This guest Q&A features Stuart Duncan, the author of the blog Autism From a Father’s Point of View and also the founder of Autcraft, a Minecraft server for people with autism and their families. Stuart is an advocate of understanding and acceptance for all in our community. We recently chatted with him about an amazing new initiative that he is involved in…
Kerry: Hey Stuart! Can you please tell us a bit about how you got involved with the autism community?
Stuart: Like most people, it happened shortly after my son was diagnosed with autism. I knew very early on in his life that there was something that I had to look into since he behaved so differently from what I had expected. That was the beginning of my intensive research into autism. A few years into our journey, I found my family and friends all advising me to blog about it. They all felt that I knew a lot, was open minded and had a lot to share, so they felt strongly that I should write.
I suppose they were right because it wasn’t long after I started my blog that I had quite the following and found myself being asked by autism organizations to also write for them. It also helped that I was one of very few dads willing/able to write and share… up until then, it was almost exclusively moms doing all of the writing.
So I love the name Autcraft. How did this idea come about to you?
The Minecraft server itself came to me because so many parents were crying out on social media, asking other parents if their children could play the game together because their children were being bullied when ever they tried to play on servers with other children. After a few months of watching so many parents saying the same thing, I decided that I had to take action to help. I love Minecraft myself and I know servers already.
The name itself came from combining the two things together… Autism and Minecraft. I just thought it made sense to not only keep both elements together so that they’re familiar but also that it’s the “ism” part that most people don’t like. Just the sound of “ism” is kind of a negative thing so I came up with the slogan “Replace your ‘ism’ with a craft” and thus… Autcraft was created.
Why do you believe that so many people in our special needs community have fallen in love with Minecraft? It definitely feels like it’s gone viral.
Well, it’s really gone viral all over the world with all kinds of people and even all ages so it just makes sense that it would with special needs children as well. There are schools in Sweden that have incorporated it into their school curriculum and even entire programs built around it, such as Minecraft.edu.
For autistics specifically though, it allows you the freedom to play the game in what ever way suits you best. There are no rules, no logical progression, no story that you must follow… you play it any which way you want and no one can say that you’re doing it wrong. In most modern games, even when they say it’s “open world,” it’s really not. You still have to start, progress and finish the game in the say way that everyone else does. With Minecraft, you get to focus on the aspect that you enjoy best and spend as much time as you want doing that… even years.
There’s also no leveling up or getting stronger or anything like that so in reality, a player just starting today is considered equal to someone that’s playing for years… other than the fact that they may have been gathering materials longer.
You have so many great quotes that have inspired our community. Do you have any favorites of the ones you’ve written so far?
The quotes really caught me by surprise. In the beginning, I just took my thoughts to Twitter where I was forced to really be concise and articulate because of their 140 character limit. In doing that, people seemed to really like what I had to say and before too long, I started seeing “memes” showing up on Facebook and Twitter with things I’ve said and my name at the bottom! It’s happened so much that I even have people in my every day life offline saying “I saw an image on Facebook that had your name on it… was that you?”
My favorite quotes, two of them, are “Hugs may come less frequently from someone with autism but when they do, you know it means everything” and also “It is my mission to prepare the world for my child just as much as it is to prepare my child for the world.”
I like these quotes in particular because they seem to transcend all the different ways that the autism community is divided. I really have no sides for anything and can relate and understand and empathize with pretty much everyone but try as I might, just about anything I can say will be taken the wrong way by someone who feels strongly one way or another about something that divides the community.
With these two quotes though, I have yet to see anyone take issue with them. Most everyone can relate or at least understand the sentiment behind them. That’s pretty powerful to me. When you can relate or touch people no matter what side of a debate or argument they are on, you’re bridging a gap that sorely needs some common ground for them to come together on.
Anything coming up next for you?
Honestly, I wish there was. I have so many ideas and so many wonderful things that I would love to do. Unfortunately, between my full time job, my children and Autcraft, I have no time left. Autcraft actually takes up more time in my day than my full time job which means that I get very little sleep. But those kids are important to me and I give them 100% when I can.
Ultimately that means that I have nothing left to do other things without sacrificing what I can give them. And they deserve the best. They really do. They’re just really great kids. So for now, that’s where I’m needed, it’s where I feel like I belong and it’s where I’ll stay.
Maybe one day, should I be able to find a way to make this my job such that I no longer need to have a full time job on top of it, I’ll be able to see all my other goals/dreams come true but for now, I have thousands of kids with autism that need me and I don’t plan on letting them down.
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