Autism Awareness? Acceptance? Need Your Help!

Within the autism community, we continually seek more awareness about autism. We hope that with enough awareness, we can forge meaningful relationships based on acceptance. A third prong on the autism advocacy trident is often associated with both or either point: complaining. Understandably, we have no representation within democratic government, we have watered-down educational standards in public education, and our general public remains afraid and ignorant of autism. At a comic book convention, one fan bravely asked if he could contract autism by shaking my hand. Surely, we have lots of work to do to promote autism awareness and acceptance.

What if you could contribute to raising MORE autism awareness? Would you? What if the financial price for the support cost you no additional money (unless you felt philanthropic)? What if the associated time cost you less than an hour?

What if you could contribute to raising MORE autism acceptance? Would you? What if you could raise BOTH autism awareness AND acceptance by doing ONE action? “Wait, Dave-” you cry out; “I’m stuck at home after a blizzard!” If you can read this blog post online, you can also contribute to positive autism advocacy from the safety and warmth of your own home. Will you?

Here’s how you can help: “buy” a comic book. Specifically, buy the world’s first featured comic book hero with autism, written by an autistic adult. Profits from the comic book help pay for future printings of the comic book. However, I personally believe that our comic book can bring a lot of value. Therefore, I do not want an MSRP to be a barrier for some families in financial need. So, last year, I set the digital copy of Issue #1 as a “Pay What You Want” price. Most people donate $2.00 USD for 36 pages of content without advertising (comparable to a mass-produced, 24-page comic book, with 25%+ advertisements, at a similar price evaluation), but you can choose whatever amount you like. You can ever donate AFTER your digital download of Issue #1, here:

http://www.drivethrucomics.com/product/124765/Face-Value-Comics?src=slider_view

For over two years, we stand atop the Top Ten “Hottest Comics” without a staff review. Trust me- I’ve asked for a professional review from the world’s oldest digital comic book store. Will YOU review the comic book? Will you have anything positive to say about the comic book?

It’s a far cry to proclaim how being a top-selling comic book promotes autism advocacy.

To that accusation, I’ll ask you if any other comic book and its creator were featured on the nation’s largest news network. Yes, Disney/Marvel Comics debuted an African-American as Captain America, and a female lead-character named Thor. How is their diversity campaign going? Do you think we will see Steve Rogers don his iconic shield for the next Avengers movie, or will it be Sam Wilson? What about Thor- will SHE be on the big screen anytime soon? These stories made headlines, but were driven by one of the largest businesses in the world. By comparison, I am just a guy.

Maybe you missed out on our inclusion in an accredited medical journal? Spiderman and Superman have NEVER been referenced in a medical journal of any academic merit. Ours is the first comic book to be reviewed by professionals for a medical journal. Last year, we were also inducted into the National Museum of Disability History for our comic books. Some people may do well to take seriously something as simple as a comic book.

Maybe you don’t understand the science behind the comic book, with all fantasy situations aside. Instead, I refer to facial feature recognition. “Wait a minute, that idea of emotional self-regulation seems familiar.” It should- Golden Globe Award Winning “Inside Out” showcased emotional recognition based on the E-X-A-C-T same science we use. My role model- Dr. Paul Ekman- developed facial feature recognition as a non-verbal, multicultural taxonomy to learn more about how others may feel. He consulted on “Inside Out.” Disney/Marvel could not easily market a comic book about facial feature recognition so soon after our lauded attention, so they made a movie. Our main character’s last name is “Eckman.” Some of the top comic book business people follow our blog and social media. Also, several prominent self-advocates follow us. While I’m a fan of the X-Files’ conspiracy theories, I suggest how none of these ideas are a mere coincidence. We’ve tapped into a different, non-traditional way to reach children with autism and those who care for them…and important people take notice. Do you?

Question: Do you remember all of the people who changed their Facebook profiles in support of __________ (fill in the blank)? Do they still support __________ (fill in the blank)? Let’s face it- support can be a long and tiring struggle. I’m not asking you to wade through the trenches with me; I’m asking you to be a part of social capitalism. With more sales – even at $0.00 – we send a message to the marketplace that something GOOD about autism is worth our money and time. Medical doctors already understand the educational and therapeutic value our comic books can provide. Educators meet with us this spring to formalize special resources for better emotional (self) regulation, without raising taxes. Kids and their loved ones helped propel us to one of the most successful, independently published comic book in history.

…or will it be easier for you to sip coffee from your mug emblazoned with a puzzle piece? Support autism advocacy by downloading Issue #1, here:

http://www.drivethrucomics.com/product/124765/Face-Value-Comics?src=slider_view

 

Literally FLOORED!

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Last week, staff and students at a local autism school sent me almost two dozen ‘Get Well’ homemade cards and letters! When I opened the box, I was floored- literally!

Obviously, my ongoing health concerns have caused delays in publishing our comic books. Rest assured that I am getting quality treatment, and hope to be myself again soon. When I am capable, I will be visiting this school and students. I want kids to celebrate my latest international award (Children’s Literature, Canada) WITH me, and take some ownership in the experience. I never sought to become a writing role-model to anyone, but seems like I cannot avoid this heavy responsibility.

Please be patient with me, and with yourselves.

 

Solving State Budget Crisis with 4th Grade Math (by an adult with autism)

 

[WARNING This post may incite Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder over remembered experiences with mathematical word problems or school experiences the same.]

A train leave Chicago at 4:15pm, travelling 120 mph.

Another train leaves New York at 5:25pm, travelling 90 mph.

At what time will Pennsylvanian legislators resolve their political rhetoric to decidedly vote on a balanced budget, as promised?

We already have an untapped revenue stream that would certainly add immediate funds to our resource pool. Instead of cutting special needs education or laying-off social service agency workers, we can exercise better safety while building a sizable revenue like never in history.

We do this by adding a small usage fee to known, speedy racers on state turnpike roads.

It’s simple math we learned in fourth grade, folks.

The distance between Place A and Place B is 60 miles along the turnpike.

The posted speed limit within this distance is 65 mph. With some advanced mathematics, we can determine how acceleration, deceleration, weather, etc. means a typical average speed of 60 mph.

If, driving an average of 60 mph over 60 miles’ distance means we could arrive at our destination within one hour. Is everyone still with me?

Sure, I may stop and use a public washroom, or eat fast food, or take-in a local attraction. All of these variables only ADD to our overall travel time. This means that my estimated, expected one hour drive will take longer by as much as I want. There is no need to worry about these drivers. In fact, they contribute to the local economies with their patronage.

I want to address the willing speeders. I want a safer road and travel.

I want a small ‘pay-to-play’ fine immediately assessed on turnpike/state-paid toll roads. The system partially exists. When we enter the turnpike, we get a date-and-time stamped ticket. We present this ticket to the toll booth operator upon exit, and pay the cost of travel from known Point A to Point B. Alternatively, we can use an electronic debit system that assesses the toll tied to our bank.

We also know an average, safe rate of speed for that trip. Again, if I pull-off road for an overnight stay at a commercial hotel, so be it. My time spent on road is more difficult to calculate. We won’t bother about these variables, and instead focus on the known speeders.

If a driver speeds in excess of the known variables, and exits Point B a few minutes sooner than expected, we begin to see my strategy unfold. Again, if someone was expected to be driving just 5 mph (or less) faster, so be it. What if they drove the distance in HALF of the anticipated time?

We assess a fine, to be paid immediately via deductions from electronic debit systems like E-Z Pass, or ask toll booth workers to assess the penalty. For drivers who may be short on cash, we extend sympathy and an envelope in which they may place their fines within a certain time frame. Failure to pay these assessed fines could be easily bypassed, but I wish good luck to such skipping drivers the next time they exit a toll road.

Fines do not be to be large sums of money. Maybe assigning a value of a mere dollar for speeds 5-9 mph over expected arrival times will suffice. I doubt most people would notice a dollar ‘fine’ or ‘tax’ for their speedier driving. For larger speed differentials, we assess larger fines or taxes.

Pennsylvania has more paved roads within its borders than all of New York and New England combined. Surely, we have speeders who may willingly pay pocket change for the freedom to travel just a little faster than expected. We exercise the same serious tone with speeders as they who brazenly and willingly think they can justify speeding on public roads with lots and lots and lots of potholes.

How much money could this enterprise bring? This formula can be done with your own state.

Calculate mileage of toll roads. Determine distances between entry and exits. Predict various speeds, like entry acceleration or exit deceleration. Include factors like weather, if needed. Assign thresholds of speed accountability (i.e.: Is 5mph over limit too generous? Is 10mph over limit too generous?), and fees for those speed rates (i.e. Is $1 too much or too little? What dollar amount would you assess a speeder who drove 120% of the speed limit?). Direct accountability in billing or fee assessment. Build computation infrastructure to do repetitive fourth-grade math. Promote. Market. Advertise. Implement. Sit back and get paid by speedy drivers at a proportional rate to non-paid speeding tickets, but whose fees could be deducted automatically via electronic debit systems already in use. Enjoy safer, less speedy drivers on toll roads. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Of course, the cost of educating people, building collection systems, and other factors may exists that I do not yet realize. This isn’t a perfect system. However, it uses something largely in place, with a system that many of us expect already (read: You mean there ISN’T an obligatory fine waiting for me when I get clocked for speeding?). It also reduces the number of police force dedicated to solely speeding on toll roads. Police can be better utilized, since the basic math already implicates speedy drivers’ deeds.

What about speedy drivers who realize their lead foot, and just duck into the local rest stop before their exit and cheat the system? Well, we now have an individual frequenting a place of business along a toll road. What are the chances they buy something that may cost as much or more than the anticipated fine? I suspect someone will drive like lightning, hoping to stop and buy a candy bar at Zero-Hour near the exit ramp. However, if you are speeding, I doubt that you will want to ruin your great track record by making a pit stop. You drove fast for a reason, and unless you are driving without a speedometer, you also know just how much faster you are driving over the posted speed limit. You gambled, and until now, you won. You beat the system. You dodged other drivers, including police officers. You broke old land-speed records in your attempt to visit your Great Aunt. Congratulations, speedy drivers, but your time in the Victor’s Circle comes to an end.

How much money could we net as a state or nation if we- shockingly- held people accountable for breaking laws on toll roads? How many people do you think use the PA Turnpike daily? How many of them speed, do you think? Multiple this last number by as little as $1 USD and see how we can prevent political bias in promised budget reformation.

This is my second idea to end the PA budget stalemate in the same day. What have our elected officials offered today? Remember, most people will dismiss this idea just because I am an adult with autism, and therefore automatically presume I have less public value. What do you think? If you like this idea, please share it. Honestly, I don’t even care if I get credit for this work; ‘business as usual’ shouldn’t mean massive layoffs…

…while the politicians still get paid to merely debate with no real offers on the table. I’d like to ask all PA Congress to work without pay from TODAY until they pass a balanced budget; we’d have amendments flying off desks before tomorrow, I expect. Also, no congressional representative can vote for increased salaries for two years, making their lives more typical to our own, with just a modest, meh, 2% cost-of-living increase (maybe).

Maybe you dislike my revenue streams or ideas. I am okay with other opinions voiced respectfully, but I do ask for you to come up with some way(s) to make money for our Commonwealth before you throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Get off Your A$k, Government: Autism Education Reform

Dear Pennsylvanian Congressmen Mike Doyle, Scott Perry, and Seth Grove:

My name is Dave Kot, an autistic constituent living in York, PA. Perhaps you remember me? We met to discuss small business practices, and educational/therapeutic implications behind our internationally-award winning comic book. Now, I offer to help our government during a time of budgetary needs, when special education funding stands at risk.

Maybe I lost your interest with words like “autistic” or “comic book.” Typically, these two things wouldn’t seem complimentary. Certainly, most people would not opt for either adjective as a default prerequisite. Maybe you don’t want my help, and prefer to banter between Governor Tom Wolfe while our state budget – and intended beneficiaries of ear-marked funds – hang in the balance. I ask you to presume greater competence from an adult with autism, and continue reading for a probable solution.

Digital Camera
My apologies for the format of the photograph- I will upload a new picture of the award in the near future, showing its spiffy wood carvings!

This picture shows me holding an international award from Canada, which I received on last week. It recognizes my application of science to assist young readers with autism identify others’ emotions, to improve some social situations. Don’t you find it easier to negotiate with people who smile instead of scorn? Think back- who taught you what anger, or fear, or disgust looked like? Our comic helps readers identify these emotional states by themselves or with help. NBC Nightly News featured this work last year.

However, our non-profit mission goes far beyond comic books. Last year, my scientific application of facial feature recognition was recognized by the academic community. Unsolicited by me, an accredited medical journal (Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities) warmly reviewed the comic for my claims and validated my doctorial studies. To my knowledge, ours is the world’s first comic book to be critically reviewed by unbiased third parties for inclusion in a medical journal.

Do I have your attention, yet? Does it matter that I am also clinically diagnosed with autism (technically, “Asperger’s Syndrome”)? Do years of graduate and post-graduate work matter? Do several international awards and prominent global grass-roots leaders within my circles matter? Does inclusion in a medical journal matter? If none of these things matter to you, I lay my ‘trump’ card (no relation):

Join us. I’ve developed fantastic relationships. This spring, the Dover Area School District Supervisor (Kenneth Cherry) and Supervisor of Special Education (Dave Depew) and our team will meet. We will begin formulating special needs curriculum using the exact same scientific theory about which I wrote. Does this invitation interest you? How about now, Congressmen:

Last spring, the Dover Areas School District School Board unanimously voted to adopt facial feature recognition (read: the science behind our comics) as part of its special needs classroom initiative. Some people may think, “…what does that vote have to do with me?”

Expert analysis by people I consider smarter than myself predict how implementation of facial feature recognition could be used to GAIN about $1,000 to $1,500 PER classroom PER district PER year. Would you like to know how? This answer will require an in-depth presentation of materials, like my wife and I offered the Dover Area School District. Suffice to say, this net increase to special education can occur without adding ONE cent to the typical taxpayer, and insulates itself against future federal or state budget changes or cuts. Over time, analysis suggests how Dover Area School District will be the first school district able to offer graduating students with special needs a tax-free grant for further education or other personal costs. Imagine- just by implementing my well-vetted research, we could offer a high school senior money for college textbooks, or a new suit for job interviews, etc. We also push school choice by offering competitive education.

Would you prefer to affect positive change for students and families with special education needs, or do you prefer the political stalemate and barbs between yourselves and Governor Tom Wolfe? Please make no mistake- I am largely non-political and don’t care who gets credit for this work. We can and should share in good news, regardless of political affiliation. However, things could be done faster with Pennsylvania’s Congress (and the U.S. Congressional Autism Congress?) in tune with this proposed goal, to replicate it wherever it may be useful.

Congressmen, I invite you to witness scientific, economical, and educational change poised to happen under your watch in your respective areas of governance. I thank you for your assistance in my business matters, your praise for my work as an adult with autism, and now offer to pay it forward to help our community and state. Will you accept my invitation and lay down rhetoric for real change? Will you trust a person with autism who offers valid options for change? In closing, I’ll simply invoke the name of Temple Grandin- a fellow academic professional with autism whose autism allowed her to see things differently and whose courage changed an entire way of business. I am not Temple Grandin, but I am Dave Kot. I can help you help Pennsylvanian and United States’ special education programs.

Please continue the discussion via this social media source, or email us at: Angie@FaceValue.US

Thank you for your time and interest, and Happy New Year!

Be well,

Dave Kot

Autism, Tragedy Takes No Holidays

 

By now, you may have learned about the tragic outcome of a nationally-broadcast search. On New Year’s Eve, a five year-old boy with autism went wandering from a family home. At your own comfort, at your own time, read more about the story, here: http://ow.ly/WydPq

I am very sad, and rather inconsolable at the moment. I do not have words to express my sympathy. Instead, I will try to do what I do best: teach.

If I were wealthy, I could throw money at the problem. If I were a politician, I could probably make some radical promises to ensure future safety. Since I am neither of these things, I may have limited options. Fear may guide my decisions. Instead, I will teach.

Tomorrow, I will host a family fire drill in our home. I suppose I could research a lot of different resources and find a spiffy worksheet, but I opt for raw emotion in real time.

FIRE DRILL PREPARATION

  1. Coordinate. With my partner, we will schedule a time for our family fire drill. Together, we will inform our neighbors, as to raise awareness and reduce panic. I’ll also place small traffic cones in our neighborhood, in hopes of reducing speedy passers-by.
  2. Preview the Activity. About an hour before the scheduled event, we will review casual terms of fire safety with the family. These things would include what a smoke detector sounds like, how to escape a hot/smoky room, and where to collectively meet. We will prompt correct answers, and build confidence.
  3. Hold the Family Fire Drill. At the planned time, we set-off the smoke detector, and time our exit.
  4. Review. After the fire drill, we will sit down with hot chocolate (hey, it’s going to be cold tomorrow) and discuss why we did things the way we did. Ask for input from the family. Learn their comfort levels and try to reduce anxiety. Reinforce how proud we are of the kids to manage their own safety. Since these safety drills can inspire fear, we will reduce this anxiety by playing a family game or similar bonding activities. My partner and I must instill faith and trust in our ability to lead during a family crisis, like a real-life fire/smoke emergency.
  5. Read visitor comments to this blog post. I will continually edit this document with accredited sources. Thank you for reading this update.

I’m quite certain this list looks more like a rough draft, and I probably missed some key points. Feel free to suggest other things we could do as a family, but I simply ask you first…

PLEASE COMPLETE YOUR OWN HOME FIRE/SMOKE DRILL BEFORE COMMENTING ON MINE. Then, please advise.

I refuse to allow fear-mongering about autism, despite this tragic story. We must be motivated by hope, and find some measure of control within ourselves. These are the best way to insulate against fear: learning and empowerment.

 

New Year Autism Opportunities

Happy New Year! One of my personal/professional goals was to read more new theories about coping with autism. At Christmas, I got a special gift from my friend, Dr. Rob Melillo. He asked me to review his latest book!

I’m humbled and honored by his invitation. Dr. Melillo’s the world’s most-quoted author on neurodevelopmental disorders. Soon, I’ll share my thoughts about “The Disconnected Kids Nutrition Plan” on this blog.

drrob

Instead of bragging, I want to remind our fans how this is a shared journey. Whenever anyone tells you or a loved one – with or without autism – you “can’t” do something you want to do, you’ve an opportunity to positively change their perceptions. I have autism. Because I have some poor social experiences, I lost (too) much in my personal and professional life. We could commiserate for days about autism, but I offer a more productive experiment:

Be the change you want to see in the world,” said Mahatma Gandhi. How do we do this work, to change social opinions about autism? “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,” retorts Lao-Tzu. January is rife with planned promises for the future. What will you be doing to help yourself or loved ones feel safer, feel more welcomed and valued, and feel more successful? I’m listening more, reading more, and writing more good stuff.

Join me.

Open Letter to U.S. Congress

Dear Congressmen Doyle and Smith, and Respected Members of the U.S. Congressional Autism Caucus:

I write to you as an autism self-advocate. While my local representative, Congressman Mike Doyle (Co-Chair), and I met this summer, I bring new concerns to you all.

Recently, price spikes of certain prescription medicines caused alarm from the economic and health care sectors. Now, without prediction, some health care providers must cut generic medication from their formularies because of inflated cost. Some doctors prescribe medications to treat acute symptoms or other diagnoses for people with autism. I would like to know how the Affordable Care Act is insulated against future cost cuts of very commonly prescribed medications.

Congressmen Doyle, I’d like to revisit your invitation to meet and address more of your colleagues. Since we last met, I’m happy to share how my research into facial feature recognition for persons with autism has been vetted in a scientific medical journal! With so many budget decisions before our legislature, perhaps now might be a time for me to discuss the (special) education cost savings/surplus model with you; it’s the same model that received unanimous votes from our local school district this year.

Finally, I ask for an opportunity to grow beyond my comfort level. I am just a man. Nobody expected how a comic book would thrust me into international spotlight for autism awareness and acceptance. I’ve a social responsibility to use my fame and (self) advocacy mission for good use. For example, I’ll share this letter through all of our social media outlets, as an example of how to address civil leadership. If/when I meet with you, may I bring some friends who would quell my anxiety and lend their voice to mine if I tire? (After this letter hits Facebook,) May I bring one-thousand like-minded friends discuss the future of autism advocacy? I encourage everyone reading this letter to seek healthy relationships between civil leadership and autism advocates at any level.

Be well,

Dave Kot

Direct Questions to Autism Speaks

Dear Autism Speaks:

As an autistic self-advocate, I appreciate your good-hearted intentions as a powerful voice within our community. I have a problem that only your organization could solve. Since we’re both busy nonprofit organizations, I’ll dispense with flowery language and simply ask:

Why does your organization act like a lightning rod for any other social media posts I create?

Why do so many people automatically dismiss your organizational mission?

How can we help more people find a more peaceful way to address organizational questions about Autism Speaks while maintaining our own sense of autonomy and self-advocacy?

I’ve done some of my own research, and these are some possible reasons our fan base and like-minded advocates shared, in no particular order:

  • Money gained through fundraising lacks sufficient transparency. Reportedly, less than 5% of all money raised actually goes to families living with autism. I have a solution:
    • Recently, we shared how Katie Cuoco helped raise money for autism awareness. May we ask how much of the $35k is earmarked as direct payments to families or (local?) non-profit organizations that directly services families living with autism? Since Autism Speaks is a non-profit organization, all of this information should be available upon request. No, I don’t need to know that the Smith Family at 1343 Cherrywood Lane got $800; more simply, an answer like “30% of $### went to families/organizations supporting autism advocacy in the Greater Manhattan area,” would suffice. Can I ask how much money that a beloved actor helped raise went into administrative fees, like Autism Speaks’ salaries? May I ask how much money, by percentage, your Board of Directors and other administrators take from fundraising for families living with autism?
  • Why don’t you have anyone advising you about autism with a clinical autism diagnosis? John Elder Robinson’s departure left a void that hasn’t been filled. I have a solution:
    • If you are looking for candidates, I toss my hat in the ring; I pledge to take $0.00 salary for this work. I’ll let the internet validate my candidacy in this regard for autism advocacy, from popular culture to being included in a medical journal about effective, insurance-billable, non-medicinal autism treatments.

I think having answers about these questions may help our fans grow to trust what you are doing. Otherwise, possible misrepresentation or rumors will continue to divide our autism community. Will you please provide some personal answers to me, and to our fans living with autism? I am interested to see if your organization will listen and respond to an adult with autism.

Be well,

Dave Kot, creator and script writer for Face Value Comics

P.S. Would you be willing to share Ms. Cuoco’s contact information with me privately? If she has a sincere interest in autism awareness, she may be interested in helping us plan/fundraise for a large initiative for independent living and affordable housing in our local communities for individuals with autism. Thanks in advance!

Non-Verbal Speech

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.

DEAR SANTA CLAUS

Dear Santa Claus:

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.

Autism Awareness – Meet the World's 1st Comic Book Hero with Autism!

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