This ended up being a long post so I have broken it into two parts which I will post separately.
I recently attended a three-day digital storytelling workshop. It is part of research being conducted by Patty Douglas. The goal of the study is to improve educational inclusion for autistics. I should have written this right away (I am currently still writing bits a month later!) or kept notes for when I could write.
I thought it sounded very interesting, but really didn’t understand the point of it at first. I was worried about being away from home all day for three days. I was also excited to be able to do something that might be fun as well as helpful to other people.
Closer to the weekend, I still had no idea about my story topic and I was getting very anxious about the whole thing. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew that I likely wouldn’t know anyone there except for Estee Klar whom I had only briefly met twice in person, but chatted with many times on-line.
I also had to figure out how things would work at home. Would I get a dog sitter to come and feed and let the dogs out? What would Micah do all day? The Friday part of the weekend was a PA day, so I didn’t have to worry about driving them to and from school. I talked to Micah and we decided that they would be paid, instead of a pet sitter, to follow the dogs’ regular routine of feeding and crate times. Since they needed something to do, I had Micah pick days to vacuum and wash floors and I also booked extra music lessons for them. Micah was set for the weekend.
Now I had to not allow my anxiety to stop me doing what I really wanted to do, which was attend the workshop.
An email about what to expect was sent out to us. There were pictures of the main room and quiet room with lamps instead of fluorescent lights and there would be sensory toys or we could bring our own. One of the pictures showed people sitting in a circle in the chairs. I knew that would be a problem for me- sitting close and facing people. There was an agenda of what we would be doing. We were also told that we could communicate however we were comfortable and able. They were trying to make it as autistic friendly as possible.
Day 1 came and I arrived in Toronto nice and early. There were a few people in the room chatting. I couldn’t look at the people, but I did notice the chairs arranged in a circle. I didn’t know anyone and the sight of the chairs made me freeze just inside the room. I think Patty (I’m faceblind and I don’t look at people at first, so until I learn certain features of that person, I don’t remember them. This is worse when I am frozen) asked me about the chairs. We were told that we could sit wherever we felt comfortable and the circle was broken up. I sat on the outer edge of the room, still quite anxious. Everyone seemed to know at least one or more people. Estee came and sat with me, chatted a bit and got me a juice.
The first part of the day was introductions and an overview of the digital story telling research project on autism and inclusion. I had messaged Patty that I physically cannot talk in groups, so she asked me if I wanted to write my introduction and she would read it out. I was impressed when she actually did it. People will say they will do things to help, but they don’t usually. For the first time, I didn’t feel odd or out of place doing it that way. We were told about envelopes and colour communication name badges on a table. Once I’m frozen in a new spot, I don’t move unless I really have to, so I never visited that table and didn’t wear a name tag the whole time. I also didn’t get my envelope until it was handed to me on the last day! Estee’s son Adam spoke to us for a bit through one of his movies before going off to school. He has a great way of describing things. We watched a few other movies. It was very interesting. The stories are short but tell a lot.
There were many facilitators available to help us with our scripts and then the camera and audio work. I had finally figured out what I wanted my story to be and, with the help of a facilitator, came up with some ideas on how to approach it. After starting our scripts, it was time to gather as a big group to get feedback. The facilitator who had been helping me read mine out to the group as I was not able to. We then had more time to work on our script.
Since it was Friday, I had to drive home in rush hour. It was a little stressful because Micah was starting a course at the barn and I would have to get home, feed the dogs, and then go back out to pick up Micah (Randy had dropped them off). After all that, we got home around 7:30 for a very late dinner.
I wasn’t as anxious as I would have normally been because Micah had been able to keep the dogs’ schedule so the one dog was his usual self. It was nice not to be as stressed out as I normally would be with a changed-up routine. I guess that is one of the advantages to kids growing up!
|picture shows books with a cable connected to a laptop and the words digital storytelling|