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More about Brigadoon

Here are some more details about Brigadoon and how I feel it might help people dealing with Asperger's Syndrome.

Basically, I'm trying to do with Brigadoon the same as I've always done with the Braintalk Communities, just using a new communication technology. Namely, I'm trying to provide a group of people with an environment within which they can interact with each other and help each other learn how to communicate in new ways, to see if they can learn from each other and provide support to each other. I'm helping to guide this community, but for the most part I want to see what the participants in this community make of this new environment on their own. I've seen amazing support environments spring up on Braintalk, with people helping each other help themselves with minimal intervention on my part. That's the same with what I'm trying to do with Brigadoon.

Brigadoon is a private "virtual world"...a whole Island...that exists in the commercial online virtual world system known as "Second Life." It truly isn't a "game"...there are no preconceived goals or "monsters" or tasks that people have to do (like with the Sims Online). It's simply an online world where people can create whatever they like, interact however they like...essentially a tabula rasa.

In this "Second Life" environment, people have the ability to create private" areas. Whole areas where only specific people have access. Basically like having an Intranet with a controlled membership. I've scraped up funds to be able to purchase and maintain such a private area in the Second Life world (Brigadoon Island)...and I'm opening it up to high-functioning Autism/Asperger's Syndrome people who are currently using Braintalk.

What's special about Second Life that I think will help Autism/AS people? Well, from what I've seen on Braintalk, and in other online communities, there are many Autism/AS people who are very high functioning and are seeking out new online technologies to help them communicate with people and to help them practice their socialization skills. Many of these people are amazingly articulate when posting messages in online forums and chatrooms, yet they still have problems interacting in the "real world" when put in a situation where they are face-to-face with other people.

What's special about the "Second Life" environment is that it is visually very REAL. You create your own avatar to represent you in this virtual world, and instead of just seeing names on a webpage you actually SEE other people standing around you in a 3-d world. You can also BUILD things in this world...houses, theaters, sculptures, gardens...whatever you like. And then you can visit these places with other people, and interact with them in a 3-d world that looks quite similar to the "real world." You can sit in a garden with other people and socialize. You can sail on a boat and watch the sunset with friends. You can host a campfire gathering on the beach and show each other how to build sculptures or just chat about whatever you want.

I've heard from high-functioning Autism/AS people that they really want to learn how to socialize and interact better with other people. It's just hard to do in the "real world." I've heard that they try very hard to learn socialization skills the same way most people learn to "play the piano"...it takes repetition and experimentation. And the reason many of them embrace the online world is that is is one step removed from the real world. Less stressful, with less consequences.

So, in a nutshell, my basic idea is this. Second Life provides a more perceptually immersive socialization environment online. It looks more "real"...and gives you more freedom. Yet it is still NOT the "real world," so it's a place that people can practice their socialization and collaborative skills in a much more "consequence-free" place. By giving Autism/AS access to this private Brigadoon environment, I'm creating a place where everyone else is "on the same page" so to speak...everyone knows that everyone else is dealing with the same issues, and they can help each other help themselves. And I feel that what they learn from participating on Brigadoon can truly HELP them in the REAL world. Help them deal with face-to-face interactions.

Now, Brigadoon is a private island, but it exists in a larger public world of Second Life. The same way Braintalk exists on the Web....Braintalk is a private haven, and outside of it is the whole Web. People who have access to Brigadoon have the OPTION of visiting this public world of Second Life...full of thousands of random people with different goals for using the Second Life world. By default, if someone is an adult (18+) and they want to participate in Brigadoon, I give them the option of visiting the public world of Second Life. BUT...if someone is a minor (under 18) and they want to use Brigadoon, I can set it up so that they ONLY have access to Brigadoon...they can never "wander off" our private area.

Behind all of this, everyone is a real person. And I understand the potential for misunderstandings, hurt feelings, etc. But with Brigadoon, I'm the only person able to add members. And while I realize I cannot control every little thing that people say to each other on Brigadoon, I CAN manage it the same way I manage Braintalk. By providing some guidance, by helping people, and by trying to provide an example in how to be supportive. So far, all the current members of Brigadoon have been very helpful and cooperative...the few bad interactions have only been when people go OFF of Brigadoon and meet other random people. I can't promise that people on Brigadoon won't get into conflicts...the same exact way I cannot totally prevent conflicts on Braintalk. But that's a real-life risk that participants in Brigadoon have to accept...the same way when people participate in the forums on Braintalk. All I can promise is that, on Brigadoon, I'm keeping close tabs on things and working hard with the residents to foster a supportive environment as best I can.

Mind you, I have no idea if any of this will "work"...it is truly an experimental community (same as Braintalk was/is). I just have a gut feeling that Brigadoon can provide an innovative and helpful environment that will let Autism/AS people practice their socialization skills....and that they will be able to take what they've learned into to the "real world" to help them interact and socialize with people.

Take care,
-John

If you've made it this far and would like to know more about me and what I do in Brigadoon, please check this out.

Posted by John Lester on January 9, 2005 at 02:58 PM in John's posts | Permalink

Comments

I am very much interested in this project....I have two children with AS, two more who probably have it, but aren't diagnosed. Two NT children (as far as we know), for a grand total of six kids, and two very much overwhelmed parents! My 14 year old is struggling terribly in high school with social stuff. He is so bright and interesting, but finds the entire social scene bewildering. Must admit, his dad and I do, too. :(

Would love to know more about this....

Posted by: JoAnn | Feb 25, 2005 3:22:08 PM

As an adult with AS, I find this very interesting. how do I join Brigadoon?

Posted by: Laura | Feb 26, 2005 4:55:58 PM

My son is 16 years old and is Autistic... how do I join Brigadoon? Thanks...

Posted by: Ralph | Feb 28, 2005 7:52:36 AM

Tell me how to join. Mom of 9 yr. old boy newly diagnosed.

Posted by: Roberta | Feb 28, 2005 12:46:03 PM

This place sounds wonderful! My 15 yr.old daughter is newly diagnosed with AS and is really experiencing the pain of being so "different" in High School. How can we join?

Posted by: Jo Ann H | Mar 2, 2005 1:21:14 PM

Would like to join for my daughter-sounds fabulous

Posted by: karyn | Mar 4, 2005 12:07:02 PM

Is this appropiate for children?

And how do you join Brigadoon?

Posted by: Mandy | Mar 4, 2005 5:29:26 PM

I am writing an article about the emerging trend of virtual worlds as a way to help people with cognitive disabilities. Does anyone have any information/perspectives/thoughts on Brigadoon or related virtual technology? i.e., is it effective, easy to work, appropriate for children, etc.? I would appreciate any input.

Thanks!

Posted by: Julie | Mar 10, 2005 12:14:55 AM

I am very interested in this for my 15 year old son. How do I join?

Posted by: jan | Mar 18, 2005 9:03:53 PM

I'd like to join.

Posted by: cat | Apr 11, 2005 2:55:14 PM

Hey there!
I would like to join Second Life Brigadoon!
I have Aspergers Syndrome and live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Please email me back at bradly_jones@hotmail.com asap on how I can join to improve my social skills and the many other needs of an Aspergers individual.
Brad Jones

Posted by: Brad Jones | Apr 16, 2005 1:00:27 PM

Hi! I'm a counselor and music therapist working in a great AS school in San Jose. I would love to join and check out Brigadoon as a scout for our older kids. (I'm probably on the spectrum myself, too, but they weren't handing out diagnoses when I was in grade school. My 3rd grade teacher sympathized with my mother at open house night about how difficult it must be to raise a "retarded" child. My horrified mother informed her that I had recently tested into the school's new gifted program. Sound like an Aspy to you?)

Jonathan Mayshar

Posted by: Jonathan Mayshar | Jun 1, 2005 11:32:29 AM

John: We have an 11 year old son diagnosed with aspergers syn. Would like to know how to get him involved with "Brigadoon".
Thanks, Grady

Posted by: Grady Hedrick | Aug 6, 2005 5:05:14 PM

We have a 15 year old son disgnosed with ADHD and (possibly) aspergers. We would like to find out more about the Brigadoon game. Thanks

Posted by: Julie | Sep 3, 2005 1:45:13 PM

I have twin sons with Asperger's.....After you join Second Life how do you get to the private island of Brigadoon, only for thoes with Asperger's. The "game" looks complex, could a 10 year olds be able to do this? Thanks for any advice!

Posted by: Della | Sep 25, 2005 12:41:05 PM

I would really know like to know how to join this website, because I have Aspergers and I was diagnosed with it maybe, oh, 2-3 monthes ago.

Posted by: Preston | May 14, 2006 3:37:16 PM

I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Amy | Jun 9, 2006 1:54:46 PM

My 15 year old son has AS and he's poor in social. He doesn't have any close friends whom he can talk with in real lift, but has a whole bunch of pals (strangers) on-line --whom he enjoys chatting with very much. I found out most of the things he talked with these kids on-line are very off from reality -- some of them might have given him bad influence. We tried to ban him from
talking to these strangers, but he became
very unhappy and lonely without anybody to talk with -- besides us. I think it would be a great idea to let him become a member of Brigadoon. Please let me know how to join. Thank you.

Posted by: Debra Wang | Oct 23, 2006 2:45:31 PM

im a young mother with twins sons age 7 with downsindrum ive got a lot of stress how do I join brigadoon
Thanks,Bev

Posted by: beverley foster | Oct 24, 2006 4:11:35 PM

im a young mother with twins sons age 7 with downsindrum ive got a lot of stress how do I join brigadoon
Thanks,Bev

Posted by: beverley foster | Oct 24, 2006 4:11:37 PM

I have sent several emails to brain talk and john lester to find out how to get my 9 year old son signed in to Brigadoon but have received no response. Please email me as to how to get my son signed in. He has aspergers and is very interested in joining and meeting other kids his age with aspergers.

Posted by: vickie | Nov 27, 2006 8:44:12 PM

There seem to be many people asking how to get in.

Head on over to http://www.secondlife.com where you can download the client (it is free) and also create an account (also free).

During the account creation process you will need to provide credit card details, or a mobile phone number (US only) so that they can verify your age and details.

Please note you will need a reasonably fast and capable computer (if it can play games like Counter Strike: Source and World of Warcraft you will be OK) and a broadband Internet connection.

Once you have your account, installed the client, and logged in, you really need to spend some time working through the tutorial 'island' - it will show you how to do things in Second Life.

Once finished there you will teleport to the new starter's area. You can then send a message to John Prototype (John Lester's avatar in Second Life) to get access to Brigadoon.

Cheers!

Posted by: Tom | Nov 30, 2006 7:12:19 AM

I have a high functioning autistic son who is ten years old. Would Brigadoon be appropriate for him? He plays the piano does karate and is an honor student in main stream third grade. In finishing a year of cub scouts, he found very little social skills. Perhaps you could give us some information.
thanks

Posted by: steve axelrod | Apr 9, 2008 5:58:12 PM

I am a Master's student at Brandeis University. My current research is on individuals with Asperger's and I have been charged with finding new and innovative ways of enhancing the social skills of such individuals. Although I understand that no one is insinuating that Second Life - Brigadoon Island interactions are a substitute for real-world interactions, I am interested in hearing about the positive and negative aspects of such social skills practice.

Of course, all names and personal information will be kept confidential, in fact I discourage any of those responding from sharing such information with a stranger, but I would like to get some feedback if you are willing.

Feel free to post on this blog or e mail me directly at medlin @ brandeis . edu.

Posted by: J Michelle Medlin | Apr 24, 2008 3:22:01 PM

I am working with an 18 year-old client with Asperger's and your site was recommended by his psychologist. . .how do we join? Thank you.

Posted by: Marilu B. | Jun 4, 2008 4:13:31 PM

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