Valuing Difference

2017-October-Issue-Autism-SC-8314-ac7ca33f

Photo: Joshua Huston

“By the time Jackie Moffitt was 16, he had transferred schools four times and was longing for a community where he could be accepted as his authentic self — an autistic person. “Autistic people are very dehumanized in our society,” says Moffitt. “They are perceived as being incapable of emotions. People are surprised that people with autism can understand humor or love. They assume that having autism means a lack of desire to connect with other human beings.”

Seeking this connection, Moffitt discovered Theater of Possibility (TOP), a theater arts program based in Seattle and Bellevue serving kids who are “quirky, spirited, or shy or who may have Asperger’s, autism, ADHD, or other learning or ability differences,” as the demographic is described on the TOP website.

Through theater games, improvisation, and role-playing led by TOP Director Lauren Goldman Marshall, Moffitt learned to embrace many of his personal attributes like extreme extroversion and abstract thinking that he’d previously felt pressure to repress.

“A lot of times for kids with disabilities their whole life is about people telling them what they’re deficient in,” says Marshall, who co-founded TOP in the years after her own daughter was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. “With TOP, they are here first and foremost to have fun and create theater together. I’m definitely highlighting relationship skills, but it’s brought in more through the back door. It’s about making kids feel successful.”

Now 21, Moffitt works as a teacher’s assistant at TOP, supporting the next generation of autistic children as they learn and grow while they also reach a level of self-acceptance.

“It’s not just about autistic people needing to learn neurotypical social skills so they can pass in a world that is majority non-autistic people,” says Moffitt. “I think that neurotypical people should also learn how to empathize with autistic people’s perspective and communicate with them on their own terms.”

READ THE FULL STORY IN SEATTLE’S CHILD MAGAZINE

Advertisements

Jill Taplin: Founder of Outsider Comics and Geek Boutique

comics-store

I spoke with founder and CEO of Outsider Comics and Geek Boutique, Jill Taplin about living out her dream, the nerd fandom scene in Seattle and making comics more accessible. Taplin strives to bring together a community of individuals (women, minorities, LGBTQ groups) who identify with geek culture, but have traditionally been underserved by comic shops. Here’s what she had to say on the topic.

READ THE INTERVIEW HERE

Prescribing Shelter

Popsicle Place

Photos: Andrea Sassenrath

Popsicle Place, located primarily at the Mary’s Place Guest Rooms in South Lake Union and at a Mary’s Place house in Shoreline, gives homeless families with chronically sick kids a place to rest and recuperate. Families get private rooms, or the use of single-family houses that are loaned to the organization. The cost to run Popsicle Place varies by location and need of the families. The organization has received a couple of grants for the program, but primarily the funding comes from the general Mary’s Place budget.

Those who use Popsicle Place services include families with children battling cancer and mothers with babies born premature. The program is currently hosting about nine families but has the capacity to shelter more.

LEARN MORE ABOUT MARY’S PLACE HERE

“Amber Wise never imagined that her 5-year-old son Josiah would one day be diagnosed with leukemia.

‘He was complaining that his legs hurt,’ Wise said. ‘It kept getting worse, and so we took him to the local hospital in Spokane, but they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him.’

Finally, after running several blood tests, Wise received a call informing her that her son had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

‘When we found out he had cancer, I felt like I hit the bottom of the barrel,’ Wise said.

At the time, Wise and her family were homeless, struggling to secure stable housing in Moses Lake, a city on the east side of the Cascade Mountains. With the help of a relative, she relocated with her wife and son to Seattle where Josiah could receive the best possible care at Seattle Children’s Hospital.”

Pick up a copy from your local Seattle Real Change vendor! 

 

READ THE FULL ARTICLE IN REAL CHANGE NEWS

Self help: Mockingbird youth are leading advocacy efforts by the Mockingbird Society

Mockingbird Society

Photo: Jerry Davis

“For the young people at The Mockingbird Society who have experienced homelessness and foster care, advocating for the youth of the next generation is imperative.

‘Even as I’m going through this journey of being homeless, I’m teaching, I’m inviting people in and changing people’s lives,’ said Okesha Brandon, a youth advocate. ‘Everyone kind of learns your strengths and people notice, and it builds your confidence. That in itself is a contribution to society.’

Named after the great American novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the organization draws inspiration from the book’s narrative.

“The power and promise of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is in reminding each of us of the untapped potential our most vulnerable citizens hold,” states the organization’s website.

In the seventeen years since its founding, The Mockingbird Society has had a hand in 25 new laws and reform policies to better the lives of young people in Washington state. Mockingbird’s youth programs train young people who have been homeless or in foster care to be their own best advocates. The result? Changes in the policies and perceptions that stand in the way of every child having a safe, stable home and a healthy family.

Mockingbird’s legislative agenda for 2017 is ambitious, but already making an impact.”

READ THE FULL STORY ON REAL CHANGE

Backbone Campaign’s people-powered plan to electrify America’s railroads

IMG_20170503_145538674

“In our fractured political climate, it’s hard to envision a cause that could unite a rural farmer with a big-city tech worker, a union laborer with a grassroots environmentalist, or a tribal leader with a government official, but Bill Moyer thinks he’s found just the cause: Solutionary Rail.”

Solutionary Rail proposes that the public electrify America’s railroads, run them on renewable energy and transform railroad corridors into electricity superhighways transmitting wind and solar energy from remote rural areas to urban centers. If enacted, Moyer said the proposal would recenter the role of rail in U.S. transportation and provide the public with a new sustainable source of economic vitality.

In other words, with Solutionary Rail, everybody wins.

“It provides almost a psychic relief from the burden of being defined by what we oppose,” said Moyer, who serves as executive director of the Washington state-based Backbone Campaign, a nonprofit that creates “artful activism.” “This offers an opportunity to be for something great, to be in dialogue with communities that we may not have anything else otherwise in common about some shared interest.”

img_20170503_145551690-e1493849723820.jpg

Excited to share my first story for Real Change. Real Change is an award-winning weekly newspaper that provides immediate employment opportunity and takes action for economic, social, and racial justice. If you live in Seattle, pick up a paper from your local vendor this week!

READ THE FULL STORY ON REAL CHANGE

Maria Bamford Wants You to Know You’re Doing Great

maria-bamford

In her sublime new Netflix standup special, Old Baby, premiering on May 2nd, Maria Bamford performs a comedy set in increasingly larger venues. What begins as a few jokes in front of a mirror, progresses to a living room, onto a bowling alley, and so on, until she goes out with a bang on a big stage. The special is sparkling, her jokes are original, and her audience grows more hysterical with laughter as the size of the performance venue expands and shrinks. She is truly magnificent.

Maria Bamford is my favorite comedian. I admire everything she stands for as a comic and as a human being, and told her so in stream of barely intelligible gushing at the beginning of our interview. I rarely find myself star struck these days, but Bamford is special. Her comedy has served as somewhat of a lifeline to me during particularly dark times, and I was determined to repay her with a good interview. My enthusiasm was profuse and unsettling, but she accepted it with grace. Stephen Colbert may have proclaimed her to be his favorite comedian on planet earth, but she is my favorite comedian in the history of the universe and I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to express my sincere gratitude and adoration.

I asked Bamford several relevant questions about her comedy special, but then, throwing caution to the wind, I dove in with the 36 questions. If you’re not familiar, the 36 questions refer to a study by the psychologist Arthur Aron (and others) that explores whether intimacy between two strangers can be accelerated by having them ask each other a specific series of personal questions. I had recently read Mandy Len Catron’s Modern Love essay, “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This,” and thought if there was ever a moment to accelerate intimacy, this interview was it. I asked Bamford if she’d heard of the 36 questions. She had. With genuine excitement she exclaimed, “let’s fall in love!” And we did. Or at least I did. Again.

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW ON SPLITSIDER

Seattle’s Lawn Bowlers Aren’t Going Down without a Fight

Jefferson Park Lawn Bowling Club

“For 75 years, the Jefferson Park Lawn Bowling Club has gathered in Beacon Hill on two exquisite greens overlooking Elliott Bay. Members go for the company and friendly competition. But recently they united for a different reason: a strongly worded petition.

‘We, the undersigned, oppose this blatant land grab,” exclaimed an online plea signed by 963 people. “We demand Seattle Parks and Recreation leave the history and heritage of Jefferson Park Lawn Bowling Club alone.’

The usurpers? An after-school program for Beacon Hill’s youth.”

IMG_20170421_144454145_HDR.jpg

READ THE FULL STORY IN SEATTLE MET MAGAZINE