Issue 2 Just Released!

FaceValueComics Issue #2 Get Your Just Released copy of Face Value Comics Issue 2 now! This independent run will only be released for a limited time to our fans before it gets released through Diamond Comic Distributors in August. We’ve made it easier than ever for you to get your copy! Simply click here to order OR contact your local comic book store to make your request! Issue #1 and #2 will continue to be available through Diamond Comic Distributors if you missed an issue.

Success Is Possible with an ASD Diagnosis

Success Means Trying with an ASD DiagnosisEveryone wants to feel like they are successful, and we all work hard to accomplish goals that we have for ourselves. For kids and teens with an ASD diagnosis feeling successful can be complicated. When helping them work towards goals that are challenging, it can be important to set aside time for them to work on the interests that they have which bring them a sense of enjoyment and tend to come “naturally”. Often, later in life, it is these interests that will bring them long term success and purpose, while allowing them to bring their own contributions to society. True success doesn’t come easy to anyone – whether neurotypical or not – and it’s important for all children to learn that they have to work hard to reach the goals they have in life since we all work for our accomplishments. For autistic children the goals may be different, but they will take just as much hard work and encouragement. When goals are reached – no matter how small – that’s when it’s time to celebrate!

At Face Value Comics our heroes and heroines are able to portray the necessity of persistence in facing challenges. As the characters overcome their struggles they show how hard work leads to success, and even little steps forward lead to progress. We all need to remember this as we deal with the ups and downs of life, but it’s very important for ASD kids to be reminded of this on a regular basis. Feeling successful – even over little goals – can make autistic kids (and adults) feel like they’re making progress and give them the encouragement they need to keep moving forward. We all need moments of success

Enhancing Feelings of Safety in Children with Autism

Creating Feelings of Safety in Children with Autism.jpgOne of the many challenges of working with children with autism is to keep them feeling safe in a world that is often confusing and scary. When people do not feel safe the normal human response is to either “fight” to protect themselves, or resort to “flight” to get away from whatever they perceive as dangerous. This response is no different in those with ASD, though it can be more intense, and can occur more frequently since their sensory system is constantly bombarded by information that is interpreted as dangerous. Whether that information comes from touch, sound, or any other sensory input – the “fight or flight” response is one of self-preservation, and it’s important that others understand the fear behind what is often seen as erratic behavior.

Children whose actions have been misunderstood for long periods of time learn that others cannot be trusted to protect them from their environment, and as they feel less and less safe their “fight or flight” responses become more and more intense. This is one of the reasons that it’s important for caregivers to pay close attention to what autistic children are trying to tell them – whether using verbal or non-verbal ways to communicate. It is vital to assume that an ASD child or teen’s behavior is trying to relay information about their inner state, just as any neurotypical child does. As the autistic child grows up the way they’ve learned to trust others and interact with the world depends a lot on feeling safe in an unpredictable world.

Face Value Comics is hoping to help ASD kids with their interpretation of their environment by placing our heroes in challenging situations and showing how they are able to overcome them without resorting to their “fight or flight” response. By using the Ekman theory of expression, we aim to help these kids and teens learn to interpret the intentions of those around them so that they do not feel threatened and confused by others. Each time they read the comic it can reinforce the concepts of social interaction and reading others’ emotions, which helps with understanding others and interpreting the environment. This understanding can make the world a more predictable place, lowering anxiety levels and helping autistic children and teens develop the skills they need to feel safe in a chaotic world.

In realizing the importance of feeling safe for people with ASD, perhaps it isn’t surprising then that researchers have recently found that very low doses of anti-anxiety drugs appear to be successful in treating autism-like behavior in mice. An article in Scientific American goes into detail about how the medication appears to be working. Medication is a fact of life for many people with disabilities – whether physical or mental – and yet, sadly,  there often remains a stigma attached to the need for it, despite how it can ease symptoms. While medication isn’t the solution for everyone, it is encouraging to see that researchers are continuing to search for safe and useful medications for individuals on the autistic spectrum.

A Brief History of Steampunk

Face Value Comics and Dave Kot Shares History of SteampunkI came across a fascinating article on the history of steampunk recently.  The article I read was on the website of G. D. Falksen, a comic book author who has a fascinating steampunk series, among other genres.  As we are formally announcing our distribution partnership with Diamond today (click here for details), it seems appropriate to spend a little time explaining why we employ the steampunk genre in Issue 1 of our comic series. We’ve mentioned in other articles the fact that steampunk, which is essentially Victorian science fiction, really traces its roots H.G. Wells and Jules Verne.  These authors wrote in the Victorian period, and so naturally imagined a world of technological wonders powered by steam.

Of course, neither Wells nor Verne actually used the term steampunk.  If we trace the history of steampunk as such, we find that the term was coined first in the 1980s by author K.W. Jeter.  He was humorously distinguishing science fiction stories set in the the Victorian period from the prevailing near-future cyberpunk aesthetic of the genre.

The history of steampunk, as well as its current iterations, are quite fascinating.  Often people interested in the steampunk aesthetic will study photographs from the Victorian age to get an idea of how people dressed.  From there, it’s easy to add futuristic details like goggles, gears, or other bits of technology.  A thorough knowledge of the workings of the steam engine will also help a person interested in creating a steampunk universe to do so believably.  The intricacies involved in imagining an alternative future based on steam are practically never-ending.  Face Value Comics has its own version of steampunk.  We hope that our readers are inspired to dream their own steampunk world in to existence, in drawings, writing, or just in their imaginations.  To read more on the history of steampunk, click here to read all of Falksen’s article.

The Beauty of a Smile as a Means of Expression

Smiles as a Means of ExpressionA smile is often called the universal language of kindness.  It is a universal means of expression. The beauty of a smile is that it can be understood, no matter the language barriers that separate people.  One of the first ways a baby has to communicate is by smiling.  A difficulty that parents of autistic children have is the challenge of teaching them how nonverbal communication works.

The facial feature recognition we use in Face Value Comics is one of the tools that can help autistic children learn to read the emotional expressions of others.  It can also help them learn how to communicate with their facial expressions.  Our characters are often shown in a large frame so that our readers can absorb the ways that emotions are expressed facially.  From the beauty of a smile to the intensity of anger or sadness, we strive to illustrate the full range of human emotions.

As autistic children and teens learn to read expressions, they can begin to express theirs more fully.  This can be a great gift to their parents.  As we celebrate  Mother’s Day this weekend, we’re all thinking of ways to make our moms smile.  Sometimes seeing their children smiling is the best gift a mother can receive.  The beauty of a smile is that it not only expresses the joy of the person smiling, but it can also bring joy to the people seeing it.

We’re wishing all of our readers and their mothers a wonderful Mothers Day, and encourage all of you to spread some cheer with your smile!

Helping Those with Autism Feel Loved

Autism and showing loveEveryone wants to feel loved, accepted, and wanted. You can give a child all he needs to survive, but he won’t thrive unless he has the gift of feeling wanted and knowing he is loved. This is just as important for kids and teens on the autistic spectrum as it is for neurotypical children, but communicating how much you care about them must be done more intentionally. ASD kids will not intuitively pick up on the loving tone in your voice, or notice a loving gaze that you give them. They may be touch-defensive and find your loving hugs scary and/or even painful. It doesn’t help that it is easy for caregivers to be irritated by the many “strange” behaviors ASD children use to manage the stressful world they live in. Plus, the constant drives to different therapies, and arguments with teachers or even between caregivers over what is the “right” direction for a child’s therapy to go, can make these kids feel like they are more trouble than they are worth. They may feel that they always make people angry, and this is especially true if they are not able to properly read facial expressions, which is a common problem in autism. Is it any wonder these kids may communicate in one way or another how they are not feeling wanted?

Face Value Comics aims to help children learn to read facial expressions so that they can more accurately understand the emotions of the people around them. Misunderstanding facial expressions adds to confusion and can feed a negative perspective of a situation that might otherwise take a more positive direction. ASD kids and teens need their parents and caregivers to make sure they understand how much they are loved and accepted just as they are. Every kid should know the security of feeling wanted and feeling like they “belong.” The innate uniqueness of every child makes them profoundly significant whether they are neurotypical or not, and it’s important that they know it. Making this a reality requires intentional communication between ASD kids and their parents and caregivers, but it is worth the extra effort.

Do Words Define Autism and Autism Awareness?

Questions raised with autism awareness“Who Do You Think You Are?!?” is a question that has been posed to me from time to time as I continue to promote autism awareness. Outside and within the autism community, division remains about language. At least two camps pitch their tents. One group calls for “person-first” language, while the other group wants to use “identity-first language.”

Person-first language emphasizes readers to acknowledge how individuals with autism are people. Differently-abled skills come secondary to their role as a human being. To this group, calling someone “autistic” detracts from their humanity and dignity as a person.

Identity-first language accepts how autism is an integral part of a person. Celebrating shared strengths and challenges with autism, identity first language accepts autism as a large part of a whole. To this group, calling someone “a person with autism” avoids addressing the depth of how autism impacts an individual- for better or worse.

These labels make me wonder. Does person-first language mean I should call friends who faithfully practice their religion “persons with Judaism” instead of “Jewish?” Do people confuse “persons with autism” with “cats with autism?” Will identity-first language grow to include a statement list like, “I’m 1) autistic, 2) near-sighted, and 3) ambidextrous?” Don’t all of these adjectives accurately describe how a person sees their world differently and uniquely, in whatever order of choice, that may not be readily obvious? Does using identity-first language offer an immediate apology for possible future misunderstandings?

In my mind, either choice of how I label autism will offend some group. Likely, they’ll ignore what we’re trying to accomplish – our goal of giving kids heroes like themselves. We interchange how we use language in the comic book and on the internet. Autism empowerment cannot hinge only on approval of inflexible language.

Diagnosed with autism, how do I identify myself? “Dave” works when “awesome” seems too arrogant. :)

How do you use language to explain autism, and why?

Controversy and Acceptance in the Autism Community

Bridging the Autism CommunityWith the publication of the DSM-5, controversy has been sparked again in the autism community. Rather than maintaining the old distinctions between autism, Asperger syndrome, and other related disorders, a new diagnosis—autism spectrum disorder—has been put in place. What does the change mean? Honestly at this point it’s hard to tell. One of the big issues is whether families with kids who have special needs will continue to get services they need to succeed in school.

The other, more philosophical issue for the autism community to hash out is whether the new diagnosis helps to normalize autism or if it will further stigmatize people with an ASD diagnosis. Will the new diagnostic language encourage making distinctions between those with “just Asperger syndrom” or “high functioning” vs. the rest of people with an ASD diagnosis. To put it another way, are some of my friends “Christians” or “people with Christianity”? Do we need to correct others who self-identify as “autistic” without qualification? Maybe we should exchange insurance paperwork before starting to chat. I’m being a bit sarcastic here, but the question remains: Where does political correctness override individuality?

I’m a comic book writer, so I have an active imagination. My dream is that we in the autism community can come to a point where our language can demonstrate autism acceptance. Of course, in the world of special services and insurance companies, these distinctions are necessary. But in our community, in casual conversation, it seems to create divisions where we should be united. While not everyone experiences autism to the same degree or intensity, we do have common experiences and perceptions. We need to communicate our unity to each other, first of all, and then to neurotypical people.   I want Face Value Comics to be at the forefront of bringing autism acceptance to all our readers.

Listening to the Experience of Girls With Autism

Girls with Autism can be strong role modelsWe’ve been profiling our female characters recently. That’s because we feel it’s important to give voice to the women and girls with autism. Autism is more often associated with males than females. It’s hard to pin down precise statistics, but there are definitely more males diagnosed than females. This leads to a male bias in the diagnostic criteria. Sometimes girls are able to copy neurotypical social interactions so well that they don’t seem to have autism or Asperger syndrome or whatever.

In our stories, we’re really trying to bring the multifaceted experience of autism into focus. Girls with autism experience the disorder differently from boys. In part this probably has to do with different brain chemistry and hormones. In general, females have better imagination and feel the need to interact socially more than males do. Another element is the different social expectations women and girls with autism experience. There is more pressure for females in our culture to interact socially in particular ways. Often girls with autism will learn how to imitate the social interaction they see around them. This can sometimes lead to the development of anxiety and depression issues because of the feeling of pressure.

Our own female characters in Face Value Comics experience autism, physical disability, and anxiety and depression. Although the diagnostics may lag behind the experience of girls with autism, we want to give them heroines to look up to. We’re also hoping that the comic book heroines will inspire girls with autism to use their own voices to describe their experience.

What Does Accepting Autism Mean?

We All Make Choices About Accepting AutismWe’ve talked before about what autism awareness means.  We hope that it leads to people accepting autism.  Of course, we can’t force that one anyone.  But our characters with autism can help bring a fuller picture of what it means to live life with an ASD diagnosis.  Stories can help break down stereotypes and make accepting autism easier.  Even families with an autistic child can struggle with acceptance.  By focusing too much on the limits that can come with an ASD diagnosis, they resign themselves to a life of suffering and pass that attitude on to their child.  It’s better to focus on the strengths of someone with autism.  It’s also better to focus on the commonalities of people with ASD and neurotypical people.

Not long ago the Huffington Post published an open letter called, “To the Woman and Child Who Sat at Table 9”.   The author is a manager at a restaurant.  On an especially busy day, he was asked by some of his customers to speak to a woman whose daughter was being very loud.  As he approached the table, the woman asked him, “Do you know what it’s like to have a child with autism?”  In that moment, the restaurant manager thinks about his love for his own children.  Though they don’t have an ASD diagnosis, he sees his commonality with the mother of the autistic girl.  He is able to move straight from autism awareness to accepting autism because he sees a mother who loves her daughter, just as he loves his children.  Instead of reprimanding them, he chats with them and gives the little girl a high five.  This is accepting autism.  It’s not so much about autism as it is about accepting people with differences.  It’s about seeing people who are “different” from us as fellow human beings.