“People have the right to communicate in the method that is best for them, period.” An Interview with Derek Burrow

For this episode, I interviewed Derek Burrow, an Ottawa-based librarian, writer and tabletop RPG player who is part of a movement to normalize AAC and increase accessibility to it.

Podcast
Listen to the podcast here at the audio link below (Stitcher and iTunes links are at the end of this post) :

Bio
Derek Burrow is an Ottawa-based librarian and freelance writer who is also deeply passionate about tabletop roleplaying games, with 25 years in the hobby. He uses augmentative communication, also known as AAC (specifically Proloquo4Text and Proloquo2Go) to communicate, and is  exploring how augmentative communication can be normalized within society and also incorporated into tabletop gaming. Derek wrote the latest support documentation for Proloquo2Go and Proloquo4Text. He is also involved in Autistics for Autistics, the Canadian autistic self-advocacy organization and as a consultant on accessible materials and services in Ontario.

About AAC
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is any tool, system or strategy for communicating rather than verbal speech. AAC can include pictures; gestures; sign language; visual aids; speech-output devices like phones or iPads; and more. Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is an essential aspect of life for non-verbal and semi-verbal autistic people and communication access is a right. Unfortunately, many are still denied access to AAC, a topic we discuss in the podcast.

The episode
This interview is so informative, broad-reaching and thought-provoking. Derek and I talked about various aspects of AAC and his experiences before and after getting access to AAC, as well as AAC in tabletop roleplaying (RPGs).

We also talked about the social applications of the RPG model. As Derek said: “Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and in any group of people, someone is going to have a skill that no one else possesses. In gaming, we design characters around their strengths and the world is set forth in such a way as to let them succeed through them. That’s a far better model than real life where we are often put in places that attack our weaknesses and are expected to excel.” The best aspects of the RPG community are a model for our broader culture in creatively cultivating co-operation, valuing diversity and ensuring accessibility.

Because this was one of my first interviews, I was a bit nervous on the mic! But it was a great way to start off the podcast. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Links from the conversation:
Deej, the movie

AAC right-to-access, legal cases

More about AAC

Listen to this episode on Stitcher here
Listen to this episode on iTunes here

“Neurodiversity is not an opinion. It’s a living fact” : Interview with Steve Silberman

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Steve Silberman

 Welcome to the first podcast of the series, a conversation with Steve Silberman!

Podcast
Listen to the episode here at the audio link below (Stitcher and iTunes links at the end of this post)

Bio
Steve Silberman is an award-winning science writer whose articles have appeared in Wired, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and many other publications. His book NeuroTribes became a widely-praised bestseller, winning the 2015 Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction and was chosen as one of the Best Books of 2015 by The New York Times, The Economist, The Independent and many others. His TED talk, “The Forgotten History of Autism,” has been viewed more than a million times and translated into 35 languages. He lives with his husband Keith in San Francisco, where he is working on a new book, The Taste of Salt (discussed in this podcast).

The impact of Neurotribes
Neurotribes
really changed the public conversation about autism in some radical ways. It meticulously traces the history of the autism diagnosis, synthesizing a forgotten history of the residential institution era, while also giving detail and context to competing notions of the diagnosis in the medical literature across time (and the impact of that competition). The book traces shifting understandings of autism in society, explaining how medicine, culture and grassroots activism came together for both a rise in diagnosis and new understandings about autism and neurodiversity.  Neurotribes creates a context for what we see today: how our social institutions and media interpret, respond and portray autism. 

The episode
Since writing Neurotribes, Steve continues to speak and write about autism, but always with a mind to refer to “the real experts”: autistic people. We talked about this, as well as his new book project; neurodiversity; autistic history; platforms of communication; states of being; the rise of false news and our need for honesty; inspiring new youth movements; and the power of continuing the work of social justice when we have no choice but to carry on.

I also added some thoughts in an Afterthought audio, at the end of the podcast.

I hope you enjoy the interview!

Links from the podcast:
Greta Thunberg: Profile

Dara McAnulty’s blog

Interview with Steve Silberman: The Sun Magazine

Steve Silberman’s TED Talk: The Forgotten History of Autism


Steve Silberman’s webpage

Listen to this episode on Stitcher here
Listen to this episode on iTunes here