Dying/broken/forgiven.... now I begin

Born: 17-06-56....gemini.... monkey
re-born: 3-09-80
born again\found: 14-04-08
other notable dates: 10-03-68; 03-09-87; 23-03-96;
1-05-98; 31-01-02; 5-04-04

Interests: movement, stressed/transgressive embodiment, lived experience (body\space\time\relation)
expression ( word, dance, text, image, story, music, poetics)
learning, yielding......

Hopes for the blog:
offer up the wild intersectedness of lived experience and engage others in creative, expressive, perhaps irreverant, hopefully playful, and respectful encounters....
enact kindness
create moments of pause for disclosure, discovery, stillness

Friday, September 25, 2009

Mind Control

Victoria is my oldest camper. It's difficult, really, to use the category "camper" to describe Victoria... she is more akin to a phenomenon. 6ft. tall, about 220 lbs., flaming red wild curly hair, a kind of drag queen Ronald McDonald on steroids... imperious, playful, brilliant, profane, devious...oh, and strong.... quite physically strong. Victoria was 25 this past summer and has been attending my camp since she was 12. I've watched her grow up; I've attended her birthday parties, taught her how to dance and helped her resolve a profound toe-walking habit in her early adolescence. She's given me two concussions, hundreds of hugs and kisses, thousands of insights and loads of laughs... she has also terrorized countless young males with her outrageous flirtations and her remarkably well directed lack of impulse control.
Here is a conversation from a few summers ago.
We are leaning against a fence that surrounds the outdoor pool where we went for our afternoon swims. Victoria is forgoing swimming this particular day for the reason that many teenage girls give to avoid swimming. Victoria was immensely pleased to announce to all in hearing distance the reason she was sitting it out. It is a beautiful sunny day. She and I are sharing a moment.

Who loves, ya, baby, I say to her.
You do, she says, and we gently touch fist knuckles together, my ongoing concession to her tactile defensiveness.
What are you up to today since you're not swimming, I ask her.
I'm practicing mind control, she informs me.
is that so... I say with just the appropriate amount of disbelief to egg her on...
ohhhh, yeahhh, watch this...
I follow her casually flipped hand in the direction of the diving board; a young guy is bounding into a take off.
I'm going to make him jump in, she says.
We both watch as he leaves the board and splashes us with a huge cannonball after-effect.
We gaze at each other over the edges of our sunglasses.
Impressive, I say.
She gives a small grunt of satisfaction and turns slightly away from our shared gaze, I could do this all afternoon, she says as she smiles shamelessly.
She also apologizes for the splash: she can only control the minds of the people... she takes no credit for the water.
No doubt, I think...
and I wonder, not for the first time, if she plays with me as much as I play with her.
I suspect so. And, I suspect, I have a lot to learn in this regard. I hope she sticks around for another 10 years.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


An autistic savant feels the swoon
of that old neuro-typical tune
playing chess with his sisters
and other sad blisters
till the dish ran away with the spoon

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Haiku: autism landscape

built environments
perilous sensory load
k/nights without armour

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Autism Camp, the next installment: Echolalia

Johann B. likes to get naked and cavort. This was cute when he was five years old and could get his scrawny little butt out of sight quickly. It is not cute now that he is 15 and has more body parts that flop, jiggle and swing when he moves. That particular summer, Johann's favourite trick was to stand in the middle of the gymnasium and begin taking off his clothes. Sometimes he'd start at the top and work his way down and sometimes he's start at the bottom and work his way up. The two students who worked with him, Jason and Chris, were young guys in their early 20's, with wonderful dispositions and sensibilities. Jason was a rugby player who swore that working with kids with Autism totally improved his rugby game. Chris was a wiry little guy who had made a vow against profanity once he decided he was going to be a primary school teacher. So, there they were, doing a strip-tease tango with Johann... he'd take off his pants and underwear and while Jason and Chris were busy getting them all back on, he'd be pulling off his t-shirt. Eventually they split up and tag-teamed : one took the top and the other took the bottom until Johann decided it wasn't entertaining any more.
Geez, Johann, they'd say
Geez, Johann, he'd say back.
This is not fun...
This is not fun...
This is stopping ...now!
This is stopping ... now!
... and then he'd stop, somehow hearing his own voice saying something he hadn't planned on paying attention to.
Needless to say, bathroom breaks were also " not fun". Chris wanders in to check on Johann after a 15 minute wait, alerting Jason to be on the ready for one of Johann's ( in) famous streaking performances. Chris ought to have been prepared for this by now, but he was nonetheless surprised by Johann, in all his glory, perched happily on the commode.
Holy Cats, you're naked!! Chris blurts it out before he can even think about the consequences...
Johann latches on like a drowning man. Holy Cats, you're naked, he yells; then again, and again.
It is a mantra, a chant, a cheer! He leaves his pile of clothes and dashes out into the gym. Holy Cats, you're naked, he shouts with glee, galloping and swinging his arms in big circles....
everyone gazes at this display in utter amazement. Sometimes, you just have to bow to the absurd.
Jason and Chris corral him and guide him, giggling fiendishly, back to the bathroom. They are giggling, too, and who can blame them! Freshly dressed, Johann moves through the rest of the day. No more undressing, no more echolalia. Perhaps we did a brilliant re-direct.
Johann's mom comes to pick him up. He plops down in the front seat and gazes at her, a little fatigued and glassy -eyed. She catches my eye for an instant, but before I can say a word, she waves and drives off. I watch the car for a moment as Mrs.B. swerves and then regains control. That must have been an interesting ride home.

Monday, September 14, 2009


(wo(a)nderings from a night person...)
Dawn sneaks up
on a person like me
who used to drink her way
through the night &
justify to an itinerant conscience
the lines she crossed in the name of surviving
I cut myself
loose & now I sail into golden dawn
on a sea of tranquility
caressed by flickers of early purple
helpless as water
to the pull of the moon

Sunday, September 13, 2009

two facts and a fib

following up on Jon's lead on Expressive Subjects...

I have had more broken bones than scars

I can bench press my body weight

I have written something every day since I was 11 years old.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

show and tell

Sebastian is 12 years old. An old child. He has been attending summer movement camp since he was 8 and has mixed feelings about being here. His first summer he asked me why his mom had dropped him here in the middle of all these retards, and assured me that he was not one of them.
At the time I had said to him that whatever he thought about the other folks at camp, he was not to engage in that kind of disrespectful language. Seb will take that from me because I will also tell him why his mom dropped him off at my camp. You see, Seb, I would say, you have enough going on with how you act in the world that you have earned yourself a diagnosis of high functioning autism. What do you think, he would ask me. I am not qualified to diagnose, I would tell him. But since you're here, how about giving some of the activites a try.... it could help with some of your games and fitness skills.
Seb is a strategic fella, so he knows the currency for being included in activities with his same age peers, whose approval he craves and whose disdain he does not quite comprehend. He is puzzled about why some of his bizzare responses are not met with high fives from the gang in the school yard.
He is, however, quite the little magician with word manipulation. The young gal who worked with him this past summer made the somewhat dubious decision to wear a tiny little camisole that left very little to anyone's imagination. Seb figured he'd died and gone to heaven. When I introduced them to each other (her name was Chantal) I did notice a little gleam in his eye....
at first I thought it was to do with the magnificent display before him. But, no; he surprised me.
By the end of the day he was working on how he will introduce Chantal to his buddies
Hello, everyone, this is Shoawantelle.... ( get it? show and tell... Chantal... )
I give him a little smirk and shake my head, yes, Seb, I say ... I get it.
He smiles and asks, do you think she will get it
I don't know, I say. What do you think??
I hope not! he says....
Sebastian: adolescent wordsmith extraordinaire.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Happy Campers

Summer stretches out like molasses for the children with whom I have been working for the past 35 years. The past decade or so has been somewhat different because I made a decision to do something about the interminable anguish that many of these kids experience. Meet the happy campers who have been attending my Summer Movement camp for children and youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) for the past 13 years. Obviously, I cannot disclose any names, places or any other identifiers... this population is vulnerable enough as it is without leaving them prey to the caprice of the internet. What I'd like to do over the next few posts is describe some of what happens: the joys, the absurdities and the gut- wrenching sorrows. I'd like to give you an insider's perspective on what it's like to be at " autism camp" ( as the kids affectionately call it).
Hang on... it can be quite the ride!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Birth day

Did you know
that quickening is and is
much more than the first feeling
of life's motion
that fire burns
more intensely
with every breath
bone and gesture
impossible love
this is what happens next