2023 in Review

2023 in Review
UWT Featured me as part of their official website

Been a pretty transformative year for Roll for Kindness, in some really good ways. I've been really busy, and haven't had time to post as much, but there have been some really big changes, and a few big events.

For starters, I was featured as one of the cover stories for the University of Washington Tacoma Campus' website for my use of Dungeons and Dragons with autistic youth. I also spoke at the American Psychological Association's Annual Conference in Washington DC. I received a political appointment to the Pierce County Accessible Communities Advisory Council, a county level disability committee. I did countless smaller talks, attended a number of autism fundraisers where I networked and educated people about autism awareness, and generally focused on autism advocacy. Autism advocacy being my special interest paid off in dividends.

But more critically, around June, I left my position as Information and Resource Coordinator for the Arc of King County, a disability advocacy nonprofit in Seattle, to work as the Inclusion Director at Behavior Bridges, a Puyallup based Autism clinic. The goal of Behavior Bridges is to provide ethical and kind autism treatment, while also serving as a model for other agencies, while bridging services to create a better quality of life for neurodivergent populations. Funded by a grant, I took on their D&D program, and have been running anywhere between 3 and 6 D&D games a week. That's a lot of D&D! But I love it.

I think more critically, it marks a transition away from D&D as a focus, and autism as a focus. For a long time, I've been working on using D&D as a tool for social good, now I'm working on working on improving autistic lives using D&D and other resources. D&D has proven itself to be an incredible tool for promoting healthy autistic socialization, and so while I extensively use it, I actually don't talk about it very much.

But I am hoping to change that a bit in 2024. I am looking at doing a lot more talks to discuss screentime and gaming, building healthy autistic social development and building social agency, and supporting autistics into adulthood. I think applied RPGs and gaming plays a critical piece in all these fields, as it highlights a framework for normalizing and celebrating neurodivergent traits, while also creating pathways for autistic involvement in the field.

Because one of the most critical deficits I see in autism treatment is the lack of representation for autistics. ABA, autism therapies, and social skills groups are largely run by non neurotypicals. This lack of critical representation means that any attempts to teach these skills are going highly run the risk of failing to be autism affirming. Good intentions aside, neurotypicals tend to fall into inspiration model traps, or deficit models. However, finding autistic staff to run these programs is difficult, as there's a lot of cultural aspects within the larger mental health industry that makes it very hostile to autistics for a number of reasons. But I feel that social skills groups are something that can be successfully run by autistics, and should be. This is the place where their lived experience can allow them to shine. But- to do so effectively, they need support, and that's a whole can of worms. Being an autistic who has been effective in navigating autistic friendship make make you a great social skills coach for other autistics, but surviving in a neurotypical dominated workplace is a whole other can of worms. So, we need more attention paid to how to help autistics thrive while doing social skills work, and I feel like D&D programs are a really good way to support that. D&D is a very autistic hobby, and as such there's a lot of freedom to break the mold- A lot of other autism social skills curricula are very homogenized and neurotypical normative, but D&D is so entrenched in autistic culture, there's plenty of pathways where autism may be normalized and autistic socialization can be developed organically.

So, that's a significant part of my work in 2024- supporting autistics as we continue to expand our work in supporting autistic populations. Figuring out how to help autistics thrive as they pursue employment, and develop their own self agency and advocacy. Normalizing autistics helping other autistics in an autism affirming way. Nothing about us without us.

My other goal is to become an international speaker. In 2023, I spoke in DC, so I would say I am a national level speaker. In 2024, I'd like to speak internationally. I've given up ever taking vacations, as I just don't have the time ever, but every talk I do, I try to see at least one art museum. So, if anyone knows a way for that to happen, I'd love to see the world.

Thanks to everyone who's read my work, and I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and an amazing New Year!