At its core, facial feature recognition locks into place those puzzling pieces of human emotion via taxonomy. Not even the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) guarantees exact predictions of another’s emotion state, but we can become more proficient in building empathy. Almost all non-verbal behavior is subconscious, without the person automatically deciding to clench fists, spout tears, or jump for joy. Capturing these micro-expressions lets us see the other person as genuinely transparent, without pre-planned guile, rhetoric, or sympathy. Again, we must avoid making broad sweeping judgements before knowing that person’s unique experience with expressions. For example, facial paralysis could negate reading that person’s emotional registry. Find a baseline, a state of relaxed expression, or as if the person was mindlessly folding laundry. Knowing these things may only take a short time with frequent opportunity to see more expressions over a variety of topics.
Okay, so now what do we do with this information, or how do we use it? Reading someone else’s microexpressions of deep-seated emotions should be done with compassion, in seeking to understand how to help (if asked or implied). While reading microexpressions in business may provide a distinct, non-verbal advantage, I consider this use unethical. In face-to-face business interactions, I always inform the other party about my advanced certification in facial feature recognition.
In compassion, I wondered about the recent media storm about U.S. Presidential Candidate, Donald Trump. He allegedly mocked an interviewer with disabilities. Trump defended his non-verbal behavior by likening it to watching the interviewer grovelingly retract any negative statements about him. Okay, I’ll agree with anyone who suggests how U.S. media has some serious bias from whichever network selected. With so much media coverage of Trump in the media, on a variety of topics, we can find a general baseline. We can examine Trump’s reactions to ascertain his emotional guidance for some questions. We can even begin to measure his confidence in his answers. After watching and re-watching Trump’s responses, I have an answer for myself about his truth. Since we should use facial feature recognition in a compassionate attempt to understand in as much to help, I wanted to believe Trump’s response. Again, he defended his behavior as threatening remorse, but not mocking disabilities.
I question why his impression of groveling and sought forgiveness looks like a person with disabilities. How much media bias makes us want to see offensive remarks? Understanding facial feature recognition empowers me to bypass rhetoric from either side by keenly studying multicultural, non-verbal human emotional expressions. Aside from loving compassion and patience from my family, this skill is the most important way for me to understand my world with autism.
This year, I have tried to be a good boy. Our family made some great memories, and the children feverishly write and re-write their Wish Lists with wide eyes. Although I’ve endured some significant health threats, I find myself humbled by the experiences. In 2015, I want to ask you for some very special gifts – gifts for me and for the world.
Will you please bring me solid definitions? Many of our advocacy goals wilt against undefined or misinterpreted words. We fight wars with bullets and words, and inflict more harm with words, especially on social media. Without shared understandings, we risk continued fragmentation in any advocacy path we take.
Gender and racial identity seems as fluid as a rushing river. Too many people cling to words like “man” or “woman” or “marriage” or “race” or “special needs” without an acknowledged definition, or dangerously presuppose their definition reigns supreme. Perception becomes reality. A lot of our words used to describe a human condition take root in medical definitions. Laws try to reinterpret these definitions with little success. Worse, some words pre-date codified laws yet have semi-religious or spiritual connotations which not everyone shares. We lack cohesive, shared goals on topics that divide us because of unclear definitions. Will you please help us acknowledge language barriers within a shared spoken tongue? While we may still disagree about action or outcomes, we may do more good works if we can first recognize glaring deficiencies in our vocabulary.
Will you please bring me more compassion, too? We seem to be running low, as a society. Some groups seek racial or spiritual equality by tearing down non-members. Sometimes they recruit young people into their campaigns of prejudice despite new laws or better understandings of scientific fact. For example, a lot of information exists to discredit a long-standing argument about vaccinations’ link to autism. However, a parent of a newly-diagnosed child with autism needs compassion and support, not scientific pie charts and lectures. Despite any amount of overwhelming evidence, I cannot flaunt data to a parent whose child talked and walked prior to a vaccination; they deserve and need answers to solving their own bereavement of a childhood that may not be as typical as planned. They need solutions to new challenges in communication, in education, in self-care, and maybe many more areas. We need definitions, Santa, but also the compassion to wield those definitions. Children need more compassionate adults who stop behaving like entitled children themselves.
Without sounding greedy, may we also have more leadership who better understands these first two requests? It would be great if such a leader were also autistic, because we lack representation. Our Founding Fathers fought a great war because of such gaps in government; we cannot expect neurotypical leaders to fully understand the economic and social variables influenced by an autistic life. Maybe having equal representation could mean the same moneys get shared. A recent study now suggests that autism impacts 1 in 45 people. Knowing that only 1-in-10 autistic adults is currently gainfully employed should draw more eyes into long term planning.
Instead, we go to Twitter to decry how #BlackLivesMatter using 140 characters or less. Again, because of definitions, even this social movement finds itself mired in confusion and political trappings. Too many people misread the slogan as: “ONLYBlackLivesMatter.” Conversely, nobody would hashtag a phrase like: TooManyBlackLivesHaveBeenLostToNonBlackPoliceBrutalitySoWillSomeonePleasePayAttentionToQuestionableGovernemntalSponsoredGenocideBecauseBlackLivesMatterToo. Although cumbersome, this statement more accurately describes the Black Nationalist movement rooted within #BlackLivesMatter. When an unarmed 6 year old boy with autism was murdered in his car by police, I hoped that #BlackLivesMatter could be an ally. Since the boy was non-Black, I can expect no help from Black Nationalists, according to their own website. Add to the fact that the alleged murderer IS Black, I cannot expect help from #BlackLivesMatter, regardless of their mission against armed and reckless police with personal agendas. When #BlackLivesMatter hashtags claimed recent Parisian terrorism was a white-on-white crime, I recalled Malcolm X’s response to President Kennedy’s assassination. I also remembered a great poem about segregated victimization and abdicated defenses during World War II. When will they come for people with autism, and who will be left to stand with us? Honestly, we should rally as human beings when any threats seems to come for any one of us, regardless of height, weight, pigmentation, or self-realized identity. Somehow, by misappropriating now-ambiguous words like “white” or “woman,” we dehumanize the situation where HUMAN rights are concerned.
Black. White. Autistic. Person with Autism. Boy. Murder. By itself, each word may solicit a call to action. Blend these same words together in any combination, and some people will deny help they could give. Some people will be confused by what we need when we ask for help. Again, Santa, we lack shared definitions and enough compassion to supersede or suspend our mortal-made definitions. This Christmas, will you please bring me better operative definitions and shared compassion? I promise to share!
When a fan visits us at a comic book convention and identify themselves as “high-functioning,” what am I supposed to do with this abusive identity? Should I hold up a picture of Albert Einstein and correct their interpretation of “high-functioning?” Should I point out how, despite my own autism diagnosis, I’ve sold more published books and received more international awards than 90% of the people coming to see me? While harshly accurate, this approach does nothing to build our community, yet perpetually bragging how people should automatically presume more competence than our peers is equally damaging. Again, definitions and lack of compassion to use those words is harming our people, our country, and our shared world. We find ourselves grasping at any words to individualize us, and neglect our own self improvements. We expect words to clearly define who, what, when, where, why, and how we are…but not everyone uses these same definitions. Santa, my health and time spent understanding more about advocacy has sorely impacted our own production of comic books and toys. I need better understanding of socially-divisive words, and more compassion and humility to use words that forge real progress. I apologize in advance if I mis-spoke (mis-typed?) words that elicit anger, contempt, disgust, or fear. I am just a man, and am trying to describe what I want for the holidays- a better world, but forgive my fumbles with ambiguous words.
Thanks, Santa Claus. Please be safe when travelling this year! We’ll set out some cookies and milk for you, as always.
“Who am I? Why Am I here?” – Admiral James Stockdale, 1992 Vice-Presidential Running Mate
This quote seems appropriate for me. For several months, I’ve been noticeably absent from social media. Friends and family have given me space and support. Still, I needed to address some things, and share some of those things with you now, in no particular order:
My father had a stroke and subsequent heart surgery, and he continues to recover.
Due to some health concerns, I’ve been battling lingering effects of at least one concussion sustained in a fall(s).
At a holiday celebration, I had to advocate about autism acceptance because,
A young man rejects his autism diagnosis because he believes himself “too smart” to have autism, and
(Too) many (family) members treated a young lady with autism like Lenny, from the book “Of Mice and Men,” when she wanted to play with new kittens; no kittens were harmed.
I’ve reviewed a LOT of internet chatter and direct inquiries about the comics’ utility, including inquiries about its academic merit and curriculum suggestions.
We’re in a state of growth, including adding new writers, artists, and equipment like a phenomenal printer.
What does all of this mean for you, as fans of the world’s first-featured comic book hero with autism? Stay tuned, because I will begin to break-down how these events have galvanized my resolve. I promise to be honest with you even if I don’t know what direction to take.
Follow me. Walking arm-in-arm for advocacy suggests a patient pace, right?
Most online autism advocacy resources provide basic information about autism and/or links to connect with social service providers.
My blog post identifies the most important resource for your loved one (or yourself) with autism:
Nobody else can easily adopt your role with the never-ending compassion, hope, and love you hold. No artificially-inserted, government-appointed care provider will be as invested as you. We must better address the needs of front-line defenders to ensure the longevity of autism (self) advocacy. Today, I cannot tell you the BEST autism resource link. I offer no cures for autism. I will only tell you what works best for my family and me: self-care.
Do you feel safe? How can we expect great strides in advocacy or development without this basic human survival need in place?
Do you feel wanted, welcomed, or loved by somebody? How can we expect good outcomes without love guiding our decisions?
Do you feel successful? How can we expect to move forward if we feel trapped or overwhelmed?
We cannot be effective autism (self) advocates without sharpening our SaWS: SAfe, Wanted, Successful. These three feelings will unconsciously direct our advocacy efforts.
Here are some culturally-biased examples:
I doubt any American would have written about lion poaching on September 12, 2001. Americans needed to feel safe before advocating for anything else.
I doubt many writers would have written about school-based inclusion during World War II. We needed to feel welcomed and valued before advocating for anything else.
I doubt any American would write about college tuition or lending reform challenges before their teenage child with autism learns to read. We need to recognize and appreciate successes in any form in order to build future successes.
Let’s be better autism advocates by sharpening our SaWS.
Let’s agree to be kind to each other. We can create a positive social change by leading with solid examples. Please consider these ideas for use whenever you feel ready. Some examples have stages of accomplishment to match a busier schedule.
CALL TO ACTION:
This weekend, check and/or replace the batteries in your home smoker detector. Charge or re-charge a household fire extinguisher. Inventory your baking soda or flour for accidental grease fires. Draw a map of our home with realistic exits and meeting places for an emergency. Identify any potential barriers that sensory-processing challenges may present to an alarm, new sights, new smells, etc. Consider contacting your local fire fighting teams and introducing your family and addressing their special needs. Practice a family fire drill with escape times under ten minutes, then five minutes, then as fast as you can safely escape and meet together.
These collective steps help build a safe environment. These activities help us show our love and value of other people in our family and community. These suggestions, at whatever piece you can complete, build real successes about our future hopes and plans. These ideas help us
Be Effective Advocates with Social Temperance: Be a BEAST!
ARE YOU FOLLOWING US?
This week, members of our non-profit organization met with the collective body of Police Chiefs in York County, PA. With our friend Trish IIeraci from Providing Relief for Autistic Youth, we offered our local policing authorities additional training about autism (and facial feature recognition). We want our community to appreciate, not fear, its autism residents. Can you name any other comic book team who met and helped advise county police chiefs about autism?
Being an effective autism (self) advocate means we hope for positive change. With streaming videos and other social media links, a deluge of often negative information floods our minds. In our online community, we also balance things like:
Our boss’ impossible deadline and another night of overtime work at the office;
Providing a nutritious dinner despite a new aversion to cooked vegetables or the color yellow;
Helping an educator understand how “inclusion” means more than sharing the same cafeteria; and
Seasonal allergies or Uncle Robert’s sudden appendectomy.
In this series of weekly blog posts, I want to teach you things I’ve learned – and continue to learn – along my journey with autism. I’m going to show you how to survive and thrive as an advocate. Following my easy progressive steps, you will become a BEAST!
Be an Effective Advocate with Social Temperance
A computer performs massive calculations, but we wouldn’t call a computer an accountant. Likewise, “being” something requires a mindset and more than just actions.
Loaded on alcohol or anger, we could make ourselves loudly heard. Would this be an effective way to share our messages?
We live among other people with very diverse backgrounds. Even with an autism diagnosis, one person’s autism may manifest differently than another similarly-diagnosed person. We must consider many social perspectives, including (and especially) ideas different than our own experiences.
Show compassion and mindfulness to our neighbors. Most of the problems surrounding autism advocacy are ones of ignorance, not intentional malfeasance. We must temper our actions and responses with intelligence and peace to accomplish more good works.
Before we begin BEAST training, please mindfully rest if you find yourself feeling like “T.H.I.S.:”
These multicultural, nonverbal biological needs demand our attention. First and foremost, effective autism advocacy must help ensure safety. We wouldn’t try to balance our checkbook while vomiting, or mow the lawn at 3:00 AM to cure insomnia. Likewise, we cannot be effective BEASTs without respecting our own mental and physical health needs.
When we feel like “T.H.I.S.,” we enter potentially-trying situations under compromise. Feeling like T.H.I.S., we cannot be compassionate nor receptive to other points of view while our eyes droop or our stomach growls. Take care of these needs, and return to the fight for dignity, respect, and rights on Thursday, for Part Two of BEAST training…
Finally, I know (and partially expect) some readers will creatively rearrange the THIS acronym into something much more memorable about feeling emotionally, mentally, and physically fatigued. Enjoy freedom of speech yet remember a shared audience of younger BEASTs, too.
I addressed my father’s recent heart attack and surgery and my terribly-timed laptop crash. Now, I rededicate myself to autism education, autism employment, autism housing, autism service transitioning…
I will be an autism BEAST!
ARE YOU FOLLOWING US?
If there is another comic book that was positively reviewed in a medical journal for its educational and therapeutic merit, please let us know! Face Value Comics appears in the the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders medical journal earlier this year.
Last month, the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) held its annual draft selection. This event had nothing to do about autism advocacy.
The Philadelphia 76ers made the third overall lottery selection. This event had nothing to do about autism awareness.
When 76ers General Manager Sam Hinkie chose Duke Freshman Jahlil Okafor, fans booed. This event has a LOT to do about autism acceptance.
To the best of my knowledge, Jahlil Okafor is NOT autistic, nor has any publicized ties to autism. He doesn’t need these connections to understand his uphill battle for acceptance in Philadelphia. Everything he does for the 76ers will be magnified unfairly under a high-powered microscope. Fans do not presume competence in Jahlil Okafor while most of society presumes no faith in autistic individuals.
Despite leading a collegiate championship team at Duke University under Hall-of-Fame Coach Mike Krzyzewski, fans won’t accept ANOTHER tall (6’10”) player to their roster. Forgive me, but aren’t tall people usually welcomed to play basketball? Didn’t the 76ers win the 1983 NBA Championship with their twin towers of Julius Erving (6’7”) and Moses Malone (6’10”)? Wasn’t Okafor a powerful offensive weapon, capable of scoring 20+ points and/or rebounds in a game; aren’t these skills that translate well into a professional sport like basketball?
Instead of asking questions about how the Philadelphia 76ers will use Okafor’s talents, fans automatically feel disparaged by the team management. For years, owners encouraged outright failure in order to secure top lottery picks to unearth new talent. Now, they have some of this coveted ability with duplication and opportunity. Yet, nobody trusts ‘em, and that distrust becomes disproportionately shelled at a ninteen year-old rookie.
Okafor will earn and likely spend millions of dollars by the end of the year, paid to him by a team that distrusts him before donning a uniform. Among all of my personal friends with autism, we won’t likely crest above the average poverty level with all of of incomes combined. A disliked Okafor will have a palatial residence, while many individuals with autism peacefully and quietly exist on the fortunes of their families and friends for as long as humanly possible; only one-in-ten autistic adults find meaningful work. Fans cannot presume competence in Jahlil Okafor or the Philadelphia 76ers, so neither starts with success in mind. Similarly, our struggles for acceptance hinge on society presuming more competence. In the (near) future, Okafor could request a trade to a team who wants his talents. He could sign as a free-agent and earn MORE money or a chance to contend for a title. For autistic individuals, where do we go when society really doesn’t want us? How receptive to being integrated should we be, when we fear electrocution-as-therapy, earn less than minimum wage dollars for unimportant work, and face disproportionate unemployment statistics? Why does society tolerate negative media campaigns about how autism destroys jobs, marriages, and families? Why do scientists seek a genetic “cure” for autism without telling us what will remain after their so-called “cure?” Why do people desperately reach for bleach as a drinkable cure for autism unless they gravely fear the myths about autism?
The problem facing Jahlil Okafor is the same problem facing autism acceptance: lack of presumed competence. Nobody has faith in the team managers’ abilities to use talent. Nobody has faith in Okafor’s own perseverance or maturity into a powerful basketball presence. Nobody has faith in at least three tall men being able to win basketball games.
In autism advocacy, too many professionals presume no competence in autistic individuals: we cannot use the telephone to call home from school during a difficult day; we cannot carry a volunteer position without constant supervision from support staff who seemingly know less about autism than we do; etc. Like Jahlil Okafor, many people with autism have exceptional talents and are presumed incompetent or a poor fit for their business. This mismatch has nothing to do with individual abilities, but is an artificial organizational barrier created by misinformation and misunderstanding.
Like many with autism, Jahlil Okafor must fight for acceptance. He must prove doubters wrong, and thrive in a place that doesn’t seem to really want him. There is almost nothing short of an NBA Championship to quell doubt. For individuals with autism, there exists no easily-substituted Holy Grail to grasp. We walk around with invisible disabilities, but when we do something close to good or “normal,” we get pitiful praise. An alarming percentage of our fans treat me like a show-dog at comic book signings. Some feel happy that the poor autistic man wrote a big book, yes he did. Who’s a good boy? You are, Dave, you are a good boy. Some fans introduce themselves as “high-functioning,” in an odd way to build familiarity. Instead, attempts to align with “normal” by using “high-functioning” automatically throws “low-functioning” individuals under a bus. Am I supposed to like you MORE because you appear more “normal?” Will you wear a t-shirt boasting your IQ to avoid further comparisons to “low-functioning” individuals with autism? How do our peers in other minority communities respond- do people talk about their cancer diagnosis by disparaging another form of cancer? Obviously, we can celebrate fluidity in gender and marriage, but cannot accept racial self-identification any better than we can accept identity-first language without harsh criticism. In the absence of real-world awareness, acceptance, and compassion, I invented a fictional world within our comic books to show at least one positive alternative.
Jahlil Okafor won’t find acceptance in Philadelphia for a long time, until his business world dismisses what they think he CAN’T do and focus more on what he does well. Individuals with autism won’t find social acceptance until we find more patience and tolerance to develop our skills in contributable ways. Okafor will win ANOTHER championshp, this time in the NBA, before my friends or I find traditionally-meaningful work, where our abilities and talents are celebrated naturally within a well-suited organization without forced-fabricated “acceptance.” Go ahead and tell me I’m wrong, but unless you’re offering me a suitable “normal” job, then I reaffirm my claims and will rabidly root for Jahlil Okafor and the Philadelphia 76ers in the meanwhile.
In society, we can cure some diseases and offer substantial treatments for other ailments. When we discuss autism advocacy, our conversation magically shifts. A problem arises that few notice; autism is a neurological (brain) condition. Medicines have not effectively re-wired an autistic brain. Therapies treat other symptomologies without resolving autism itself. Too often, we treat autism as a socially-driven variable and ignore its biological roots.
In college, a friend was born blind. No pills would restore her sight. Therapy failed, too. Assisted technologies helped, though never really replaced fully-functioning vision. However, medical treatments and therapies helped in other ways. Since she found difficulties making friends or other social commitments, she battled constant depression. Prescription medications and therapists helped her understand her feelings, and subsequently overcome some fears. Her professional team addressed presenting symptoms, but not her blindness. Due diligence suggests how her team consulted my friend’s medical history to rule-out possibilities of curing her blindness and optic nerve damage. In a visually-driven marketplace, I can sympathize with wanting a cure for blindness.
Finding a “cure” for autism can be seen as morally and scientifically derelict. We wouldn’t give a person a pill to cure their life-long deafness, or suggest they drink bleach. Likewise, we certainly not condone electro-convulsive shock treatments against prisoners of war – even prisoners with valuable military information. Society would riot if we advocate these practices because they are inhumane.
…for anything but autism. Drinking bleach is now advertised as a “cure” for autism, among many other ailments. Everything Mr. Yuck taught me suggest bleach is deadly if consumed, right? The Judge Rotenberg Center promotes the use of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) – which is fine – AND skin shock aversive treatments. Oddly, peer-reviewed literature suggests a fault of ABA lies in its inability to motivate students over time. In other words, kids get bored with some rewards, and need new prompts to comply with rote questions and answers. Society wouldn’t ethically apply shock collars to a young puppy, but go ahead and slap an electrical shock device to a student with autism because…well…what I am I supposed to think? I guess my take-away is that practitioners and proponents of the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) must value autistic students with less regard and more contempt than dogs. No, I’m sorry that I can’t accept any amount of voltage running through another human being as a way to “cure” them or help acclimate them to social expectations.
One of the largest non-profit autism advocacy businesses worldwide recently held ANOTHER conference at the Judge Rotenberg Center. At no time did they use their dollars or influence to stop human tragedies at the JRC. To me, this is not positive autism advocacy. Trying to “cure” autism is the exact opposite of acceptance. Some researchers believe Albert Einstein, Amadeus Mozart, and Thomas Jefferson displayed enough historical traits as to warrant an autism label. Where would our world be without different-thinking people, with or without autism.
Some people may absolutely hate this blog post. Instead of alternatives, a sweeping removal of autism from the planet is in order in too many people’s minds. I make this offer to people who want a cure:
I’ll listen to your claims of an autism cure from authoritative scientists.
You listen to music I like. When the thrashing European metal chords and guttural lyrics make you cringe, I’ll dub your intolerance of something I find quite normal – sometimes soothing – as YOUR faulty brain condition. To help you overcome your aversion to my music tastes, let’s agree to use bleach and electrocution until you do like it, while I remind you how damaged and wrong you are for liking any other music. Please know that I do this work in kindness and love – I just want YOU to be more like ME, and that includes having a life filled with music…regardless of what happens to your brain or personality in the process. I offer no guarantees about what doing what I say will actually help you appreciate diversity in music, or what may happen to the portion of your brain that translates music and auditory messages.
Is it a deal?
…or, we could treat autism symptoms, but distinguish between other factors. For example, a lot of people contract poison ivy rashes, and statistically-speaking, at least one of those people is also autistic. It seems unfair to take the person to the doctor and exclaim- “He’s autistic. Cure him of his autism and the rash won’t be a problem.” I remember a time when accommodations ruled. Instead of blaming autism for a child’s inability to wear a cotton t-shirt, perhaps consider buying them a NON-cotton t-shirt. Stop pretending that capitalism meet your demands for diversity but let markets dictate how valuable autism advocacy is. If people stopped buying cotton shirts, someone will take notice and the marketplace will fill the gap. Be poised to know who and what sparks these changes. For me, I have a threatening kidney disease- should I blame autism for it, too? If my autism were somehow magically “cured,” would my kidney disease be easier to manage? Also, my kidney disease is more likely to shorten my life experiences than autism. If you want to talk to me about finding a cure, please talk to my nephrologist before my autism therapist, okay?
We recently entered a contest sponsored by Wells Fargo. With great thanks to a team of dedicated writing volunteers, we entered this submission for professional business mentorship and a $25,000 award. How will we use these resources?
Image a fantastic story – a radioactive spider bites a likeable student. This student discovers new superhuman powers, like a spider. He fights criminals after dating and studying. Marvel Comics’ “Spider-man” already matches this basic description. Now, what if the same radioactive spider bite also gives the hero cancer? Why couldn’t writers use clinical and compassionate experiences to describe a young person’s journey with cancer treatment? How valuable could this resource be for a young generation – with or without cancer – to understand cancer?
Our small business believes kids need heroes like themselves. Our founder (and comic book script writer) saw a gap in the marketplace. He took his experiences as a doctoral student researching autism and empathy connections, his work as a clinical therapist, and his own personal experiences as an adult diagnosed with autism to create a comic book. Face Value Comics is the world’s first comic book to feature a hero with autism!
Our comic books use a lot of scientific theories vetted by peer-reviewed literature. Using the Facial Action Coding System (FACS), we freeze multicultural and non-verbal emotional expressions on a static page. Readers build predictive empathy, and begin to see how or why a character may feel some emotions. This strategy helps erase a damaging myth about persons with autism: we DO have empathy, but may need more clarifications on how to respond. In the comic book, we have a lot of aliens and robots, but we also offer family-friendly role models. Each character has a fictional, yet robust, psychological profile, including descriptions of autism, anxiety, depression, etc. When confronted by a challenge, characters respond predictably because we compassionately use their clinical diagnoses for added legitimacy. Kids need heroes like themselves. These successes, as well as great international press coverage of our comic books, helps meet a part of our mission statement: helping persons with autism feel safe, feel valued and wanted, and feel and successful.
Autism advocacy requires awareness and acceptance. Our comic books earned several international awards and nominations within the past year. We’ve been on the nation’s largest television news network, with over 10 million viewers. Without paid search-engine optimization, we still rank highly in social media because we held over fifty interviews last year. This fall, we present to the United States Congressional Autism Caucus about replicating our educational reform initiatives with the Dover Area School District. People are becoming aware of autism…without fear or prejudice.
Acceptance is a larger hurdle for advocacy. However, our comic book sit on the same shelves as Batman and Spider-man. Last year, we became a best-selling, independently-published comic book through Diamond Comic Distributors. Making our comics available to more people remains our largest business challenge, and this is because of purchase power. Our small business cannot easily afford to buy in bulk, thereby reducing paper and printing costs.
Wells Fargo’s award would reduce print costs. Additionally, we welcome professional mentorship about business practices; our team consists on less than ten individuals. Regardless of the financial award, we ask Wells Fargo to consider helping us with a new marketing strategy: imagine how having a three-dimensional printer could help us. By raising the same facial expressions our artists typically create, and adding Braille, we could open comic books to the low-or-no vision community and for persons with autism with an added sensory experience.
Will you help us do more with what we have, and add your investments of time and talent and even a portion of the announced $25,000 award? Kids need heroes like themselves. Thank you for your consideration!
Recently, I discovered a new feature available from our digital publishers: Pay What You Want. This allows someone to download a copy for FREE, with an option to donate. Donations of any size will be used for future print and distribution costs.
If you like our Family-Friendly Code of Ethics, please help promote something positive about autism, for kids’ sake. Buy a copy and write a review. Share this message with someone who might like it or find it helpful along their journey with autism. Kids need heroes like themselves.
Autism advocacy requires awareness and acceptance. We’ve already reached millions of international fans with our comics, thanks to media attention. Our comic book aired on national television news stations, and a local journalist won an Emmy for his work. We been nominated and won several (international) awards. We’ve helped influence progressive thinking about special education by using facial feature recognition, with a surplus incentive without taxpayer contributions. On Monday (June 29th), I travel with our team to speak with the co-founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional Autism Caucus by invitation to discuss health care options Members of the Autism Community.
Autism at Face Value and I have already made history with our copyrighted comic book. Now, I want to pay it forward. Please follow this highlighted link, and register for your free account. Then, Pay What You Want to our non-profit autism advocacy business- Autism at Face Value. Donations of any size will be used for future print and distribution costs.
Here’s a free coloring page featuring the cast of characters from ZEPHYR-KITTY!
FINAL NOTE: Due to social media marketing algorithms, this message will not likely reach 50% of our audience, unless you share this post and its positive message.
Recently, two friends returned from a beautiful island vacation. They gave me a special and certainly unique gift. They hoped to cheer me up after battling a feverish kidney infection. Please let me tell you how three smooth stones completely changed me life…
My friends knew two things about me that helped them find a perfect gift. First, I like rocks and waterfalls. They thought that ocean-washed stones seemed like a close substitute. Secondly, I like knowing planned routines and schedules. Even if I miss an opportunity, knowing the next sequence of events helps me recover and re-plan. My friends explained to me how special these stones are: they keep away tigers!
Although doubting the dramatic claims about tigers, I happily accepted these pretty stones. I researched information about these stones, the island, and tigers…but found no data to support fantastic claims. Interestingly, no islander has ever been attacked by a tiger, though. Absent-mindedly, I just slipped these stones into my pocket where they remained until laundry-day.
My day progressed as expected, until I went to collect the mail. Is the short walk to the mailbox a window by which a tiger may pounce? Surely, taking these magical stones with me couldn’t hurt, right?
Thankfully, no tigers attacked me while getting the mail. No tigers appeared at the grocery store, either. I would make sure no tigers would be around my wife and I when we went to dinner with our vacation-returned friends.
We enjoyed lovely meals and talk. At one point, our friends shared news about their youngest son. He was recently diagnosed with autism. Surprisingly, both blamed a recent vaccination for the autism diagnosis! We did not discuss educational or therapeutic supports because the conversation hovered over vaccinations’ alleged links to autism. Before his vaccinations, the boy’s doctors and parents believed him to be developing typically. Nothing we could say could detract from their notion that vaccines caused autism.
Stuck on an uncomfortable topic, our friends suggested we talk about vacations and how well I liked their gift! I placed the three smooth stones on the table. “You don’t see any tigers, do you,” I asked with a knowing smile.
“You don’t really believe these stones have special powers, do you,” they questioned. I shared undeniable data with them- no tigers attacked me while I carried the stones. My friend is an accomplished attorney, and decided to use logic against my beliefs.
On a napkin, he penned this chart and asked me to complete it:
SUPPORTS MY CLAIM?
CHALLENGES MY CLAIM?
Are there any peer-reviewed journal articles about stones and tiger-prevention?
One article made suggestive links, but was retracted due to procedural errors, lack of replication by other scientists, and ethical motivation behind the written article.
No articles found refuting the link between these stones and tigers, but it’s a small sample size. More research is needed to find the link, instead of spent on tiger training and similar “coping” skills.
Were the island sellers motivated to make these claims about stones and tiger-prevention?
Islanders affirm their claims, and no stone-islanders were ever attacked by tigers.
Stone-islanders income from selling souvenirs accounts for 75% of their collected income.
Did I experience tiger attacks before I had the stones?
No, but tiger attacks account for 85 human deaths each year; I won’t be one of them!
Humans account for 1% tiger-related deaths, but little data exists about tiger attacks from impoverished tiger-filled places.
Do I feel my life been better since having the stones?
Yes, I have less anxiety about tiger attacks, and have a resource that shows how my own faults won’t cause a tiger attack.
If I am wrong, then I will always live in fear about what more I could do to prevent tiger attacks. I have too many other factors to consider about tiger attacks, so it’s just easier to believe something without needing more work beyond personal experiences.
How often do I think about tiger-related attacks?
I don’t have to spend my time on this worrisome topic, since I have THE answer to stopping the problem.
If my claim is overturned, I am left with more anxieties about tigers. Next, what else might ambush me? Will it be my fault, too?
My friends said that I seemed “obsessed” about their simple gift. They said greedy islanders tell grand stories just to make a sale of cheap souvenirs. They pointed to a lack of scientific research on the tiger-prevention topic; I countered by saying it’s a small sample size, and that I never encountered a tiger nor peer-reviewed literature against my claims. I also proposed my belief that somehow, in some way, our governments must be engaged in suppression campaigns about the truth. Of course- it’s cheaper to buy tiger-prevention stones than pay for medical bills related to maulings, so big business and medicine must plays parts, too.
My wife diplomatically interrupted. While she agreed that no scientific claims support my beliefs, she cannot deny my experiences. She added that if my friends ruined the “magic” of the smooth stones, I would be left with less hope. Was that the insidious purpose behind their gift?
My world needs predictability. These stones do more than prevent tiger attacks- they give me peace of mind. If a tiger inexplicably attacked me, at least it wouldn’t be my fault, because I carry these three smooth stones. Consequently, I don’t accept any personal responsibility for preventing tiger attacks. In some way, I have THE answer to preventing tiger attacks. Imagine if we mass-produced these stones- how many tiger-related deaths could we prevent each year?!? Nobody believes my ideas unless I provide research showing a statistically-significant link that I already know exists. Don’t ask me how or why these three smooth stones work- they just do!
…and you have no right to challenge my claims!
You have no right to challenge my personal experiences or those of the tiger-free islanders. What does it matter if I lack empirical evidence- I’ve already suggested government + big business + medical community conspiracies. My wife lends her observed experiences that match mine. Can you name any other links between the stones and a lack of tiger attacks? If you don’t have professionally-researched articles to counterbalance my arguments, please just accept my own claims. Right now, you can offer me no greater solace than I have from believing three smooth stones prevent tiger attacks. How cruel must you be, to demand more scientific facts or challenge personal experiences? Isn’t living with the threat of tiger-attacks enough stress for me to carry?
Back at the dinner table, we found ourselves at another uncomfortable impasse. I asked my attorney-friend if they planned to sue the hospital or vaccine manufacturer for causing their son’s autism. America remains an actively litigious society – we aren’t too far removed from million-dollar lawsuits over spilled hot coffee. Anti-vaccination stances might support a class-action lawsuit against the purveyors of autism-inducing vaccines. Frequently, televised commercials offer to take legal action against other medical procedures gone awry, so why not autism?
My friends suggested how I mistakenly applied spurious relationships between the three smooth stones and a lack of tiger attacks. Spurious relationships are mathematical constructs to determine causality. Too many other variables could factor into my stones’ alleged power to rebuke tigers. Why fix something that’s not broken?
Next, I asked my friends to consider the same table when assigning blame to vaccines for causing autism. Quickly, I sketched my own chart by following similar example:
SUPPORTS VACCINE LINK?
CHALLENGES VACCINE LINK?
Are there any peer-reviewed journal articles about vaccines linked to causing autism?
Were any claimants motivated to make any links about autism and vaccine links? What does the rest of the professional community think about any claims AND claimants?
Did your son experience any autism traits before having the vaccine?
Is your life better by having a child…with autism?
(Person-first language encourages me to use emphasize the CHILD/person above the diagnosis.)
How often do I think autism and vaccines, or personal responsibilities as a loving caregiver for a loved one …with autism?
They politely folded the napkin and placed it in a pocket. Next, we enjoyed a light dessert with our friends, and concluded the evening happily.
…without tigers and without blame.
If you must reply to this conversation, let’s agree to keep tiger-preventions or tiger-cures as the main topics. Autism diagnoses account for 1.4% of the population. Tiger attacks KILL 1% of its respected population. Autism doesn’t kill people, but tiger attacks do. Let’s focus more attention on finding a cure to tiger related attacks and deaths.
First, you’ll need to find yourself some big stones…
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