Judging with Autism
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|Tags||communication, judge community, player community, Disabilities|
|Recommended for Level||all levels|
|Abstract||Gilbert discusses how autism (including Asperger's) can influence events, both for judges with autism and those working with them. He offers advice to judges of all stripes, and includes some tips for interacting with players with autism.|
This is a topic I think only one other has talked about. It was Shane T. Doherty with From Within the Bubble: An Autistic View of Magic. That article took a perspective from the player's side of things. I will try to tell you my story. How I got the diagnosis, the difference between Asperger's and autism, and the benefits for people with autism. I will cover problems for judges and players with autism, and, lastly, I will give advice to judges with autism. But before I tell you that, you should know who I am. My name is Gilbert Hedegaard; I come from Denmark, and am seventeen years old. I am diagnosed with autism, and am currently the youngest level 1 judge in Denmark. I have judged since Danish Nationals 2008, and was certified at Danish Nationals 2009. I have recently judged GP—Gothenburg and Danish/Swedish Nationals 2010 in Gothenburg. At the time, I am planning to take the level 2 exam next year. I have chosen to write this article because I feel both more judges needs to aware of autism in Magic, and I also think more judges would benefit from knowing more about it.
Before I judged a larger event, like Nationals or a GP, I always sent a letter to the HJ (Head Judge). I also told him about anything I felt he should know. And every time I sent such a letter, I always wanted there to be more information available for Magic players and judges about autism. This article is meant to serve the same purpose. I plan to include a link to this article with my solicitation at all future events I attend. Now, on to how I got the diagnosis.
How I got the diagnosis and what it means for me
I became diagnosed with autism in 2004. It is a very mild degree, near the border of Asperger's Syndrome. This is how I got the diagnosis:
I used to draw labyrinths and mazes. I did it at home and with my friend. One such friend was Trine. Trine is actually a friend of my parents'. She knows about autism because her son has it. She noticed I drew a new labyrinth every time I went to her , and later, after the Danish magazine “Autism” published an article about Asperger's Syndrome, she told my father that an action that is repeated over and over with much passion can be a sign of autism/Asperger's. He was not ready to listen, and after a couple of months, Trine told my mother about it. My parents talked about it, and my dad still would not believe it. At that time, I was a Scout, and we were participating in a trip with our parents. My little brother got sick the day before. That meant only my father and I were on the trip. My dad noticed at that trip that I was different. My parents talked about it, and I was sent to the school psychologist. The psychologist talked and observed me a couple of times, and thought there were more that could be done. My parents and I were recommended to PEA (Psychologist Educated Advice). Nine months passed before they had room for us. We went to PEA eight to ten times, where I would be tested and a psychologist would talk with my parents. My diagnosis came just before my eleventh birthday, and my parents told me about it about one year later.
Autism and Asperger's are a broad diagnosis that is very varied from person to person. Just because a person with autism has some problems does not mean others will have the same. I recently discovered that one of my problems is about changes and flexibility. It ranges from a change in my routine, to being in a new place, and find new solutions. Because of that, I do some extra preparation before an event. I make a plan for the days, find the tournament site, find places to sleep and to eat, count the number of judges I feel comfortable with, and contact the HJ about my autism. Regarding the social interaction that comes with both playing and judging in an event, I cannot tell if people I am not familiar with are joking or making fun. Both issues have happened, and I have learned from it.
The first was during Nationals 2010. I was supposed to sleep at a school, along with a friend (who also was judging Nationals) and some other judges for the first time at Nationals. The night before, I didn’t know where the bathrooms were or where breakfast would be eaten. The next day, I could not focus on judging and did not enjoy myself... until I was moved to a vintage PE, where I finally had fun. I noticed the joking part at GP Gothenburg. During the end of each round, I was talking to some of the judges. Sometimes I noticed a “fun” element in what they talked about, but I was not sure whether it was joking or if it was not. I could not figure it out, but most of the time it was. Two other things I’m also not good at are: Whenever I don’t feel okay, I don’t know who I shall talk to. Is it my mom, a friend, or someone else depending on what the situation is about? The last thing is, when I am judging bigger tournaments, like GPs or PTQs and not HJing, I need to know exactly what to do throughout the tournament. When I walk the floor, I should know what my role is. When I’m moving to a new event, I will often ask some questions so I know what’s going on at the time, and to know my new role.
The difference between Asperger's and autism
Imagine a line. Two thirds of that is what I will call autism. The last third is Asperger's. Now divide the autism spectrum into three parts. The autism spectrum is divided into three “groups” of people. They are low-, medium-, and high-functioning. Low- and medium-functioning people often suffer from some form of mental retardation in addition to their autism diagnosis and need “assisted living.” That means they need help with something as simple as taking a shower or cooking. Due their high need for extra help, they often will not have an education. A good example of this is Holger Bech Nielsen. Holger Bech Nielsen has a university degree in theoretical physics and is a professor in high-energy physics. In Denmark, he is known to be speaking very loud.
High-functioning people can live by themselves, and with a minimum or entirely without help. This is where those with Asperger's and I (as I am high functioning with autism) belong. People with Asperger's will always be high functioning, but that is not case for autism. People with autism can be low-, medium-, or high-functioning. That means high-functioning people can get an education. I belong to this group of people as I have autism but near the border to Asperger's. Other good examples of this group are Ben from Ben X, Bill Gates, and Forrest Gump. (Ben X is movie based on a real story.)
Benefits for people with autism
People with autism have certain benefits compared to other people. Peoples with autism have a “special interest.” It is something they are very interested in, and really enjoy. That also means they have a much greater knowledge about that thing than most others do. For me, that is Magic, and I consider it an honor to be judge. Because Magic is my special interest, my knowledge of Magic is extremely wide.
People with autism have a great sense for details. People with autism will, rather than have the whole picture of certain things, know a detail to depth. Since I have been playing Magic for about five years, I see certain cards returning in new form from set to set. Some of those types of cards I have noticed are a bounce spell (Æther Tradewinds), a Giant Growth variant (Untamed Might), a Lightning Bolt variant (Galvanic Blast, Searing Blaze), and a new draw spell (Mysteries of the Deep).
People with autism also have the ability to memorize or remember better than people without autism. If a player asks me a question that is involving a specific card, I often remember the current Oracle wording of that card. I have not gotten a card wrong yet, but I always read the card to double check and make sure I am correct. In some way I see the words on the cards as streamlined game rules (though it is not), and I can see a pattern in the way each card is written (by Oracle text).
Judges with autism
Before I tell you about my own experience of judging an event with autism, I’ll tell you about why I’ve begun to tell the HJs of the events I’m judging about my autism.
Since I began judging, after Nationals 2008, I felt it was necessary to tell the HJ that I have autism. I did not tell the HJ for Nationals 2008 about it, and that was a big mistake. It was my first tournament as a FJ (Floor Judge) and I had judged only a few small Standard tournaments before. While I was judging the tournament, I did not know what was expected of me and what I was supposed to be doing. Half a year before Nationals 2009, I wrote a letter to HJ and told him about my autism. I talked to him again at the event, and everything went fine. I really enjoyed myself, had a blast, and was certified. Each event I have judged since Nationals 2008, I have sent the old letter to the HJ. If I will be judging your events in future, I will send this article to you.
Since I have begun corresponding with the HJs, I have experienced the following: I began telling the Danish judges that I had autism at Nationals 2009. I told them how I was affected by it, and what I needed help with. When I took the test, I did not pass at first. Andreas, who tested me, discussed my autism briefly with HJ Falko. As the test was taken on the Internet, they agreed it has affected the outcome (I later found out they were right), and that I could do better if Andreas asked me the questions one-on-one. I passed the same day.
Autism advice for the HJ
If a judge with autism is judging your event, make sure they know what they are supposed to be doing at all times. Make sure they know what their roles are during the day at different times. Also, inform them what the role of the people they are working with is, unless they have the same role.
People with autism may find it very hard to write a (good) review of another judge. People with autism does not necessary know themselves the same way others do. When they meet a new person, they do not “reflect abilities” with them. A way most judges with autism easier can write a review is if they are paired up with another judge. If they’re working with the same judge that day, chances are greater they will write a review of that judge. You can also encourage them to write a review, as they most likely know feeling of getting a good review.
Players with autism
Whenever I have time, I judge Standard tournaments at my local shop. Around Christmastime, I was judging such a tournament. Six boys showed up, along with a man that was taking care of them. The boys registered for the tournament, and then the man contacted me. He told me that one of the boys had autism. I thought for a short moment, and told the man I would keep an eye on the boy. I thanked the man for telling me that, turned around, and turned back. I told him “I have autism ,too.” I then told him I would keep an eye on the boy. I was thinking that maybe we could reserve a seat for him if he seemed to have problems.
If you know that people with autism are playing in your tournament, you should keep an extra eye on them. I know from “Dealing with Disabled Players” and the IPG that players should be treated equally. You would often be able to tell if the player is not having fun. If something serious arises, if he gets angry or confused, talk with him about what he thinks is wrong. If you need to give a penalty while talking, do that, but make sure he understands. After you have handed out the penalty, or figured out what is wrong, ask if there is something he needs. If there is, and it is something that you or other judges can organize, give the player what he needs. Depending on the REL, not everything is possible. E.g. a tournament is run at Competitive REL. A player that has autism has just lost his match with five minutes left in the round. He knows he will not ready for next round, and asks you if could take a ten-minute break. Because of the REL, that isn’t possible, and he has two options: Either take a five-minute break, or take ten minutes and get a Game Loss. Just remember: Everything the player wants or need might not be possible. Sometimes you cannot give what he needs.
Be aware that you might need to explain rules or penalties clearer for people with autism. If they understand, chances are they will get it right the next time. So far, as a player, I only have two penalties, one of them I pointed out myself. One was a Game Loss for playing with 39 cards during a Prerelease. The other was a Missed Trigger I pointed out myself. In addition, I always make sure I am playing with a 40- or 60-card main deck (depending on the format) and check for non-optional triggers.
Advice for judges with autism:
Contact the HJ as soon as he contacts you with event information and tell him about your autism. Explain what you may need help with, what you are not good at because of your autism, and any question or special permissions you might need. Tell the HJ everything he or she needs to know about you. When you are judging, make sure you know how things work. If there are anything you have not tried before, ask how to do it. This includes things like the team system, the Deck Check squads, the roles of different judges, what you team/squad lead is doing. Ask for anything. Write a plan for the day(s) the tournament is running. When should you be at the tournament site? What team are you on? What is happening throughout the day? Write everything that is important for you. Some questions to think about, regardless of who you are: What do you think about autism? Is it new for you? Do you have it yourself? Is a player with autism/Asperger's playing or judging in your tournament? You can mail me at Gilbert@gilbert.dk or through the judge center.
I would like thank each of the following that helped me: Stephanie for giving me the time to write the article in school Casper and Stelios Kargotis for proofreading Johanna Virtanen and Scott Marshal for providing opportunities for me to get experience and the possibility of writing this article
If you would to know more about autism I strongly suggest reading From Within the Bubble: An Autistic View of Magic.