Helpful Videos on Autism & Disability Issues

Thanks to Youtube, educating yourself about the autism spectrum and disability in general is easier than ever! Be warned that there also a lot of bad info online so be careful- avoid anything with language like “epidemic” “tragedy”, find things from the perspectives of people with disabilities themselves rather than people who claim to speak for us! Note: I tried to put this roughly in an order of basic to more complex ideas about autism and disabilities.

How Aspies Communicate: Literal Thinking & Bluntness

Ask an Autistic: What is a Meltdown?

Can We Stop Saying “High-functioning”? What are the problems with using high vs. low-functioning autism labels?

Ask an Autistic: What is Neurodiversity? Truths & misconceptions about the neurodiversity movement. Lots of links listed below video!

Undiagnosed Autism/Asperger’s in Adults– It’s often misunderstood that autism is a new “epidemic” when actually people with autism have existed all along, often struggling to get by. I feel all too this goes ignored by the broader autism community that is very child-centric.

Sh!t People Say to People with Disabilities and here’s a 2nd

S#!T Ignorant People Say to Autistics– Danger: satire and truth ahead!

Stella Young on Inspiration Porn & Objectification of Disability– Stella Young wittily explains how we have all been mislead (heck, lied to!) in our understanding of disabilities. (This is not literally about pornography)

Autistics Speaking: Self Advocacy in a Culture of Cure (Part 2 here)

Jo Case on Asperger’s Syndrome: Identity or Illness– a woman with AS with a son with AS explores changing views of the autism spectrum.

Ask an Autistic: What’s Wrong with Autism Speaks? Why many autistic people and their allies oppose Autism Speaks

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Comparing Autism & Borderline Personality Disorder

Recently, Pride in Madness posted some memes from a Tumblr called “Sh*t Borderlines Do” and commented on how they related to her own experiences. I noticed some similarities with autistic traits and commented about this, and someone else responded wanting to know more about autism and how it might overlap with BPD. I will preface this by saying that I am not that familiar with Borderline Personality Disorder, I’ve know a couple people (in-person or online) with that label, I get the impression it’s a newer one that is somewhat controversial (but then isn’t every mental health label?) Links for more info on BPD at the bottom of the post.

“You notice the slightest difference in how someone treats you, and it bothers you for days on end”

The autistic or obsessive-compulsive version of this would be more likely to be “a school or work policy, procedure, or the way objects, furniture etc. are arranged changes without explanation, and it bothers you for days on end”

“Just constantly feeling f*cking guilty for things that you know logically aren’t your fault” PiM mentions that her tendency of compulsive apologizing for random things. Because of my long of offending people without realizing it, messing up due to clumsiness, ADHD spaciness, etc. I tend to do a lot of pre-emptive “just in case” apologizing. It’s very insecure and paranoid. Which has the additional effect of making my apologies for actual serious things seem less sincere.  Some autistic or OCD people will develop a certain way of doing things that they believe they “have to do” or Bad Things Will Happen- like our own personal superstitions. This is a sort of coping mechanism for putting something tangible under our control for a world that seems out of control.

“Feeling so much of everything so very deeply that it’s overwhelming”

I suspect that the reasons folks with BPD have this problem may be different than for those on the autism spectrum, though for person with both it may be a combination. For autistic folks, often sensory input (noise, lights, smells, touch) and constant social interaction can often lead to feeling emotionally overwhelmed and having what we call a “meltdown”. In contrast, I get the impression that people with BPD are to some degree picking up on the emotions of others and internalizing/amplifying them.

General Info on BPD

Psych Central description

Nat’l Alliance on Mentally Illness description

BPD & Autism

Apparently women and girls with ASD (whom as I’ve discussed before, are often later diagnosed) are often mis-diagnosed with BPD. BPD still may be a more accurate label for some people, and some people may have both.

Borderline Personality Disorder- a correct diagnosis?

Similarities & Differences between ASD & BPD

Growing Up Autistic

As she introduces me on my tours, my colleague Joanne Bowles often mentions that I am very comfortable discussing my autism and answering questions about it, while other tour guides often don’t feel that way, which we certainly can respect. Why is this? Well I can’t speak for them, but it’s been a long journey for me towards self-acceptance.

I’m 32, and unusual for someone my age, I was diagnosed around age 8 with autism, more specifically Asperger’s Syndrome. Most people I’ve met around my age weren’t labeled until their teens or twenties, often they were identified as having AD/HD or another learning disability or mental condition. I was the opposite. My partner jokes that I have “male-pattern autism”- females are less commonly diagnosed with autism, but a lot of that seems to be that it tends to manifest differently in males and females, and most of the research on autism and Asperger’s has been done on males. Autistic girls are more frequently quiet and good at hiding their symptoms. I was loud and opinionated, and definitely didn’t act like a “proper young lady”. Fortunately my father at the time was working for the Menninger Foundation, a mental health organization that had more up-to-date research on various conditions, and that is why I was able to access doctors who could figure me out- at least a little bit!

My parents were amazing advocates for me, constantly communicating with teachers about my IEP, what I was studying, and emotional and social issues that I had. I was mainstreamed throughout my schooling, and had an aide to assist me in 4th thru 8th grade. The aide was mainly there to help keep me focused on my work, and help me calm down (sometimes by whisking me out of the room) if I had anxiety problems. My parents took the attitude with both my brother and I (he is also on the spectrum and has ADD) of focusing on one year at a time. They didn’t worry about planning for the future, they focused on what was in front of them. In retrospect, I can see the disadvantages of that approach, but it was understandable in the light of the more limited resources that were available at the time for transition-age youth.  I believe they did the best they could, and in fact far better than many parents would’ve done in the same situation!

Anyway, my attitude towards my label was very negative at first when my parents told me, because it sounded negative- Disorder, Syndrome. It sounded like a disease, like there was something wrong with me. My parents tried to explain that I was still the same Mariah, but now we could better understand how Mariah thinks and what she needs. My brother had similar reactions when he was told as well.

I finally felt better about being autistic after attending a camp for kids with Asperger’s/ASD, Camp Discovery at Courage North as a teenager. At last I could be around kids like me (no, my brother wasn’t enough!) I realized that autism wasn’t necessarily a negative, it just meant I was different. Meeting an adult on the spectrum (each cabin had one- called a mentor) was a life-changing experience. I could look up to this person, and have an idea of what I could grow up to be. It was run by the Autism Society, and after going there a couple times, I returned as a mentor and worked there for seven years.

Related Topics I’d like to expand on:

Patterns of Autism in Males/Females

Integration Should Not Mean Isolation

Autism vs. Asperger’s

October Scottish Events

OCTOBER
Laura MacKenzie CD Launch Concerts
“From Uig to Duluth”
Scots Gaelic Music and Song

Friday October 17     7 pm  – Northfield Arts Guild, 304 Division St, Northfield
Friday October 24     7:30 pm  – Duluth Friends Meeting House, 1802 East 1st St, Duluth
Sunday October 26   7:30 (doors open at 6:30)  – The River Room, Aster Cafe, 125 Main St. SE, Minneapolis.

$10/$15 includes CD

For more information:
laura@lauramackenzie.com
651-398-5055
www.lauramackenzie.com

Multi-instrumentalist/singer Laura MacKenzie will perform a selection of Scots Gaelic music and song, accompanied by Dáithí Sproule (guitar and vocals) and Andrea Stern (harp), with Laura herself adding wooden flutes, whistles, concertina and Scottish smallpipes to the arrangements.

These songs and melodies were sourced primarily from field recordings made in Duluth in 1937 of Gaelic singer John Matheson, who immigrated to Duluth from Uig, Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland in 1905. In both Scotland and North America, Matheson was held in the highest regard as a traditional singer, and his music gladdened the heart of many an immigrant Scot in Duluth and beyond. This is a gorgeous collection of music, ranging in theme from great longings to humorous delights, with a special connection to Scottish heritage in Minnesota.

OCTOBER 4
The North Star Gaelic Singers
Saturday October 4th, 7:30 pm

The North Star Gaelic Singers
$10 at the door

Presented by the Traditional Singers Club, The North Star Gaelic singers will perform a delightful variety of solo and ensemble songs in Scots Gaelic. The trio is a new collaboration of three singers deeply interested in traditional music, sharing a great love for Scots Gaelic song. Members are Laura MacKenzie, Scott Bartell and Katharine Grant. The evening will include floor singer spots at the beginning of the night, in true singers club form. Refreshments will be served.  Open to all!

www.singclub.org

For more information, contact: laura@lauramackenzie.com

The Celtic Junction | 836 Prior Ave | St. Paul, MN

OCTOBER 10
 Graeme Mackenzie: Scottish Historian
Hello Scottish Interest Group, and fellow Scot enthusiasts!
Yes, we’ve done it again.  We’ve brought back Mr. Graeme Mackenzie from Scotland.

To our great fortune, he will be back for another talk on Friday, October 10th on a related topic. Those of you who were able to come last July know the depth of his knowledge on the history and genealogy of Scotland. Please attend his presentation at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, October 10th.  Come to the 1st floor Auditorium at 1185 Concord Street North, in South St. Paul, MN 55075.  Come in the front door of the building and turn right.  Go straight ahead to enter the auditorium.

Graeme Mackenzie lives in Inverness, Scotland.  He is coming to the Twin Cities for just a few days, before heading off to other engagements in the States.  The subject of his talk will be “Researching ancestors in the Highlands of Scotland”. Graeme Mackenzie has devoted his career to studying the history of the Scottish Highlands and researching genealogy for those of Scottish descent. Graeme will be bringing new copies of a book that he has just published on the same subject.

Please plan to come, on Friday, at 7:00 p.m. on October 10th, 2014, to the address shown above.

He will speak for an hour +, and then we’ll have an informal reception afterward at Joseph’s Grill, located at 140 Wabasha St. S., located just south of the river.  The reception will be right after the talk, at around 8:45 to 9:00 pm.

We had terrific attendance at the first talk, and expect this to be even better!  If you can come, it would be good if you could send me a quick reply, just to let me know that you are available to come.  We’d like to get a rough idea of how many folks will be there.  No need for reservations, so come regardless.

For updated information on the event you can go to:  http://www.mcmillen-design.com/mackenzie2014

Above are Graeme Mackenzie (left) and Clan MacMillan’s Chief George MacMillan of MacMillan and Knap.
Graeme M. Mackenzie, MA is a historian and genealogist living in Inverness, Scotland.
– Holds a Masters degree in medieval history from the University of Cambridge.
– Historian for both Clan MacKenzie and Clan MacMillan.
– Founding chairman of Association of Highland Clans and Societies
– Former chairman of the Highland Family History Society.

If you have any questions, send me back an e-mail, or call.

Hope you can all come!
John McKeen
(651) 228-0022 (Please leave a msg. if not at home.)

Minnesota Genealogical Society | 1185 Concord St. N., Suite 218 | South St. Paul

OCTOBER 17
Free Public Workshop – “A Scots Gaelic Music Legacy in Minnesota”
Thursday October 17, 7 – 8 pm, The Celtic Junction, 836 Prior Ave N, St. Paul.
Laura MacKenzie will talk about her research, and teach a couple of easy, short Gaelic songs – lyrics and phonetics provided! Free and open to all.

Celtic Junction | 836 Prior Ave N | St. Paul.

DECEMBER 7
St. Andrew’s Day event
The St. Andrew’s Society is planning our St. Andrew’s Day event and hope that you will be able to join us on Sunday, December 7for the fun. The event will be a blast from the past:  an afternoon at the Minnesota History Center, including their current exhibit, Toys from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.  We will meet for lunch at noon that day, at a location yet to be determined in St. Paul and then move on to the History Center for a great afternoon.  Watch future SNIMs and your email for further details as they become known.

Minnesota History Center | 345 W Kellogg Blvd | St Paul, MN 55102

Minnesota Scottish Fair & Highland Games 2015 date
Mark your calendars! The Minnesota Scottish Fair & Highland Games has announced the 2015 date of July 18, 2015. The fair will once again be held on the grounds of the Faithful Shepherd Catholic School in Eagan, MN.
The SNIM is sponsored by the Scottish American Center. We welcome news from all variety of Celts. Please send news, announcements, questions and concerns to scottishamericancenter@yahoo.com. Please note, editorial pieces may be subject to approval by the Scottish American Center board before posting.

Sign up to receive the SNIM via e-mail on the Scottish American Center website: http://scottishamericancentermn.org/SNIM.php

Thank you!
Tiffany Esau-McCracken
Scottish American Center

Scottish Harvest Customs

I often bring more material than I am able to use on my tours- since this is the last day of September I will post the research I did earlier this month on Scottish harvest customs. It is mainly Scottish because in Ireland the harvest happens earlier at Lughnasadh- August 1st or 2nd.

First I will note that the 8th of September is the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, and on that week’s tour we did indeed see a statue of Mary had been placed near the high altar at the Cathedral.

On the 14th or the 21st- the Autumnal Equinox- Nutting Day is observed- the day “the Devil goes a-nutting” Young people gather nuts, some avoid doing so lest the Devil abduct them! Nuts are associated with fertility so some girls avoid gathering them so as not to get pregnant.  It is also the end of the blackberry picking season- it’s believed that when the archangel Michael kicked the Devil out of heaven, he landed in bramble bush. Mold found on blackberries is his spit.

The main September harvest celebration is on the 28th- Michaelmas Eve- bonfires are lit, roast lamb is eaten. In Scotland Michael is the patron of fishermen and horsemen. Struan Micheil is traditionally made and eaten- a cake made of sheep’s milk, eggs, butter and grain, decorated with a cross. A piece is thrown on the fire to placate the Devil.

the 29th- Michaelmas Day

Irish customs for Michaelmas come from the English- giving geese as gifts, even to the poor, plucking their down for pillows, apple picking, cider-making and hunting season begins and fishing ends.

In Scotland, wild carrots are dug up and given as gifts. Another tradition is to visit the graves of relatives on horseback- this is called circuiting. Horse-racing and other athletic events take place.

Sources:

Chronicle of Celtic Folk Customs by Brian Day

Is Your Church Autism-Friendly?

Is Your Church Autism-Friendly?
 
Note: This is based on my experience with mostly “mainline” Protestant churches, as a person with Asperger’s/High-functioning autism. The disability community as whole commonly uses “person first” language, I and many others on the spectrum prefer “identity-first” language. We see autism as a part of who we are, rather than a condition we have. Other people on the spectrum, and their families may prefer “person-first”, and I respect their choice of self-identification. Mutual respect is good!
 
How Does Your Church Address/Frame Disability Issues?
In sermons, readings, hymns and Bible study, how does your church treat passages that mention blind, deaf, and lame people, people with diseases like leprosy and so forth? Does your church emphasize healing? Does God have a “plan” that includes teaching people lessons with suffering? Are people with disabilities “special children/blessings in disguise/angels” of God? Or are they possessed by demons?
Does your church espouse prosperity theology– the idea that God blesses faithful Christians with wealth, health and other benefits, or perhaps New Thought? Do disabled people just need to have more faith? These are the sorts of messages that you will need to question if you want your church to be welcoming of people with disabilities.
 
Structured vs. Unstructured Socializing
A typical church service can be a great way for autistics to interact with others. The structure, predictability and repetition can be soothing to us. But many church social events- the after service fellowship time, the potluck, the wedding reception, the youth lock-in- are very unstructured and chaotic, and can give an autistic person a lot of discomfort and anxiety. A church service that the autistic person is familiar with creates a sense of security, their expected role is clearly defined. But once the church service lets out, the random social mingling begins, and autistic person isn’t sure what to do. I’m always more interested in having in-depth conversations rather than engaging in shallow “small-talk” that tends to take place in these settings, especially when I don’t know most of the people involved. The noise and packed together crowds of people can also set off our anxiety. I find large groups easier to deal with when they are more organized- even when people are sitting down at tables, rather than standing and walking around with coffee cups, makes me feel more comfortable.
 
A couple of options- one is that the individual is free to skip the fellowship time altogether. Fellowship is generally optional, but some congregants may see the person as anti-social or aloof. A better option is to offer small group discussions or hands-on activities, either concurrently with fellowship time, or on other days. Most churches have these sorts of activities, but they too, can present social problems for autistic people.
 
Age and Gender Segregation
 
Autistic people develop differently than their peers- emotionally and socially we are behind, but sometimes intellectually we may be ahead of our peers. Assuming that an autistic person belongs with people of their own age group, and will necessarily have more in common with them is a big mistake.
Churches, as compared with schools can potentially offer a lot more flexibility with ages. Consider allowing an autistic teen, or even a pre-teen in an adult Bible study, volunteer activity or other small group, rather than expect them to do “fun” youth activities that they may not actually consider fun! Some autistic people may prefer topics and activities that are directed toward younger age groups. This can be a good opportunity to help a person with autism to learn to be a mentor toward younger people. Also consider whether certain activities are inherently more or less appropriate for particular ages, or if that is more based on traditional cultural assumptions. Try having a multi-age art class, for example, or an adult discussion of Veggie Tales! Remember, bullying, intolerance and social exclusion happen in churches too. This is something I’ve often seen denied by parents and church leaders, but it is definitely something that I and many other autistic and disabled people experience in churches, and it is a major reason why we often do not return after adulthood.
 
Now, for gender. I’ve noticed both from my own experience and many others on the spectrum that we frequently do not fit well into socially expected gender roles, and that our social difficulties are often exacerbated by being forced into same-gender/same-age groups. Many autistic guys I’ve known find more social acceptance from female friends, many autistic girls I’ve known have mostly male friends. If your church has a theology of “complementary” God-given gender roles, I would strongly ask you to re-consider it. I know I probably won’t change your mind based on this one article, but hopefully I will at least get the wheels turning! Please keep in mind that gender-nonconforming behavior in childhood or adulthood does not imply anything about an individual’s sexual orientation, and it may or may not mean identifying as transgender. I understand that churches may still want to have a men’s/women’s retreat, Bible study, etc. but please do not base too many of your activities along gender lines, and do not make assumptions about what being a man or women means- it varies with each person, and some people do not identify with either!
 
Sensory Issues
Smells and bells can be awesome for some autistic people- for others they can be hell.
Autistic people are wired in such a way that their senses are often extra sensitive. Many of us enjoy music, but we may have strong preferences about the volume and tonality. Some of us can’t deal with the scents of candles, incense. Maybe if you’re Catholic or Orthodox, that’s just How Things Are, and it can’t really be changed. Or maybe there’s a different service that doesn’t use those scents, or that type of music that you can switch to. Or you may need to find another church.
 
Autistic people often don’t like to be touched without warning so the “Sharing/Passing of the Peace” that is part of some services may be challenging for them if the congregants are especially huggy. Autistic people need to learn to watch social cues that others may be planning a hug/handshake or kiss and figure out what they’re comfortable with, and politely assert if they don’t want to be touched, either at all or in a particular way. Other autistic people love hugging, and may sometimes not understand appropriate boundaries (especially between men and women) If this issue arises, please discuss it privately with the autistic person (and their family if they are younger) and make it clear that we’re not judging you, hugging is OK, but explain boundaries and body language to be watchful of.
 
Many autistic people are sensitive to fabric texture and may prefer to wear casual clothing that feels more comfortable their skin. I know for myself, the feeling of lace is like wearing burlap. If that is the only reason Junior is getting upset about going to church is putting on that starched suit, count your blessings. Let him wear the sweatpants. People will be able to deal with sweatpants, tantrums- not so much. For autistic teens and adults, it may be easier to politely and discreetly suggest an affordable shopping trip to find clothing that is more comfortable but more formal. The autistic person may still not be interested. Then you may just need to be flexible, and tell people who get uncomfortable “that’s just how Joe dresses, that’s just who he is”. Remember, whatever Joe’s wearing, it’s probably better than the getups John the Baptist preferred. (OK- now there’s a Biblical dude that sounds autistic! Lived in the wilderness, ate locusts- yeah John was a little special)
 
Church Size: Pros and Cons
In some ways, it may seem as if a smaller church may be better suited to an autistic person than a large one. It’s hard to make that generalization however, as it really depends on the culture of the church, its structure, and the needs of the specific autistic person. Small churches can have a tendency to be cliquish and insular, and that may make it difficult for a spiritual seeker to feel welcome. But it may be easier for small church to make accommodations. It may be easier to educate the entire congregation about autism, and a particular individual’s unique needs. In a smaller church, one person can feel like they have more of an impact.
On the other hand, a larger church, simply by having more people is more likely to contain others with similar disabilities and special needs. A support group for families, or for teens, or adults on the spectrum or with disabilities in general can be formed. An autistic person with a particular special interest is more likely to find others with the same interest. But these points could be made about the size of towns and cities as well.
 
Class, Status and Money
In this era of uncertain economic change, many people struggle with keep employment and housing- particularly people with disabilities. Instead of asking people what they do for a living, ask them “what are your hobbies?” what is your passion? If they’re formally employed, it’s probably more interesting than what they’re paid to do, and if they’re not then they don’t have to feel bad. Churches need money to support themselves, but please be careful in how you ask for money. In religious communities in which I participate, I always try to chip in something, but sometimes it isn’t a lot. I do not like feeling pressured to donate more than I can afford. I want to be appreciated for other gifts I can offer the community. Use a closed box for offerings, so people don’t feel as if they are being compared. Having sliding scale fees for events is a good way to make sure the church is inclusive while still covering costs. Consider having mission trips that are closer to home, there is always some important work that needs to be done in your own area or region- even if it doesn’t seem as exciting as traveling to Guatemala or even New Orleans. If your community has a support group for people who are unemployed, try to re-frame it so that it is about career networking in general, because funny thing, currently employed people within the congregation will be a lot more useful to unemployed people than…other unemployed people. Recognize that everyone has different challenges that they face, including disability and age (too young or too old) and that conventional suggestions may not be helpful to everyone.
 
The Parents Aren’t Always Right
Churches, being very family-oriented, have a bias towards assuming that parents always know best, and do what is right for their children. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Some parents, including those with disabled children, neglect and abuse them. A child may experience developmental or social problems, but a parent may deny it and refuse to get their child help. Fellow church members and clergy should keep an eye out for these problems, talk with family and offer them support, and report to proper authorities if there is actual abuse or neglect going on. Adults with disabilities often remain dependent on their parents, financially and emotionally. Young people may be pressured into guardianship when that may not appropriate, or applying for Social Security Disability when it may not be the best option for them or shunted into sheltered workshops, group homes or institutions that may not be the best fit for them, sometimes in part because parents have very few options. Learn about resources that are available in your area and share them with individuals on the spectrum and their families.
 
Relationships and Sexuality
Autistic people, and people with disabilities in general, are often viewed as being asexual, or if they have a sexuality it is viewed as mostly something to be exploited by others, or with disgust. While churches place great emphasis on marriage and family, and preparing for it, often people with disabilities are excluded, or only partly and very awkwardly included. It is true that autistic people are vulnerable to sexual abuse, but that makes their sexual education all the more important. Autistics may grow up to be any sexual orientation- heterosexual, gay, bisexual, or asexual. Some may live a single life- hopefully a happy one with good supportive friends. Others may have long-term relationships and marriage. Many autistic people struggle to have healthy relationships, and some may think this an inherent part of autism, but it is not. Autistic people can have healthy partnerships and marriages with both autistic and non-autistic partners when they find the best way to deal with their autism and communicate their needs and feelings.
 
I realize not all of these types of sexuality and relationships are accepted in every church, and every church, religion and denomination must make their own decisions about these issues.
But please, do not tell autistic people who identify as gay or bisexual or transgender, that they have a problem. That they need to change who they are, and that who they are is sinful. I know you may say “love the sinner and hate the sin” but they will just hear “hate”. If you cannot accept them for who they are, please help them find another community who will. I would say that of anyone who is GLBT, but people with disabilities, especially youth are even more vulnerable. So many young people whose sexuality or gender identity is disapproved of, are rejected by their families, their churches, and end up homeless, and often victims of human trafficking. And GLBT communities are not necessarily any more understanding of disability and autism issues than heterosexual and cis-gender (non-trans) communities. So please, even if you can’t accept them, help make sure they are safe.
 
I also ask that you consider the difference between legal and religious marriage- some people may have benefits like SSDI, that may be cut back if they get legally married. If a couple comes to you with these concerns, please offer them a religious marriage that is not legally binding. The entire community doesn’t necessarily need to know it- they will still be married in their eyes. There are ways to gain some of the legal benefits of marriage in other ways.
 
Embracing the Eccentric
The single most important question for church that wants to be autistic-friendly is simply, does your church embrace eccentric people? Almost every church I’ve visited, of many denominations loves to trumpet how welcoming they are of all people. But I notice many of them have mostly people of similar skin colors, class/educational status, political views and so forth. And for the most part, church goers tend to be a pretty conventional bunch, because while Christianity may have started out essentially as a radical counterculture of its time, its character has shifted a bit since then. So, really honestly does your church have room for eccentric people? I am one of them, and I will tell you straight up, sorry but it probably doesn’t. Not really.  There needs to be space in our culture for weird, oddball, eccentric, geeky/punky/gothy (etc) Christians. Maybe not in every church- but at least in some of them. C’mon, guys I know you can do it. Jesus did it! Embrace the eccentric! Love the stranger!  

Failte, Erik’s Rancheros agus chairde

That’s welcome, to Erik’s Rancheros and friends. Erik’s Rancheros is my silly nickname for people who work for/live at Erik’s Ranch & Retreat, or are guests, voluntourists, etc. I’d like to be able to share news and information and of course my own not so humble opinions about autism and disability issues, as well as fun tidbits on Irish culture, language, and other Celtic and European cultures, both back in the Old Countries, as well as here in Minnesota and elsewhere in the diaspora. Please be advised that anything I write here is not officially approved by Erik’s Ranch, Erik Nordberg himself, or any other organization I belong to, work for etc. Also I write about autism from the perspective of an autistic adult, I am only an “expert” on my autism, not anyone else’s, though I believe and hope my insights can be valuable to others.

Earlier I had another blog, Mariah’s Musings, but I found blogspot wasn’t working very well format-wise, so here’s yet another wordpress blog. I will be moving/copying posts from there and other blogs I’ve kept that are relevant, as well as new content.

OK, so what the heck is this Erik’s Ranch thing?

Erik’s Ranch & Retreats is a non-profit organization that is working on creating housing and employment opportunities for adults on the autism spectrum in Montana and Minnesota. It was founded by Kathryn Nordberg out of concern for her son, Erik who is autistic. I work as an Experience Guide in the Erik’s Minnesota Adventures program, giving tours of the St. Paul Cathedral and as well as tours of the Pantages and State Theatres in Minneapolis. Please check out the Erik’s Ranch website to find out more and sign up for my tours!