the broadcast or cannot otherwise access it!

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