The Autism Resource Center plans to change how neurodivergence is viewed. Moonite1687 Reporting...

1 month ago 21

Throughout April, the Autism Society invited Autistic individuals, their families, and friends to honor their wide range of experiences by taking time to share stories on social media through the #CelebrateDifferences hashtag. No family or individual's story is the same as any other, and the Autism Society believes the world should recognize the infinite ways the Autism community experiences life.

However, Existential Conundrum feels that Autism deserves more than a month to recognize and share the experiences of "individuals living with Autism" (Autistic people). So, she started the Autist(ic) Resource Center (ARC), formerly known as the Autis(tic) Information Center, in 2019 to minimize the lack of information and support in Second Life for the Autism Spectrum Disorder or Condition. To date, there are only one or two other sources of information in SL, and they are parent-created groups that do not support Autistic adults or listen when [they] speak. To bridge this gap, the ARC has partnered with the Brain Energy Support Team (BEST), an organization that started off helping those with brain injuries and is now moving forward to help build up services centered on neurodivergent adults, a community that is very often overlooked.

For those unaware, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, as a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. ASD includes a range of linked conditions that sometimes include singular symptoms and traits. People with ASD often have social communication and interaction problems with non-Autistic people and restricted or repetitive behaviors often caused by overwhelming emotion or sensitivity. The behaviors often exhibited are repetitive movements such as wringing hands, tapping or flapping, and many others. People with ASD may also have different ways of learning, moving, or focusing.

Albeit different in managing self, many people on the Spectrum could function more easily if the world would change to accommodate Autistic individuals rather than the other way around. Therefore, the ARC has made its mission one that shifts the treatment of individuals who are disabled--a term accepted by the Autistic community--by ASD and other neurodivergent disorders from pity and juvenile treatment to one of acceptance and understanding.

One of the several action plans that Exi is using to begin this shift is to work on producing a peer support group in collaboration with BEST to specifically provide a coaching service to help all neurodivergent adults make and pursue life goals that are entirely individual driven. "It's working with people where they are and making it possible to live their BEST lives," declares Exi. This program is geared toward adults and young adults aging out of programming that panders to children on the Spectrum. 

Another action plan is to sponsor more events that close the gap. In April, Exi stated that she hosted the Common Ground collaboration party to answer pending questions and educate individuals on the double empathy problem and the communication issues to be aware of when interacting with Autistic people. Next year, Exi plans to hold an event that discusses cultural expressions and the intersectionality with neurodivergence. 

ARC also works with other groups to enhance their services and reach. Currently, Exi is working on creating a hub featuring a series of blogs and websites from the black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities living with Autism to create a space for intersectional voices to be heard when traditionally they are overlooked. 

The ARC inworld is open to all Autistic SecondLife residents or SecondLife residents supporting an Autistic individual to drop in and connect with Exi and her spouse for support and resources. The ARC does have an online presence on Facebook and Twitter for soft engagement and digital interaction. The ARC is also open to suggestions and assistance with bringing more content to the grid to make sure the effort to keep Autistic individuals and their struggles in the light. 

Consider using the helpful links provided below for more information on managing Autism or interacting with someone with Autism and other neurodivergent disorders. And remember that being different is a beautiful and positive thing. 

https://www.brainenergysupportteam.org/

https://www.facebook.com/SLAutisticResourceCenter

https://twitter.com/slautistics

https://autismsociety.org/autism-acceptance-month-2022-launch

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