Thursday, September 24, 2015

Back to the Beginning: Autistic Homecoming

Yeah, obviously I haven't posted in a long time.  I have been working five days a week, going to night classes every Monday, and still getting back into life at Kansas City after four years in Warrensburg.  Heads up, my plan is to keep posting on The Autist Dharma, finish all my posts for Ben's Blog, ending with the conclusion of my time at Warrensburg (stayed tuned), which will be about eighteen more posts, and whose name I am planning on changing to The Autistic Mule, then continue the story of coming home and going to UMKC up until now, which will be about twelve posts, and I will call The Autistic Roo.  But for now I might just say something about this day, which I will sum up with this one recent Facebook post, which goes:

Well, today was quite an eventful day, where I went back to my old alma matter before the University of Central Missouri, Johnson County Community College, where my revolutionary activity in the autistic community began with starting the now thriving autistic community, the JCCC ASD Club. It began three or four weeks ago when my long-time friend and advisor, Sean Swindler, to JCCC ASDC invited me to the last meeting on the 10th at Laser Tag (which I was not able to attend because of my work schedule) and today's at JCCC's Down Under Food Court, which I asked off for in advance and was able to attend, to "see what I started." After driving down to JCCC hoping I got the time right (3:30 like it was when I was in charge of the group) I went down to the food court seeing a cluster of tables full of students and then from behind recognized Sean. After catching up, he said he hoped I would come as much as I could and I said I would, and I learned our last trip of the year (2015) would be a bus trip to Oak Park Mall, which made me decide to cancel my trip I had planned there afterwards. Then Sean asked me if he could introduce me as the founder of this group, which I said he could. Honestly, all the tales of thriving self-advocates and report of the events at JOCO left me quite unprepared emotionally for what I was about to see. I tried in my mind to get a head count of all the students, but kept losing my place, but I could see very clearly it was at least fourteen students, not including volunteers from KU Med and Karen Miller from the JCCC Accessibility Services who said she remembers seeing me when I gave my address to the JCCC Student Senate five years ago, which caused ASDC to become official and recognized throughout campus, and long-time autistic and multi-abled research partners who I knew during my time as president. And as I sat down, I saw a friend of mine and ASDC member from the time of our birth there after all these years, who I hadn't seen since then. We went around introducing ourselves, saying our names, what we were studying, and our favorite books, and I heard majors ranging from computer science to business and getting course requirements out of the way, and books from the Harry Potter series to Psychology texts, and I mentioned my favorite book as The Geography of Lograire by Trappist monk Thomas Merton, which I am currently reading, and my graduate Disability Studies and UMKC. Once we finished introducing ourselves, Sean introduced as the founder of the group, and unexpectedly, the whole host of autistic students and nursing student peer mentors started clapping, and two students came up to me and introduced themselves. I thought "I'm just here here as any other member like I intended this group to be." My final thoughts to the JCCC autistics as I left was, "My job here is done. It is your time to lead this community." We broke up into groups and pitched local outings, giving details such as the time, date, location, transportation and people needed, money, supplies to bring, and then we told it to the whole group to help us meet outside the group, which I was not familiar with. Afterwards we split into three groups, one staying downstairs to play board games, another going to the upper floors to play video game with each other, and, the one i joined, going to the upper food court, where I got Pizza Huts buffalo wings like I used to enjoy every day while at JOCO, and caught up with one of our researchers who I knew in the beginning, and saw Jennifer Smith from the Autism Society of the Heartland, picking up her daughter, saying, "You've been busy I've noticed." And I said, "All on my own time." before she asked me to share in a part on a local program Autism Mom's segment on autistic adult's lives, who she was referred to by a woman I know and mother of a close friend of mine in the autistic community, and agreed to share the details with me over Facebook messaging. I got downstairs and happened to notice one of the local members, from her name tag, was named Alyssa, adding to my swirl of memories, and then another member approached me and I answered questions of his about how I started the group. After we all started to leave, Sean and I talked, where I pointed out what I had done, and what's more told me I would, after having completed a year at the Disability Studies program, would be qualified for a position at the LEAD Center in Kansas City, which provides quite a handsome monthly stipend. After that I mentioned how even though we didn't get this group version quite formalized at UCM, the fomenting of activity we started meant more people in and connected to the autistic community were putting themselves out there, and with the help of one mentionable local autistic in my area, who is now coming to UCM, the likelihood of the group is very inevitable, and it, with Warrensburg's size, could change the whole town itself, and Sean said ASDC would be happy to help with that and the recently formalized Kansas City chapter of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network. I know what people will tell me, but truly I will say this thing is to big to belong to one person, and I am proud as a testament to what it says about the autistic community. Moreover, my various brothers and sisters in the autistic and pan-disabled community who have given me their love and support has meant everything to me, as much as the world itself, so naturally, obviously, I am so full of emotion from this day. Thank you.