Arriving in Little Rock, Arkansas for our interview with Ann, who is known in Second Life as Cora. Over the next two days, we’ll learn more about Cora’s challenges and the technologies she employs to express her autistic self both creatively and practically.
In earlier conversations, still in the virtual world, Cora asked Dr. Ikegami not to hug when they would meet in person, even though the two knew each other “virtually”, very well. She wanted Eiko to understand that it didn’t mean anything negative about her, but that she is hyper-sensitive when it comes to touch. Cora had often talked about her various forms of sensory overload.
Conversation then turns to Second Life, where Cora’s avatars are often dramatic flying creatures such as a bright silvery owl, or a spirit, snow, or ice dragon.
In Second Life, Cora is outspoken, able to articulate her feelings and experiences extremely well. She is knowledgeable about current views and accepted treatments for autism, and sometimes activist in her outlook. Although advanced in many ways, it has been difficult for Cora to be maintain full time employment due to the challenges of her diagnosis, especially challenges with speech.
Since Cora is a talkative person, articulate in conversations, it is hard to believe that she sometimes involuntarily loses her ability to speak, but it does happen.
The use of AAC (augmented assistive communication) is also meant to prevent further overload on her sensory system. However, AAC’s voice is rather mechanical. It can be difficult for those most familiar with Cora’s usual speaking abilities, to accept the device as as a substitute.
That is sometimes true for her family members. Her very supportive and loving husband gently mentioned that he loves Cora’s real voice. Cora nonetheless wants to prepare for the worst case scenarios, so carries the AAC voice machine and IPad in her vest (with 22 pockets), all the time.
More about how she uses the software to communicate.
Deeper into important aspects of discussion, including sensory overload, meltdowns, and how Second Life offers some on the spectrum a way to participate in longer and more structured activities than might be possible for them in a ‘real world’ setting.
The next day, she would show us how she uses ACC in the cafe.