The Value of Connecting with Others Online
CJ Shiloh MT-BC, is on the OCMT Organizing Committee, serving as Committee Chair for the OCMT website and social media public relations. CJ is the Director of the nonprofit organization, The Musical Autist and has been blogging at that address since 2011. She is an active participant in disability rights issues, an advocate for the Neurodiversity Movement, and curator of “Sensory Friendly Concerts.” These events promote “equal rights to the fine arts,” autistic self-advocacy, and a structured practice of Community Music Therapy. CJ & The Musical Autist can be followed on Facebook, on the Twitter handles: CJShiloh or MusicalAutist, or contacted directly at The Musical Autist.
In my local community or in recent music therapy conferences, I will often hear, “Oh, *you* are THE musical autist!!” Well, yes. Yes I suppose I am… I get a great kick out of hearing this remark and take it as a compliment, after all, I’m the Director of the nonprofit, The Musical Autist. I’m not on the autism spectrum myself, yet my friendships online with autistic self-advocates is ultimately what led me to my role as an ally in the Neurodiversity Movement, and even in pursuing my MT-BC equivalence.
Quite honestly, I can thank the mighty internet for leading me toward all of this in my career. I had already been a music educator for years, but each year that passed I seemed to be teaching more and more kids on the spectrum. So I started searching and reading everything I could online about autism. (What else does a professional do when they don’t have time to go back to school?) I visited the most reputable, well-known autism organization websites, I volunteered in autism conferences, I read the latest research studies. Still, the “mystery” of autism alluded me in these places, always leaving me passionately curious, yet unsettled that there was much more to it than just finding a “magic pill.” It wasn’t until I began connecting online with autistic self-advocate bloggers, like Melanie Yergeau and Paula Durbin-Westby that I became aware of the Neurodiversity Movement, ultimately captivating my own personal, intellectual trek in grasping the larger picture of autism within our society. This is not something I learned in college, but rather by using the power of the internet to my advantage in learning about the things I was passionately interested in.
The founder of OCMT, John Lawrence MMT, MTA, NMT, talked a lot about Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) when he started OCMT back in 2010. I can thank my own PLN for bringing me to where I am now, in my advocacy/literary work for the social justice of a typically marginalized autistic population. (I use identity-first language out of respect for the majority of people within the Neurodiversity Movement who prefer this reference over person-first language.)
And I am also grateful for my Personal Learning Network in regards to my journey in the field of music therapy. At the same time I was studying everything I could about autism, I was also connecting with a small handful of music therapist bloggers – Kimberly, Rachel R, Michelle, Kat and Rachel S. This was ‘back in the day’ when these five gals were pretty much the only MTs blogging with any consistency, and my online friendships with them grew my PLN as much, if not more, than my devoted reading of every word on the AMTA website.
Now, just 5 years later, let’s all take a moment and just wrap our minds around the opportunities for us to grow in our own Personal Learning Networks! Not only can we read a plethora of MT blogs, FB groups and Twitter hashtags, but even more on the cutting edge of technology and opportunity – we can now interact online LIVE with other MTs who attend #OCMT14.
If you are interested in growing your own Personal Learning Network in the topic of autism, disability rights, Sensory Friendly Concerts and the Neurodiversity Movement, I invite you to join me and 80+ MTs over at The Musical Autist. You can sign up here to be part of our community and shared learning network.
Are you excited about #OCMT14 this coming weekend? Leave a comment below and let us know how you’re hoping to grow your own Personal Learning Network.