Sunday, January 18, 2009

Neurodiversity Article Spotted in LEGO's Internal Magazine

I know that I shouldn't have been able to get my hands on this, but it's thrilling nonetheless. Of course, it's not available online - or to the public (this magazine is only for the company's employees) - at all, and I'm not even sure if I'm technically "allowed" to see it (since I'm not an employee) - but it was still exciting to see.

The article was about video game testing and debugging done for the LEGO company, and they spent a few paragraphs out of the (IIRC) 4 pages focusing on how this one guy has an Asperger's diagnosis, what Asperger's and autism are, and how he's better at the job because of it. Granted, it's nothing I haven't said before, but it still surprises me when I see these things in print - not many people have much interest in these issues, and usually when they are covered, it's aimed towards parents and doesn't give a fair impression of autistic adults. Even though I am, of course, familiar with LEGO UK's work with the NAS last year, and with LEGO's overall excellent record of designing toys that autistic kids love and can learn from, it's still exciting to see the company take the initiative in talking about neurodiversity and employment.

I suspect that LEGO is trying to avoid getting involved with the politics of this, and the backlash tied into that. Those of you who follow politics likely saw the recent dust-up where an antivaccine lunatic on the Huffington Post confused (a "social" site about various causes) with (the Obama administration's active democracy tool) and then proceeded to launch into a looong rant about how those of us who focus on autistic adults really just hate children (based on bringing in reputable pro-neurodiversity bloggers). I think it goes without saying that no toy company wants to get involved with that sort of negative PR, regardless of how discredited the quack touting it is.

Of course, the really funny part is that anyone wanting to pick at Obama for supporting initiatives that benefit autistic adults but not research into vaccines or less-than-solid medicine would have had more than enough ammunition on his campaign's website last year (in spite of all the "more affirmative action for black people" rants in the media, his actual policy of aggressive affirmative action for employment of people with all sorts of disabilities went unnoticed). While it's still shocking to see any company take a side on neurodiversity, we totally got the first national politician to take a stand on the issue into the White House. Frankly, the whole thing seems surreal, even as I try to keep my expectations realistic as to how much will actually get done.

On one last LEGO-related note, they've also gone all-out on celebrating the Obama inauguration in LEGOLAND California's Washington DC miniland. I'm probably going to write about that properly for LMOTD sometime tomorrow. To be honest, with any of those huge layouts, there's always a huge issue with not having enough photos. Politically, I'm inclined to be excited about the moment and tell everyone to check out the display. As a LEGO fan, I kind of want to wait until someone else LEGO-obsessed can get a few thousand photos and name most of the "guests" shown in the celebrations. This layout will be out for a few months - surely some of the best photos (and videos) are yet to come. As a reasonable person who recognizes I'm reading too much into things sometimes and then blogging about them, with all the potential for embarrassment that brings, I'm also interested in knowing if past Presidential inaugurations - or other transitions of power in the world - have been documented in miniland form. Sure, Obama's a "rockstar" and all that, but in terms of poll numbers in the election, he actually didn't get that much of a landslide - doing other swearing-in ceremonies in miniland form may have actually made more sense (except, of course, that this is happening now and is still exciting - and frankly, game-changing. People who don't like Obama will take advantage of his open-government ideas to their own ends anyway, and politics will, at least in the short term, have to adjust a bit to work with that). Of course, it's worth pointing out that the last time there was a clear landslide in a US election, there was no LEGOLAND park in the US. For what it's worth, the official spokespeople are saying that the inauguration display is supposed to educate youngsters about government (personally, I'll believe it when they release a minifig-scale senate playset - but then again, the lack of diversity in our political figures would likely not inspire kids the way LEGO likes to...but I suppose the gender balance is much different! Just saying...).

Sorry if you're not into this stuff, but I don't have a proper political blogging outlet and this serves as a bit of follow-up on a poorly-written earlier post. I've decided to go ahead and cover my political "projects" here and I've started tagging (or "labeling", whatever you prefer) the related posts as such. This should work for now, since I don't get into politics too much and I'm actually not very opinionated on most of the "hot button" issues (call me crazy, but I'd rather focus on issues I might be able to do something and stay away from partisan bickering when possible).

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