About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of http://www.stuartduncan.name. My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.
Author Archive | Stuart Duncan

AutCraft – The not so little Minecraft project for autistics and their families

Fireworks show we put on for the 4th of July

Fireworks show we put on for the 4th of July

My blog hasn’t been updated in a while and that’s because I’ve been busy. Busy like always but even busier than that. A little over 2 weeks ago, I decided to open the doors on a pet project that I call AutCraft and I’ve done very little of anything else since.

Minecraft has proven very beneficial for people with autism as it provides the open world, no stress, creative and imaginative sandbox space that they can thrive in. Do as much or as little as you want. Explore, adventure, fight monsters, fight each other, do technical work, build magnificent buildings… it’s entirely up to you.

The one area that it’s struggled, however, is in it’s social game play. Minecraft servers are everywhere but they’re largely left free. That is to say, they let players do as they please. And rightly so really, considering Minecraft is a sandbox, a free to do as you please type of game. But that environment isn’t great for those that may struggle socially.

This is where I thought I could help. I created a server where bullies are not tolerated and monsters are kept at a distance so as to not scare the younger ones and player vs player damage is turned off. More so than that, each player gets their houses/bases/stores/etc protected so that no one can build, break or take anything within that zone except for the person that owns it.

The main thing? It’s a white list server which means that only those people that I approve can access it. It’s not open to just anyone.

I thought I’d start opening day slow by sharing with just my friends list rather than my fan pages or twitter followers. Here’s some numbers for that slow start:

In the first 2 days, I received over 700 emails. Within 2 weeks, I had 500 players on the list. I had upgraded the server from package #1 to package #8 in it’s first 8 days. I found 3 blog posts about it and the fan page had gained 700 likes with a ton of praise and approval from parents. On the first night, after I put my boys to bed, I sat down to 126 unread emails, replied to 82 of them and still had 94 unread emails left.

Good thing I started small right?

I knew this server was a good idea from the start, giving people a safe and fun environment but I had no idea just how much it would benefit the players and their families. Here are just a few of the responses I’ve received:

I can’t begin to tell you how much this means to us…. today I picked my son up from his AS camp and we started talking. He said he couldn’t wait to get home to play on the site….he was quiet for a bit then said ” Mom, I’ m glad I have Aspergers…otherwise I couldn’t have played on the new server”. THANK YOU… for years he has HATED he is different.. .and now he is happy with who he is. Bless you

I don’t mean to inundate you with our gratitude, but I had to share this: Today, we sat in the waiting room for speech therapy. When it ended, my son, my daughter, and a friend’s son (who recently joined Autcraft) had the most passionate extended conversation. All about Autcraft. They talked, listened, asked questions, and offered advice. No one who didn’t know them would have ever guessed that these kids had any social skill problems.
The SLPs looked on fondly. They smiled, no doubt thinking that all their hard work and therapy was paying off. What they don’t know about is all the hard work that YOU have put in that made this awesome conversation possible.
And there are plans for a Minecraft play date soon. Thank you for giving these kids something to talk about and bond over, somewhere to belong and be accepted, and a pastime that has provided hours of entertainment, and even some learning. I really appreciate it.

I wanted to say, my son is loving Autcraft. Another child gave him gifts today and he was shocked. A little while later he said to me, “I didn’t really want to, but I gave some gifts away to others. It makes me want to give things to people.” It is a new thing for him to want to share. He also has spent a lot of time on it exploring and building. Thank you so much for this experience.

My son just got invited and went on and immediately introduced himself with his real name. He happily explored before school and was thrilled that “a new friend” gave him diamonds to get started. I’m so grateful you made this safe place for them. Thank you so much!

I like that my son is not worried about being “Cool”. He gets very excited about the things he likes, and doesn’t feel self-conscious when trying to talk to other people about them. To me, THAT’S Cool.

Thank you for creating this wonderful, wonderful world!! My boys are so excited every time they play, and are constantly amazed at how kind the other players are :))))))

I hope you’re able to get sponsors to continue to grow. The Autism community needs this. I’m already seeing improvement with my kids social skills, reading and typing.

So where have I been if not updating my blog lately? Well, mostly work… sadly. I still have my 9-5 job but now I also try to be on the AutCraft server as much as I can to be with these great kids and families. They’re doing such great work and learning so much and building so fast.

I hate missing a single minute of it.

Right now, I’m looking for sponsors/supports that are willing to pick this up and back it financially. I’d be proud to put “AutCraft sponsored by” or “brought to you by” and then a charity’s or company’s name after if it means that I can be in game where I’m needed most. They do so great without me but even better when I’m there. We go on adventures, I take them out to find places to build… we just have so much fun.

So if you get a chance, check out http://www.autcraft.com and see what I’ve been up to!

Comments { 8 }

Find your own voice

Your voice mattersOn a blog dealing with autism, the title may put some on edge. Not all autistics can speak verbally and even many that can or find another way are often not heard or even ignored.

But that’s that not really what I’m trying to address right now. Instead, I’m talking to you… the one that comments or shares what I write and says “he says what we all think” or “this is so much like how it is for me”. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that, but still, I encourage you to find your own voice. Don’t just share what I write and say “ditto”, but to create your own or to still share mine but to add in yours on top.

This is also to those that say “that’s not how it really is because my child is different” or “you give people a false impression with your feel good BS”. To you I say, go find your own voice. Leave mine alone.

Here’s the thing, we have all heard the one classic autism quote, the one that defines everyone by defining no one: “If you meet one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” And we all know it to be true. And yet we still strive for commonality and relatability and we still hate those that state something to be true when it’s so obviously not for us. Well, ok, maybe only a small few hate. But they’re loud.

We have parents that resent everyone comparing their child to Grandin, Fleischmann or *shudder* Rainman, we have parents hating other parents because they’re not positive or negative enough, we have autistics hating parents because they speak from a parents perspective and don’t consider the child’s and then they hate parents for speaking of the child’s perspective when they can’t possibly know what their child is thinking. We even have parents hating autistics because autistics are representing autism differently than those parents wish they would and we even have autistics hating other autistics for making people think that all autistics are like them.

There’s more but I think that is a good enough list to suffice. I would hope that you can see where I’m going with this.

Ultimately, this all comes down to a form of silencing. People that see autism as being a negative thing will want me to stop speaking about it in a positive way. People that see autism as a positive thing will want me to stop speaking out about the negatives.

This is so very wrong. Very very wrong. I mean, I get it. I understand that it’s not how it is for you. But that’s YOUR story to tell. I’m telling mine. You tell yours.

The fact is, we’re equals in this world. Which means, that if I have to stop being so positive, then you have to stop being so negative and thus, no one learns anything. Where as, if I continue being positive and you continue being negative, people will learn everything. The same thing happens with parents writing from a parent’s perspective and autistics writing from an autistic’s perspective. Or care givers and teachers writing from their own perspectives.

See how that works?

Now, to those of you that actually like what I have to say and feel it’s what you would say anyway, I am trying to be fair. If those that disagree should tell their own story, then so should those that do agree.

The reason? We’re all different. Our children are all different. Our stories are all different.

I’m not saying that you have to start a blog if you don’t already have one but rather, just tell people. Face to face, in social media. What ever. Even if it is by sharing what someone else writes, include your own story along with it. Explain how your story differs, not just how it’s the same.

Only by hearing every story can people understand just how incredibly true and important the grand scale of “If you meet one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism” really is.

I don’t want to be your voice whether you like what I have to say or not. I want you to share your own story. With me and with everyone. Whether I agree with it or not. Whether anyone else agrees with it or not.

Stand up and shout it out! Type it, write it, sign it, morse code it… in what ever way you can express anything to anyone, I encourage you to do it as best you can and as often as you can.

I won’t be silenced and I won’t silence you.

This is my story. I’m eager to hear yours.

Comments { 3 }

How to go beyond prejudice and hate

There are times when my faith in humanity is restored, as rare as they are, when someone might go out of their way to help someone they don’t know or when someone goes above and beyond to help charities or groups. Those are nice moments and I celebrate them. But it also saddens me because it also means two things: 1) my faith in humanity is lost most of the time and 2) I am celebrating what should be considered the average thing for people to do.

In this last week, I’ve had no reason to celebrate and my faith in humanity lowered even more, which I did not think possible.

First was a Cheerios commercial with a child pranking her father by putting cereal all over him while he was sleeping. Innocent enough and made for a funny cereal commercial. However, it sparked an uproar as many many haters came out from their shadows (often times very public political and journalistic shadows) to have their say in how evil this commercial was for the simple reason that the family in the commercial was of mixed race. Which I personally do not understand as ever person in it was clearly of the human race, but I digress.

Here is the commercial:

Cute right? If you hate it, feel free to not comment. No one wants to hear from you.

Next, we have an 11 year old child with more talent than most of us will ever dream of having, singing the national anthem at a basketball game. Now this kid, he didn’t just do well for an 11 year old, he did better than most adults I see attempting to do the same thing. And I say “attempting to do the same thing” because after this kid’s performance, I am reluctant to call what those other people did as singing the national anthem. He’s just that good.

His name is Sebastien De La Cruz and if his name doesn’t give enough reason to figure out where the hate originated with this one, perhaps the video will. Before you watch though, understand this… this child is American. And he’s awesome.

His crime, according to the haters? Not being white enough I guess. They say it’s because he’s from a family of immigrants but that can’t be it since all the people hating are also descended from immigrants. Also, I’d argue that if he was from any country at all anywhere, they wouldn’t have said anything if only he had been a white kid. But hey, let’s call it like it is. This kid is far more talented than they are, he was the one out there, asked to perform and receiving the standing ovation. I am jealous too! It’s just that I don’t use that as an excuse to hate him for anything I and everything I can no matter how petty.

Again, if you disagree with me and think it’s ok to hate this kid, feel free to comment… somewhere else. No one wants to read what you have to say.

Finally, we have the ultimate in hate, murder. Alex Spourdalakis, a teen aged boy with severe autism was bound to his bed in a hospital and eventually murdered by his mother and godmother as they claimed that caring for him was just too difficult. The truth there is that they simply hated him. They hated that he made them work. They hated that he tested them. They resented him.

The story here: http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local&id=9136005

Now, some people try to say that it’s not the mother’s fault, that parenting is stressful and that having a child like Alex can push you to the extreme… fine. I can agree with that. It can be hard and it can push you. But murder is still murder. Hating someone for making your life difficult is still hate.

Because this child was not the child they had dreamed of, because this child needed more care and a more devoted and caring mother than what she was capable of, they felt it was ok to kill him. I suppose they felt they were doing him a favour, which is clearly a ridiculous notion.

Then, it happened. A knock at my door by a Jehova’s Witness. Who’s lesson he was attempting to share was that hate and prejudice are everywhere but that God is not that way nor did he intend it to be that way. Then, he asked me:

“Do you think people will ever move beyond prejudice and hate? Do you think God is prejudiced?”

I stood there, debating in my mind, whether to slam the door in his face or to let him know what I really think about hate, people and God.

I must have debated longer than I should have because he repeated the question.

I took a big breath and said this:

“No, people will not move beyond prejudice and hate so long as one person is different from another. Should we all eventually develop the same skin colour, we’ll simply find some other reason to hate them. like those with special needs, as an example. We can’t stop the prejudice as it’s something that is a part of us. We see each other for the first time and we instinctively put the pieces together in our minds no matter how hard we try not to. You dress nice, you take care of yourself, you talk to people about good things, you’re clearly a good person. I pre-judged you the moment I opened the door. The thing is, it doesn’t always have to be about hate. I judged you but in a good way. I can respect those that clearly are hard workers, good parents and that do good things even before I get a chance to know them because of my prejudice towards them.

The trick isn’t to stop judging each other but to stop thinking that we always have to do so in a negative way. We have to stop hating people for the differences we don’t approve of and start liking people for the differences we do approve of.

Do I think God is prejudiced? A bit of a trick question if prejudice is to mean “pre-judge before knowing” and God is supposed to know all. But otherwise, of course. But not in a negative way. Everyone is better or worse than someone else at something. To know that, even to assume that as a pre-judgement, is prejudice. To look at a couple in a park that is laughing with their child is to pre-judge them as good parents. They might not be. But it’s a positive prejudice that I might have.

Will we ever move beyond prejudice and hate? No. No we won’t. And right now, society has proven to me that it is anything but an open minded and positive force. But maybe someday. Somehow.”

With that, he closed his bible and said “That’s interesting. I never really thought of it like that”, shook my hand and said goodbye.

Man I hated him for showing up when he did and asking that question. Man I hated people in general and his timing just really enraged me so much.

But the answer that I gave him, it wasn’t what I thought I was going to say at all. As I thought about it after I got back to my desk, I kinda realized that maybe my faith in people isn’t completely lost.

At least, not yet.

humanity_ocean

 

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Why I won’t be writing about fathers and autism this Father’s Day

My boys and I

My boys and I

When I started this blog, there were so few blogs from dads. Fewer still from dads that were writing about autism or having an autistic child. I felt honoured to represent the “silent” partners and even felt that I had a responsibility to say yes every time that someone asked if I’d contribute or guest post for other blogs when they tried to feature dads, especially around Father’s Day. And really, with so few dad autism bloggers, how could I say no? It’s not like they had a big list of others to fall back on.

It only took one year to realize that I was in over my head. Not that I had too much demand to write but that I very quickly ran out of things to write about. I felt that I was doing a disservice to those people that requested me if I just rehashed the same message for each of them even if I did phrase it differently.

It hadn’t occurred to me until after I was asked but, I really have no clue what to write about! Do I fall back on traditional stereotypes and write about bread winning and being strong and never sharing emotions and retreating to the man cave and needing a beer in each hand? Do I turn to the one thing that is most commonly written about with dads and autism… running away? Denial? I’m sure that doesn’t represent us very well and certainly doesn’t fit into my list of one responsibility… to represent a father’s point of view.

I had to fall back on my own blog, since it is called “Autism From a Father’s Point of View” after all and see what I could pull from things I had written before. But that wasn’t much help either. I discovered that even though everything was, indeed, from my point a view, as a father, nothing about any of it was distinctly fatherly. Nothing stood out as… you know, ground breaking insight into how it’s different for fathers.

The next year or two, I wrote when asked, but, I just wrote about what ever was on my mind at the time. I had given up on trying so hard to come up with something so focused on fathers. It really was stressful. Not “I might lose my job if I don’t reach this deadline” stressful but certainly enough that it really bothered me.

Why was I struggling with this?

Now, I’ve been to some homes where the traditional stereotypes aren’t traditional stereotypes at all, they’re facts. The dad is very obviously the bread winner and requires a beer and a football game after a hard days work. Now, I know that you may read that and say “Yeah? What’s wrong with that??” and if you do, I apologize. I don’t mean that it’s wrong in anyway. It’s become a stereotype for a reason. It’s how it was and how it still is for some people.

That being said, I’ve also noticed, in some homes, that things have very clearly changed. The mother is working every bit as hard as the father or possibly the only one working and likewise, the father is caring for the children and house every bit as much or may even be the only one… or at least, the majority of it.

I think this is where I begin to struggle because I see this even more so in families that have a child with autism. Especially if both parents are the accepting types. No duty is his or hers, no role is gender based. The father changes just as many diapers, attends the same dance recitals and even throws the footballs every bit as much as the mother does.

I’ve also found many families where there is now a single parent where there once was two… and it’s not always the mother that is pulling double duty now… sometimes it’s the father. Granted, this may not be as frequent as single mothers because there is truly something incredibly remarkable and strong about how mothers can get the job done without any help.  But some fathers are proving to be just as strong and just as remarkable and while I am not happy that it has to be that way, I am incredibly impressed and proud that they can.

Having realized this, having embraced this and as I hope that this trend continues and grows, I have decided that I will happily write and guest post elsewhere if asked but only on matters of parenting or about autism in general but not about fathers for Father’s Day. I am proud of fathers every day. And I love that there’s a special day for fathers just as there is for mothers because they deserve it… now more than ever.

But I can’t write about something that is uniquely one parent or the other as that distinction, I feel, no longer applies. Unless it’s about actual child birth or breastfeeding, neither of which is in my area of expertise, I can’t think of anything that I can tell you about a father that doesn’t also apply to a mother and vice versa.

That may mean less opportunities for me to get my name out there but so be it. It’s a good problem to have. Moms are dads, dads are moms and parents are parents. This applies even more so as gay marriage becomes legal in more and more places. Two women, two men… all parents. I’ll gladly pass up opportunities to write for others for that.

This Father’s Day, the only thing I have to say as a father is kudos to you fathers out there that give me nothing to write about on fathers. The less I have to write about that distinguishes a mother from a father, in my opinion, the better.

Keep it up.

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No one is less important than you – vlog video featuring Minecraft

In this video, I discuss our perceptions and assumptions of people that either can not speak or speak in a way that seems younger or less intelligent than we might think they should.

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