Autism in a Briefcase: Straight Talk about Belonging in a Neurodiverse World

“…I’m looking for the face I had, before the world was made…” — William Butler Yeats, Irish poet, one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature

Hello All,

I have been busy, which is a blessing, during these difficult and challenging times. I wanted to share with you something profound in my life. About a month ago I was (finally) motivated to finish a manuscript I had put away for the last few years: Autism in a Briefcase. At long last I felt called to finish the project. It was a sudden drive, similar to when I felt called to put together the book Everyday Aspergers (from my blog by the same name). At times, as artists and writers often report, I didn’t feel I had a choice. It had to be done.

Interestingly enough, I’d just about emotionally signed off on anything to do with in depth thinking about ‘autism and the workplace’ (Autistics in the workplace), as I’ve been saturated in autism for so long–my family, my friends, my vocation, my advocacy work, my writings, my studies . . . me.

It wasn’t long after I’d thought to step away from writing about autism as my primary topic focus, and center my thoughts back to writing my other manuscript Belly of a Star, that I felt a swoon of energy propel me to revisit Autism in a Briefcase. An energy akin to a jolt from coffee, only void of the restlessness, jitters, and nervousness. Wherever the energy came from, (universe, collective unconscious, aliens, angels, my brain, big someone in the sky), I was able to get by on about four hours of sleep a night. Now that the book-to-be is complete, I am thankfully sinking back into eight to nine hours of rest.

I haven’t found myself this cognitively-sparked since my influx of spiritual writings, and sudden onset of dozens and dozens of poems and paintings back in 2012. In truth, having had been zapped of mental energy, since I got some virus (likely Covid-19) in the spring of 2020 (where I found myself in bed, out of breath with crushing chest pain [and clutching a rosary]), for two months, I’d not thought this level of cognitive processing and ability to focus would ever return. Needless to say, I feel grateful.

At this time, regarding the manuscript, there is a keen group of peer-reviewers scouring through some 300 pages. I will be sending Autism in a Briefcase: Straight Talk about Belonging in a Neurodiverse World to the publisher in early-March. Every now and again, I find a tidbit to add; something that seems to be a last-minute essential. Like a thought that woke me up late last night, to the point I found myself scribbling thoughts in the dark on a sticky note.

The final product of Briefcase will be in a textbook style (homage to my teaching years); the book can be read independently or as part of a training course. In the near future (late-2021), we will be offering weeklong virtual training programs to enable professionals to get certified in workplace inclusion training and neurodiversity under the Autism in a Briefcase program. At least that’s the current plan. We all know how life likes to play with plans–like a toddler with a toy top. I hope to instruct workshops with my newfound friend and intern, Tabitha, who came right at the moment I was called to work on the Briefcase project. Many ‘coincidences’ and serendipitous events have occurred in the last three weeks. It seemed an expansive road was cleared to make way for the completion of this book.

The manuscript writings, much like Everyday Aspergers, weren’t entirely planned. For Briefcase, much material is drawn from my experience and online works, various projects (blogs, magazine and website articles, podcasts, workshops, keynotes, etc.) that I’d never thought (at first) to compile into a manuscript.

Unlike the 10-year project of Everyday Aspergers, this one was closer to 6 years: an accumulation of my tireless readings, writings, and education; my experience working at a start-up firm with an autism-hiring initiative; and interactions with over 10,000 Autistic people. (And my lived-life as an Autistic human being.)

A section of the manuscript is here at recruiter.com

https://www.recruiter.com/i/neurodiversity-paving-the-way-to-universal-design-inclusivity-in-the-workplace/

The content of the writings in Briefcase dive deep into explaining autism and the dimensions of neurodiversity and provide a unique program for managing diversity through five distinct steps. Included is how to design a holistic inclusion plan, a leadership philosophy and practice, and quotes from Autistic humans from around the world. Lots of myth shattering!

Throughout the book (to be), I introduce brand new concepts and ideas and expand on them: new names, thought-provoking perspectives.

Main concepts include the core of the book: ‘Core Inclusion’ (my word for universal design inclusivity) and ‘Core Leadership,’ a leadership philosophy wrapped around Core Inclusion.

The leadership philosophy is called ‘Discernment Leadership.’

To highlight the importance of belonging, there is also ‘Core Belonging;’ for in actuality inclusion cannot exist without exclusion having been born into existence first: the you and I. Therefore, I also explore the concept of ‘the knowing of belonging.’

The step-by-step visual guide to managing diversity, which I call ‘The 5 A’s of Diversity,’ is an active process, that goes hand-in-hand with the ‘Workplace Inclusion Plan (WIP),’ which is also a continual WIP (work in progress).

The book is mostly serious, with my quirky humor popping up here and again; so much so, that both my brilliant intern Tabitha and my beloved partner David have had to censor my brain a bit. But no surprise there, whatsoever.

Below is the introduction to Autism in a Briefcase. I actually have TWO introductions. Yes, two. One from the left side of my brain and the other from the corresponding right. One half logically explaining the information inside the book and the other explaining my soul-crushing-calling to share this information. (Think 1000s and 1000s of voices in your head repeating the tellings of social injustice, discrimination, inequity, and prejudice.) Half my brain is tucked away in the closing of the book. The closing IS the introduction. Why not? Seems fitting for my ‘different brain’ and the tendency to think in opposites (dyslexia).

image found at https://pixels.com/shop/face+masks/stellar+jay

Introduction Left Brain: Rainbow Guacamole (Draft, all rights reserved, spectrum suite llc 2021)

My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has always contrasted oddly with my pronounced lack of need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities. I am truly a ‘lone traveler’ and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties, I have never lost a sense of distance and a need for solitude . . .” — Albert Einstein, the theory of relativity (E = mc2) (Nov. 25, 1915), the law of the photoelectric effect, turned down an offer to be president of Israel, honorary doctorate degrees in science, medicine and philosophy, began speaking late in life, possibly dyslectic brain and/or Autistic

As you and I will be traveling this neurodiversity, mind-brain journey together, I’d thought to start off with the tale of a man with a ‘different brain’ and his brain’s journey. . .

At 1:15 a.m., on April 18, 1955, in a New Jersey medical center, a grapefruit-sized, abdominal aortic aneurysm burst. An aneurysm belonging to the 76-year-old, German-born, Nobel Prize-winning physicist and gifted mathematician known as Albert Einstein.

Einstein had entered the hospital complaining of chest pains and had been aware of the life-threatening aneurysm for several years prior. At the time of Einstein’s death a Yale-trained doctor, Thomas Stoltz Harvey (a pathologist from Princeton Medical Center), removed Einstein’s brain during a routine autopsy. All accounts point to Dr. Harvey stealing the brain. According to Albert Einstein’s son, prior to his father’s death, Einstein had known enough of the world to recognize the public’s obsession with him, and had requested to have his cremated ashes scattered sporadically in different places. Einstein, a private and modest man, had hoped to avoid people idolizing or paying homage to any one spot his ashes might have been laid to rest. Though Einstein’s remains were incinerated, Dr. Harvey (after being dismissed from his job at the hospital for refusing to give up the specimen) kept Einstein’s sliced cerebral contents tucked away inside mason jars filled with formaldehyde (and other times in cookie jars, a cider box beneath a cooler, and later Tupperware containers). In a peculiar, urban-legend-fashion, Dr. Harvey carried the brain with him wherever he traveled for decades, including the east coast, west coast, and midwest of America. The brain remained housed in the back corners of his home for decades. Rumors say the doctor went as far as to book separate rooms at inns out of respect for the deceased physicist.

Dr. Harvey, whose hope was to determine discrepancies between a remarkable genius brain and that of a typical brain, periodically sent pieces of Einstein’s brain to research scientists, including to a doctor at U.C. Berkeley. (Even though there have been conjectures and theories, to this day, it is argued that there is no agreed upon scientific proof which points to the exact cause of the physicist’s brilliance; referenced brains, the inability to study neural impulses, and the age and unsystematic slicing of Einstein’s brains, are all cited as flaws of research studies.) In 2007, at the age of 94, Dr. Harvey passed away. The remains of Einstein’s brain were eventually donated to the Princeton Hospital’s pathology unit and slices are stored in a glass case at The Mütter Museum. The macabre story of travels with Einstein’s brain is memorialized in the metal band Attic of Love’s song Stealing Einstein’s Brain. Although Einstein’s brain, like Einstein’s life, comes with a degree of intriguing captivation and pronounced celebrity, I can’t help but to feel an uncomfortable uneasiness with the tale of this one brain’s travels, and, to wonder, what the world-renowned man, with a ‘different brain,’ would make of these morbid tellings.

Speaking of brains, on a much lighter note, in this introduction I’ve chosen to show you the left side of my brain (figuratively speaking). The other half of my brain is housed at the end of Autism in a Briefcase, in the closing note. Please understand that I tend to vacillate from one side of the brain to the next, between extremely deep and serious and a goofy twelve-year old. If you read my first book, you know that already. After you read this book, you’ll be convinced. I don’t have a happy medium. Case in point, this prose below is called Between the Poopies and the Poppies.

I have a difficult time understanding the middle ground. I am at one extreme or the other. I am a prude or I am sexy. I am trying wholeheartedly or I give up. I am excited or I am bored. I am starving or I have no appetite. I hyperextend my body backward or I hunch forward. I smile huge or I frown deep. I have extreme hope or I have extreme sorrow. I feel joy or I feel agony. I think I’m cute enough or I believe I’m too ugly to leave the house. I worry obsessively or I let everything go. I am overly fatigued or I have extreme energy. I cling or I walk away. I smother another or I want nothing to do with a person. I over share or I clam up. I’m talkative or I want complete silence. I obsess or I walk away in disinterest. I am confident or I am insecure. I like myself or I hate myself. I’m trying to find that middle ground, somewhere between the poopies and poppies; between the crap and the sunshine; between the stench and the sweetness; between the ugly and the beauty–I just don’t know how to get there.”

— Samantha Craft, Everyday Aspergers

I also use the word ‘poopie’ in writing. This makes for an interesting workplace life. I’m often distracted during my outreach calls with ‘important’ people, like CEOs, my boss, and executives, and will catch myself explaining about how I’ve made friends with a band (party, scold, cast) of Steller’s jay birds; and how they are perched right outside my upstairs window on the branches, staring straight at me and begging for food. I had dogs for most of my life begging for food. And now that I no longer have pet dogs, I have jays! These spiky-haired critters track me, peeking through random windows, while making a variety of guttural sounds. I’m fairly certain I am their pet human. Poop and birds aside, whether you’re in the field of advocacy, counseling, education, human resource (HR), diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), a thought leader or key company leader, a caretaker, a student, or friend or supporter to a neurodivergent person, welcome. I’m glad you found your way here. I think it’s obvious by now, given the state of our world, we need one another’s diverse strengths and perspectives to make sustainable societal change.

With that said, do you want the good news or bad news first? (Skip the next three sentences if you want the bad news first.) The good news is you are 100% guaranteed to find at least one thing in the pages of this book that you’ve never come across before (like two introductions). How do I know this? Because I’ve developed some of the concepts: Discernment Leadership, the 5 A’s of Diversity, and core seeing. The bad news is: Some of this might get a little uncomfortable. We are gathered here today, our own party of (‘stellar’) jays, to challenge our own assumptions and reflect on how society has shaped our perceptions and judgment. To learn how to be better citizens and better coworkers. And to hopefully be moved to take actionable steps toward correcting the inequities in the workplace. The second good news is . . . who doesn’t like double good news? (Probably the same individuals who don’t like pizza.) The peanut butter to the jelly is you can treat this Briefcase like your very own adventure story. To help you navigate through, I’ve made the inner workings of this book as accessible as possible.

The chapters were made to be standalone files. I thought to color code them, based on the mood the chapter content might arouse in the reader, but ran out of colors. Suffice to say the higher chapters are more neutral in nature . . . (end of sample)

All rights reserved copyright Ⓒ Spectrum Suite LLC 2021.

Marcelle Ciampi (a.k.a author Samantha Craft) is the Senior Manager of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Ultranauts Inc., a quality engineering firm that is reimagining how companies hire talent. Ciampi is an ambassador and consultant on workplace inclusion, and Ultranauts serves as a model for companies looking to improve the inclusivity of their hiring processes. At Ultranauts, 75% of employees are on the autism spectrum and 45% identify as non-male. A well-respected Autistic advocate, recognized by key leaders in the field of neurodiversity, Ciampi is the author of the book Everyday Aspergers and contributing author of Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism. Her upcoming book, a six-year project, Autism in a Briefcase: Straight talk about belonging in a neurodiverse world, provides strategies to bring ‘Core Inclusion’ and ‘Core Belonging’ to the workplace. More information can be found at myspectrumsuite.com .


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