Category Archives: Anxiety

Playing by Your ‘Elf

Dear Santa Wil Wheaton,

During the holidays, many eager games want new toys. As a gamer myself, I enjoy watching episodes of “Table Top.” We play many similar games, and I wonder what other experiences we share.

At first, I researched what single-player games you might have reviewed. While played with a bunch of friends on Table TopZombie Dice can be a brief yet fun distracting game. Recently, I got Dungeon Roll, which also can be played as a single player or with a small group. Do you review any other single-player games? Next, I began (re)reading your blog. Again, we seem to have similar ideas about civility, government, and, well, hobbies like gaming. I also appreciate your candor in addressing mental health, including anxiety and depression. Do you understand autism, too?

Here’s what I want for the holidays, Santa Wil: May we chat about our shared interest of games? Specifically, I’d like to steer the conversation into solo game play, for individual fans of our shared audience who may not easily find fellow competitive gamers, or who otherwise prefer singular play. How many more people with anxiety, autism, and depression could find a healthy outlet by playing more games- even single-player games? Later, we can debate the merits of decision making, organization skills, etc. that some games may offer a single player. Please message us through this blog post if you’d like to continue this idea.

I’ve been a good boy, this year, Wil. I’ve played new games, and am writing more comic books, too. An opportunity to collaborate on behalf of more gamers with mental health social challenges would be a wonderful way to wrap-up 2016.

If any elves might have been reading over Wil’s shoulder (or Wil himself), what other single-player games might you or readers suggestion for their loved ones with autism, anxiety, or depression? This season, let’s presume greater competence for more people to play more games!

Be well,

Dave Kot, Author at Face Value Comics – The World’s 1st Featured Comic Book Hero with Autism

DISCLAIMER: I am in no way affiliated with any of the games, pictures, or websites linked or referenced; those references, aside from Face Value Comics, are not connected to me and are their rightful owners’ intellectual property, copyright, trademark, etc.

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.

 

Re-introductions

“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?

Three Smooth Stones – An Autism Fable

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…

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Pebbly Beach and Ocean Vacation

 

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:

 

DATA COLLECTED 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?

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Three smooth stones prevent tiger attacks – Why isn’t this getting more news coverage?!?

 

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:

 

DATA COLLECTED 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.

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Find some stones! You’ll need ’em to present any beliefs you have about autism and/or tiger-related attacks.

First, you’ll need to find yourself some big stones…

Don’t Feed the the “Animals”

Over the Easter vacation, my family attended an aquarium in New Jersey. I wanted to do some hands-on research about seahorses and poison dart frogs (remember- I also write comic book scripts). This experience became a moment for autism (self) advocacy.

We spent about two hours going through exhibits. However, near the end, I felt overwhelmed. As more guests trafficked, I became a pinball and bounced off of people. Then, I found myself under a speaker, which further disoriented me. I asked for a break, and my family agreed to meet me in a few minutes while they completed the tour.

Again, I became disoriented as I made my way through a sea of people to where I thought I was supposed to be. I rested for a while (10 minutes?). Sadly, I did not become aware of some facial tics or finger/hand stimming until people began giving me odd looks. To curb this expression and embarrassment, I walked around the lobby near where my family would reconvene.

However, I made a poor choice in hindsight. My anxiety swelled and I felt like vomiting. I began breathing heavier, and tears trickled down my cheeks. I asked for help to find my bench I left just a few minutes prior. I know that some people can be cruel by making fun of kids. People made fun of me- a 40 year old, 6’5″ man with a cane.

Not one single guest offered any compassion but worse- not one employee or designee offered help. Perhaps my stuttering, exaggerated by anxiety, made me seem less approachable. Maybe professionals are unfamiliar with some common symptoms of anxiety and/or autism. I plan to write the aquarium and ask about staff training about these two and more challenges for future guests. I do not want anyone else to have any experiences at this aquarium like I did. After what seems like hours to me, my wife and family reconnected and we decided to simply leave immediately.

When fans read our comics, my hope is we can lend legitimacy to the autism experience. In my mind, this is why none of the largest comic book creators have an autistic superhero. How could a non-autistic writer capture subtle nuances of sensory overload if they’ve never experienced it, or only experienced it second-hand? How closely will the fictional behaviors match real-life diagnostic criteria or experiences common among many person with autism? This is why we made Face Value Comics. This isn’t “just” a comic book. This is the world’s FIRST autistic comic book hero – reaching the first generation of autistic students who graduate schools largely unprepared to help them face a world that stares back with equal confusion about what to do. This post is likely an unprofessional mix of emotions and advocacy. However, one cannot remove human experiences from a…well…human experience. This post took me about an hour to write. Near its end, I finally regained powers of speech without stuttering, and I wear a band-aid where I repeatedly, absent-mindedly rubbed my skin raw from during my experience at the aquarium.

In conclusion, my heart is still pointed towards kids- kids who need heroes like themselves – like OURselves – because the real world has enough villainry and too few champions. If you’ve read this far- thank you. You are unlike the many people who walked away from an autistic adult having a sensory overload in a New Jersey aquarium.

The Hiding Girl, Unmasked

This summer, we met “Celeste*” and her mum at a local comic book signing event. This brave eleven-year old girl identified herself as autistic, and professed her love of the Shimmer characters in our books. Her mother shared something amazing with us: Celeste’s support team were happily surprised to see Celeste at work. She has filled countless journals with her own character designs and copies of how she’d draw our characters. Celeste talked at length with us about her ideas. She felt proud that she could correctly identify other character who also show autistic traits. Celetese shared her comic book observations with her support team, who were equally impressed how a normally shy and reserved girl suddenly spoke eloquently about autism.

Celeste used our comics to identify autism in her fictional friends and in herself. Celeste became a SELF-ADVOCATE. This story gets better…

Next, she showed us her artwork. Celeste made a new character, The Hiding Girl, whom we’ve revealed this week. This is not some super-powered champion, although she has some unique abilities. The Hiding Girl battles ANXIETY more than any comic book villain. Celeste wanted to see how a comic book character would manage her anxiety during some very interesting times.

The Hiding Girl, Celeste, standing beside a Shimmer Warrior.
The Hiding Girl, Celeste, standing beside a Shimmer Warrior.

After having lunch with Celeste and her mother, we worked out agreements to use her character. We have creative control over use, but want to respect the ideas by Celeste. The Hiding Girl will be part of an already-planned group of teenage girls with special powers. Together, they offer assistance to The Zephyr and the forces of good against the mad Dr. Moebius!

 

 

 

 

One of her special abilities is her portable “black hole.” She can pull surprisingly useful things from it in a bind. However, her anxiety over the current situation in our stories swells. Honestly, how would anyone feel about pulling a dinosaur from a cross-dimensional hole-in-the-wall? As The Hiding Girl learns to manage her anxiety, she also gains more control over what she finds in the black hole.

Kids want and need heroes like themselves, and this includes kids with anxiety. We want everyone to feel welcomed when they read our comics. If Celeste used our comic book, on her own and with help from her mother, to correctly understand certain things about autism, can she learn to control her OWN anxiety, too?

Celeste - Edited

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the near future, we will release a special four-page adventure featuring The Hiding Girl. This FREE, full color mini-adventure will be available for digital download. We will use our founder’s certification as a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) therapist to weave correct clinical portrayals of anxiety, like we have done with autism. We will offer suggestions about helpful coping skills in a fun way in this social story.

To this end, we seek qualified professionals willing to share their coping strategies for young persons with anxiety. Please message us directly in this social media for more details.

* Name changed to protect a young person’s privacy. “Celeste” chose her own pen-name! Images approved by Celeste and her mother. Do you see the resemblance between these two brave girls?!