Category Archives: Autism Spectrum Disorders

Internet Trolling & (Autism) Acceptance

Internet trolling requires a commenter to manipulate the emotions of someone they cannot/never see. This often-used bullying tactic implies significant strategic planning. More sophisticated baiting tricks ignite a poster’s fears. Understanding how trolls make online traps – and how to diffuse their bombs – deserves commentary and its own supervillain (hero?).

While some persons with autism have delayed or minimal speech, we communicate in other ways. Technology allows us to communicate with each other more than at any other point in history. To help prove my point: Instead of simply typing a comment (below), would you otherwise have taken the time to hand write and mail me a letter? You can also contact me via Twitter @FaceValueComics, or Dave Kot on LinkedIn. See?

Trolls don’t care about an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), or autism. Ironically, trolls presume more competence towards an autistic commenter than some professional helpers. Trolls have two goals: 1) get your attention through emotional triggers, and 2) continue the discussion like a chess match. Surely, these master manipulators know their target is wounded, or emotionally compromised; they improve their odds of winning an argument or exposing flaws in another commenter’s logic. Trolls play dirty.

Soliciting anger is easy- just insert inflexible political or social observations in a comment section or during a family reunion. Never reply in anger. Our primitive (hippocampus) brain functions begin activating in a fight-or-flight response. When angry, our brain redirects language skills to action-based preparation, like tensing muscles. We aren’t our best selves when angry and literally can’t communicate no gud know mor. Instead, go for a walk. Identify what angers us before returning to the keyboard. Without first understanding our anger wounds, we willingly walk back into the fray.

Fear is a troll’s most dangerous weapon. The best trolls plant doubt in a commenter’s mind. Doubt undermines our presumed acceptance within the online community. Trolls don’t just tell commenters that they’re wrong, they insult them. Nobody should fear a polite disagreement, especially one supported with reasonable points of view. However, questioning one’s acceptance in the group is the troll’s best use of fear. This isn’t just autism acceptance- this is Lockean Social Contract Acceptance. We feel like we are part of an (online) community and abide by its rules, or accept living by ourselves as banned/deleted outcasts.

delete
We know what Broken Matt Hardy does to trolls’ comments, right? 

For example:

This blog post isn’t about internet security or identifying online child predators. Where I live, public schools teach that information in 3rd grade. If any of my illustrations made sense, I presume you’ve at least a third-grade education. Please, no comments about bad news about or in the internet. No, this article addresses how trolls try to get under our skin, and how to stop ‘em.

Let’s decode how I tried to troll you. My first statement was a fact. Reviewing what I wrote, one could defend my sentence. I planted a hook; something of fact or accepted fact. Already, you agree with me. Now, I start insulting you and pushing you out of the social group. “Where I live,” implies we don’t live together or near each other, ergo, we are out of the group since they had the last comment. They are still in the group since they are most actively commenting. To feel like a part of the group, we might defend ourselves, but out of fear. We often see comments borne of fear. These replies focus on a presumed insult or offense but ignore the meat of a discussion.

Next, I offer a veiled compliment: “I presume you’ve at least a 3rd-grade education” if you made sense of anything. Finally, I remind you of what you might not know about internet security or identifying online predators. Did you miss recent news about hacking? Is there a national search for an abducted child and kidnapper? What are you missing? Sheesh- if you don’t know, well…you’re not part of the group, whom you presume ALL knows the splashiest news you don’t know. Again, fear of unacceptance chokes us.

To defuse trollish fears, reaffirm your place within the group. ARE you unwelcomed if something I wrote didn’t quite make sense? ARE you out of our group if you’ve less than a 3rd-grade education? Does it matter where *I* live? Do trolls’ insults jeopardize your ability to be a part of an online community? When/if you answer these questions, our fear subsides and our position within the community grows stronger. We didn’t run away (the other biological response to threats was anger). We needn’t reply to trolls in fear; just because you see a trap doesn’t mean you should spring it. Walking away with self-confirmation diffuses this trap.

Lastly, we find contempt and disgust among the tools of a troll. These similar emotions typically inject sarcasm, but as a static comment. For example, “Good job!” In an of itself, this could be praise, too. Without inflection, tone, or context, words can be used sarcastically…or not. If sarcastic, what else was implied? Why didn’t someone like me? Am I still part of the group? It’s difficult to ascertain one’s intentions by just a short comment (even among other sentences). Therefore, we should simply accept the best possible impression of our commenters, absent of malice. Isn’t this same respect what we seek?

Wait- what about sadness? Can trolls make us feel sad? Unless trolls know us very well, they cannot sadden us. Sadness implies a feeling of regret and longing, which we impose on ourselves. Most trolls are mere passers-by along our journeys, so they know little about us that could sadden us. To make us feel sad, trolls would have to use some personally historic hook, which is unlikely. Trolls loathe sadness because it almost immediately disconnects the commenter from an argument. Sadness can replace other emotions if we finally believe we are out of the group which we wanted. We reflect on happier times, happier posts, and happier commenters, and feel sad to (mistakenly) believe we’ll never have those experiences again. We make ourselves feel sad, not trolls.

How do we explain emotional affirmation to children with autism? I think online acceptance is a challenge facing neurotypical children, too. In this instance, at least, we are united: we seek acceptance and reaffirmations of social rules and roles regularly. (Sally sells seashells by the seashore.) I have an answer about (online) social media acceptance: show ‘em, don’t tell ‘em. C’mon; I write comic books- whaddya expect?

TWizTravis Woo competes professionally in Magic: the Gathering card game tournaments. He’s graciously agreed to partner with us about online bullying. We’ll use his likeness and online persona to literally illustrate trolling and emotional traps in our comics. See, I believe Travis plays a troll online…the worst kind: Provocateurs. Since Travis is well-read and deeply philosophical, he seeks intelligent answers to creative comments. I think Travis understands how some provocative news generates attention. I also believe he is genuinely seeking answers to socially-uncomfortable questions at times. Make no mistake- he doesn’t censor himself.

Be Warned– Provocateurs almost always announce their intentions of fierce debate. Look at titles of posts and videos. Listen for sheepishly awkward commitment to the provocative statement or question. Master Trolls want a good discussion. To engage this character, be well-armed with cited facts and well-articulated opinions. Spell correctly. Quickly missing these basic rules dismisses your contributions to the group. Expect a minefield of emotional traps inciting anger, fear, and contempt. I’ve shown you how to defuse them. If you do, the Provocateur welcomes you back into the discussion as an equal. Again, the Master Troll weeds out weak participants and expects deep answers to their provocative statements. Enter discussions at your own risk, but sometimes Provocateurs offer new insights. I recommend simply reading about their journey without comment. Remember- everything lives forever on the Internet.

I look forward to collaborating with Travis as our story and characters take shape. While very direct, I respect Travis’ use of time. I choose not to take offense to his comments or questions because I honestly believe he seeks deep answers. In turn, he readily excuses my mistakes and brashness. I feel like he understands me, or at least what I want to do.

For example, Travis’ character will ask of the Zephyr: “I thought you had autism? Should you really be carrying a sharp sword?” Is he sarcastic? Is he well-meaning but cumbersomely blunt? His comic book character will reflect both aspects of Travis’ online personality. Additionally, the “Troll Wizard” studies alchemy. He commands an army of small trolls. These short homunculi beset the Zephyr. They try to inflict verbal injuries, using the basic techniques of trolls. How well does the Zephyr handle these strange new encounters? Is the Troll Wizard trolling him by leaving behind notes signed, “Much love, T.W.”?  Look for more to come soon from Face Value Comics!

Did I do a “good job?” Do you like to play games? For a chance to see sketches of the new comics BEFORE they go to print, please play along. Leave a comment to the Facebook page where this post originally appears. Reply with “Good Job!”     …without quotation marks, but with the one more exclamation mark than the last poster. One comment per person of this kind, please (read: don’t try to out-do yourselves with multiple posts). I’ll randomly select a commenter and contact them within one week of this posting.

Wanna Make a Comic Book? My Invite, Please RSVP

Are you                Yup, I’ve whitewashed this blog post with a secret message! We’re going

Ready?                 to play a game, too. What kind of game? Well, I already gave you a clue…

Grab your pencils, and let’s do this thing!

Have you ever seen a white raven? If you saw a dozen ravens, how many would be white? 100 ravens? 1000 ravens? Hempel’s Paradox highlights problems of understanding based on faulty observations. In turn, these observations skew our perception of reality. Despite our best efforts, you and I are unlikely to see an albino white raven living in the wild, but they DO exist.

Like the Spanish Inquisition, nobody expects a white raven.

I want to change this social perception. Pffft- I know next to nothing about birds, though. I do, however, have personal and professional understandings about autism, mental health, and comic books. In hindsight, that’s an odd set of tools, huh?

If you have autism or mental health challenges, YOU are my audience. I contend few of us are published artists or writers. When I wrote a simple comic book, I received a disproportionate amount of media and scientific attention. In my mind, writing a comic book as an autistic adult shouldn’t have been international news. I was a white raven in the minds of too many people.

Since it’s Autism Awareness Month, I want to acknowledge how many of us need and still seek positive affirmations from family, friends, loved ones, and society in general. One way we may accomplish this is to do something spectacular and unexpected.

Let’s make a comic book(s) together.

(As much as my health permits me,) This week, I’ll be posting some submission guidelines. First, I want to make something crystal clear: I don’t care about an “official” diagnosis. I won’t be asking you for health or insurance information to “prove” yourself. I like you just as you as are, and encourage you to be your best self. Be kind. Be mindful. Be well-read. Be considerate of others’ points-of-view.

My goal is to help build up the confidence and self-worth (not ephemeral ‘self-esteem’) of the next generation of comic book artists and writers. To this end, I’m proposing a comic book anthology of short stories made by our audience at Face Value Comics. Our team will provide editing advice, tips to overcome writers’ block, and content suggestions for no financial charge. I envision a comic book of ?? pages, with art and stories by other “white ravens.” I want the unseen to be seen. I want those of us with autism and mental health to grow as budding professionals deserving of recognition for our talents and attempts. We acknowledge how comic books are a multi-million dollar industry so our collective efforts may become more than idle busy work.

So, is this something of which you’d like to be a part? Please openly share this message with other social media channels. We welcome input and content from like-minded friends. The world already knows me. Let’s use this recognition to open doors for other new talents.

Oh- here’re my initial thoughts of the project:

  1. Pick a real-life historical “culture.” Examples may include, but are not limited to- British Knights, Celts and Vikings, Aztecs, Maori, Maasai, and more. How “historic” is historic? How about this idea: a high school student should be able to write an informative research paper about this group with citational references. In other words, don’t give knights laser guns (yet).
  2. Pick a fictional challenger(s) found in classic literature. Again, some examples include dinosaurs, robots, ninjas, aliens, pirates, vampires, etc. NOTE: “Zombies” are not found in the classic literature; they’re out of scope for this project. Sorry, not sorry- ask Kirkman if he’s doing anything like we propose, if zombies are your groove.
  3. All content must fall under suggestions found for PG-rated movies.
  4. Our team will assemble a good sampling of the content, based on artists’ attention to the initial directions (above). Submissions will fall under ONE PAGE, TWO PAGES, and FOUR PAGES of sequential comic book art.
  5. Next, we invite writers. They will interpret the visual art and craft a story based around it so our heroes win and tell a good story. Again, we will provide editing, suggestions, etc. free of charge.
  6. We’ll collect these stories into an anthology comic book graphic novel and release it as professionally-published content.
  7. “Compensation” and financial discussions must wait- that topic deserves its own post. Actually, so do most of these initial guidelines. Well, at least you know what’s coming later this week, eh?

I’ve been told to mention that Face Value Comics is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization; we can accept donations. I’m leery of this point, though; I won’t be bullied into publishing someone’s content based on a financial donation.

Today, my doctor gave me some not-good news. Rather than whine or beg for sympathy, I ask for your help to distract me from it. Let’s fight social stigmas. Together, let’s make something magical and build stronger skills…to show ourselves to the world how we are MORE than our diagnostic labels.

I hope the world stops defining me/us by what I am NOT, but rather who I AM.

TL;DR: I’m inviting persons with autism and mental health challenges to help make an anthology of short comic book stories.

Autism, Steampunk, and Comic Books – An Invitation into My World

March 28th, 2017 is an especially happy day for me.

Someone very special to me celebrates their birthday!

Today is the 25th anniversary of Christian Laettner’s Shot. #sorrynotsorry

ZekeZapAs March closes, our team invite our fans to consider Captain Zeke Zap of Face Value Comics.

Captain Zeke Zap loves his steampunk aerial drones. As leader of the para-military group, “E-Z Squad”, Cap’n Zap employs different drones for combat, communication, and spying. The Blind Blaster of Blue Fox Bay uses kinetic energy created by drone movement to see through his cybernetic-like eyes.

For example, I asked our artist, Sky Owens, to create a special drone for our comic book story. I described this drone as having a pint-sized canister of pressurized helium. Add legs/wheels for eventual landing balance. Place a boxy Victorian camera atop the canister. Position small propellers at each corner, and an inflatable balloon in the center. As remote control levers flip, propellers move and direct this drone. Pressurized gas inflates the balloon and gives it height, and cause propeller blades to spin as the gas circulates through different hoses and valves. Captain Zap can “see” what the camera lens sees as it moves (but not while this drone is stationary), using “bio-kinetic” energy. Add a small megaphone to the drone body, or create another drone for a separate source of information.

Can you imagine this drone, and how it could be used in the Victorian steampunk era? Can you do better? Sky’s artistic interpretation will appear in an upcoming issue…

Would you, or someone you love with autism, want to be part of our creative comic book experiences?

Using the information suggestion table below, decide your level of skill. Also note: we won’t need documentation nor verification of an autism diagnosis; we use an honor system for possible submissions.

SKILL LEVEL ART WRITING
Beginner Can draw/ink/color a steampunk drone. Can verbally and logically describe an aerial drone that seems plausible during the Victorian steampunk era.
Intermediate …in a scene with implied action(s) where this drone and Zeke Zap are featured. …with interesting sci-fi twists regarding its functionality, purpose, use, consequences, relationship with Zeke Zap, etc.
Advanced …and build upon cause-and-effect relationships of the steampowered drone functions in a series of sequential art. …and artful direct scenes of sequential art that incorporates and features Captain Zap and this new drone.

This invitation may spark many questions from our fans. Based on the number of inquiries, we are prepared to continue the conversation about including autistic-created fan art in future publications. Furthermore, we may explore mentoring potential autistic talent in the comic book creation business.

For now, consider your skill levels. Practice. Read (free) guides on drawing and storytelling. Let your imagination soar. This sample direction (see table, above) serves as suggestions. Again, based on fan inquiries about this opportunity, we will discuss submission guidelines throughout April 2017.

At worst, you’ve something to do on a rainy day. At best, we will help mentor new talent with the community’s help. Please save submissions until we set a definitive date; all submissions received before a designated date will not be considered for legal reasons. (I was told I had to write that last line. –Dave)

What questions do you have?

Autism (Self) Advocacy = Best Advocacy

I want our social media to be a safe place for persons living with autism. Here, I want to discuss comic books, education sciences, safety, and self-worth. My goal is to offer hope by invoking these topics, and providing positive examples.

Autism advocacy must evolve, because society always changes. However, our path forward seems foggy. In our household, we have two individuals with two different expressions of autism. Aside from kindness, love, and patience, “autism advocacy” will mean many different things under our roof.

Therefore, I am shifting my focus about autism advocacy. I will begin more self-advocacy and self-disclosure. You are invited along for my journey. These experiences will unfold in future blog posts, videos, and comic books.

An important and lengthy telephone call helped cement this direction. Talking with our artist, Sky Owens, he posed an important question: do we want Face Value Comics to be a socio-political soapbox, or a kid-friendly story about a hero like themselves? Why would an autistic person choose our comic book over any other title? Readers expect comic book stylized action sequences, so what abilities, motivations, or personality makes the Zephyr a hero to kids with autism?

As we expand our comic book line, these questions help remind me of my original goal: kids need heroes like themselves. This means curbing my own misguided self-righteousness against any number of specific social ills. Instead, larger and more relatable arcs can be represented.

In future blog posts, I will likely ask very candid questions. Make no mistake: I seek thoughtful answers, not conspiracy theories, political rhetoric, circular answers, nor “alternative facts.” With some questions, I will certainly appear unintelligent. I am. The longer I fight for autism (self) advocacy, the more I realize how much I do not understand. Aren’t some problems with autism tied to misunderstanding unwritten social expectations?

Our world changes daily. Information doubles exponentially. How do we juggle real life demands while being autism advocates? I submit self-care and self-advocacy are our best achievements. At the end of each day, being our best selves is the best form of advocacy anyone can do. I cannot address nor imagine what your “best self” is; only you and your loved ones can help. As for me, I ask you to follow me as I (re)explore autism self-advocacy. Together, we can learn. Together, we can be equals, knowing we try our best to be our best.

myra-z2

We’ve finished twelve pages of our next comic book. We have clear examples of emotive facial expressions, villains coded by color gradients (“Cool” colors = good; “Warm” colors = bad), PG-graded action/combat situations, steampunk imagery, and heroic endings (or cliffhangers). We anticipate a release this spring, and will continue to keep our fans apprised of news.

Welcome, Betsy “The Boss” Devos

January 19, 2017

Betsy Devos’ nomination and (likely) confirmation as Secretary of Education ushers in a new era of autism advocacy. Many autism advocates malign Ms. Devos’ inexperience, lucrative political campaign contributions, and misunderstanding of IDEA. However, I welcome these obvious flaws to a candidate overseeing (autism) education. History is on our side. Specifically, I point to:

Brown v Board of Education, and the power of litigation to redress social disjunction.

To be clear, nobody really “wins” any lawsuit. Presumed damages have occurred, we resurrect painful memories in court, and lots of money goes to shark lawyers. What other options might we have before filing suit?

Ask Hillary Clinton the value of popular votes in an election.

Ask #BlackLivesMatter how many African-Americans still suffer police brutality.

Ask Planned Parenthood how well 78,000 signatures persuaded the Speaker of the House.

I believe our advances for inclusive education, employment, healthcare and housing will fall flat if we plan to reinvent broken wheels. I’ll invoke the definition of “insanity” and compare our advocacy techniques to other failed examples. We need a new approach under a new political administration. Having obviously-flawed candidates, like Devos, helps us.

By his own words, President Trump does not understand autism. I doubt Devos understands autism, based on her confusion about IDEA. We’ve no openly-autistic representative in Congress- none. If we believe billionaires lead our county, we must also accept how well they fear and know the word, “lawsuit.” Many build and protect their fortune and influence on this word.

If we cannot have discussions about autism with autistic leaders, we must use language our leaders know. “Charity?” “Compassion?” “Empathy?” “Inclusion?” Do these words best describe Trump or his Education nominee? We may as well speak Japanese to them, but we have history on our side to invoke business terms. “Lawsuit” means action.

I’m waiting for 2017’s autism-based version of Brown v Board of Education. This is how we slay the giants of misunderstanding- one, well placed lawsuit to destroy their credibility and strip them of misguided power. We strike a blow against their fortune now and in the future; will organizations readily side with someone named in a SCOTUS lawsuit? My approach is non-violent, doesn’t require a large following, leapfrogs media value, and is multicultural in acceptance and execution. We skip what has been tried, and has failed. If we’ve had the presumably best advocates before Devos, I question the quality of our advocacy today. Devos gives us the best recourse for positive change if she doesn’t do a good job. If she fails us, like many suspect, I’ve outlined a peaceable solution using the foul language of the Economic Elite.

Please, give us Devos. I hope she does an excellent job. If not, you call your Congressional representative; I’ll call a (fame-and-fortune seeking) lawyer, of which there are more than Congressional representatives. Which phone call will affect the most positive outcome? Which call will force change? Which call will make Devos shake in her Pradas?

Gearseeker Serpent & Autism Acceptance

What does autism acceptance look like? Will we need a celebrity proclaiming it via social media? Will an elected official – someone who is not autistic – pass legislation mandating said acceptance?

Playing a collectible card game (and my friend, Trav) helped teach me something new about autism acceptance. Please don’t become distracted by too many details of this collectible trading card. Gearseeker Serpent means something to us as autism advocates.

gearseekerserpent

Copyright/Trademark Acknowledgement: Everything about GEARSEEKER SERPENT belongs to Wizards of the Coast, except my interpretation.

Apparently, I can summon this creature faster if I have help; specifically, lots of artifacts lure him into play. I doubt I can play this card on my first turn of the game. How about Turn Two? Is Turn Four reasonable, or too late? I begin to deconstruct the perfect scenario in which I see Gearseeker Serpent devouring my opponent. Now, build to this goal.

Here’s our lesson about autism acceptance, from Gearseeker Serpent:

BEGIN WITH A VISUALIZED GOAL IN MIND.

What is “autism acceptance” to you? What may have happened to encourage others’ acceptance? Will you need help? How much help do you think you’ll need, and when will you need help? Deconstruct the perfect scenario in which you feel most accepted, and identify those incremental steps towards tolerance. Now, built to this goal.

Without specific goal setting, we may lose focus. We might fail to acknowledge necessary early steps towards our goal if we only focus on the END GOAL. Others will liken us to some Greek Myth, whereby we gluttonously demand more acceptance, while ignoring acceptance growing around us, forever self-tormented. Stop demanding global, ephemeral autism “acceptance,” and develop your goals towards that result. Cultivate strategic planning, ask for help, and autism “acceptance” will happen.

Otherwise, Gearseeker Serpent and the weight of unfulfilled should-isms threaten to crush us individually and collectively. Please share your specific examples of autism acceptance goals in the comments, below.

Prophetic Autism and 2017 Goals

Face Value Comics cannot be your ‘opus,’ because it suggests you’ve nothing more to give.

My wife, Angela, shared her hopes for me as 2016 closed. In this blog update, I want to share more goals with you. Will you help keep me accountable for positive autism advocacy?

What content would you like to see from an adult living with autism? Please feel free to review past blog posts, including one where I predicted a loss of civil rights for individuals with autism. Additionally, I outlined a tax-free way to add $1k for autism-based classroom instruction. As a former professional helper, I discussed an airtight strategy that’s been 100% funded by third-party insurances. I shared how facial feature recognition helps me navigate social situations, too.

I also enjoy comic books, including writing script. In 2017, we debut a smaller story and new characters: Quantum X, in Outfox Magazine. Have you subscribed to their autism-friendly publication yet? Here’s our story cover image:

quantun-x-cover
Cover Art for #1 Quantum-X. Fantastic Art by Sky Owens!

However, I also experience some significant health concerns for which I receive professionally-adequate treatments. Despite having nearly three years of script outlined, I cannot remember what or why I wrote what I originally did. Sometimes, I have no memory of many things, so recording my goals helps increase accountability. When I feel too ill to write in depth, I’ll share why, and how I’m trying to overcome a specific challenge.

As we discuss autism, I want to remain positive; edge-lords and trolls need not apply. As I try certain self-improvement goals, I realize how damaging blame and doubt becomes. Instead, let’s remember how everything outlives us on the Internet. Together, we will be a solid leadership resource for increasing autism acceptance. Follow me, and be sure to leave a suggestion for an autism topic in the comments section!

I will write more…next time.

–Dave

Why we’re angry, dear Rosie…

Dear Ms. Rosie O’Donnell:

More than a week passed since we last chatted, albeit one-sided, about autism advocacy. Our fans wish you roaring success with your upcoming performance, and hope you are well. If people read anything more recent about you, I think many would be alarmed by the outpouring of hate directed at you regarding your armchair diagnosis of Barron Trump. We needn’t add fuel to that fire. Instead, I’m offering insight as a fellow rights activist and (self) advocate.

If people are angered by your lack of credentials to offer a diagnosis, I think their anger is misplaced. If people dislike you because of your own open identity, we aren’t likely to solve homophobia in this blog post. More importantly, I’m not sure you – or anyone who flippantly diagnoses someone with autism – understands the real damage.

You betrayed us, Rosie.

Within the autism community, many of us struggle with implied, unwritten social cues. However, most of us grew up and learned about the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. Rosie, you broke that rule.

Spin your dialogue. Would you appreciate someone from the autism community saying another person was obviously gay because of how they look for thirty seconds? Even if that person’s experience and vigilance within the LGBTQ community would lend some credit to observations, is it anyone else’s right to out them as gay? If this approach is not okay with you, why is it okay for you to do something similar?

Hypervigilance with your own daughter’s autism diagnosis may lend you small credit, to recognize symptoms. Being good at computer work or mathematics makes someone autistic as much as (insert LGBTQ stereotype, here) makes someone gay. We fight hard to correct social misperceptions; please don’t add more misdirection.

We could presume you have nothing but benevolence towards a man and his family. Refresh my memory: is this the same man and his family whom you battled on Twitter during the Presidential Election this year? Do you doubt Barron Trump will have the absolute best medical care as the son of the United States President-Elect? Do you think you know better than a physician, Rosie? You act like you do.

…and that’s why people feel anger. May I offer a solution? Tweet how your intentions were born from compassion for a young person. Start a discussion about his father’s lack of understanding about autism, and the need for more openly autistic legislators and representatives. Share how you may have mourn(ed) Dakota’s lost potential following an autism diagnosis; we’ll understand and work through this very common grief with you. Invite more advocates to work with you, and stop making our advocacy work harder in 140 characters or less.

Let’s have tea next week, okay?

Be well and break a leg,

Dave Kot

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.

Diarrhea and Low-Functioning Autism

After Thanksgiving dinner, I had diarrhea.

This example may give some readers pause as they flash signs of contempt or disgust. However, most people share a personal understanding of brief diarrhea. Exact causes may be difficult to pinpoint, but usually involve complex chemistry of fluid imbalance. Other factors, like stress, may warrant consideration, too. Still, most people can empathize and sympathize with this gastrointestinal challenge. In polite company, we refrain from sharing our toileting experiences. This is an unwritten social rule. I contend how diarrhea may only momentarily detract from our daily routines or work performances, though. As filthy as diarrhea might be, we understand it well enough from our own experiences, and still dislike addressing it. I wonder how proud actors feel whilst filming commercials for an over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medication.

Unconsciously, we might assign those negative images of watery feces to the person having diarrhea. We give the ill person distance, to avoid contracting diarrhea ourselves. We encourage bed rest, medication, and other things which completely remove them from future conversations until WE think they act or feel …

…wait for it…

“normal.” Despite our intimate knowledge of diarrhea, we automatically shun anyone who currently experiences it. We devalue their contributions because we assume their illness also affects mental alertness or other skills we otherwise expect. We seek to avoid contamination ourselves, and scrub our hands with anti-bacterial soap. Flush our relationship until the illness passes. We may want our friends to rest, or we may want nothing to do with a stranger who ate gas-station sushi.

Why are we so dismissive and lack compassion for an experience we likely have all shared and at least conceptually understand? Couldn’t a person with diarrhea still draw, still code, still do a lot of non-physically challenging things of value? I believe this person can add value. However, society caps their presumed potential until their diarrhea passes and they “act” less of an uncomfortable threat to our societal expectations.

1 in 68 persons has autism, and I believe more than this ratio have had diarrhea. Not as many people understand autism as well as diarrhea. Making understanding more difficult, we ascribe words like “low functioning” as a description. No, we may not come out and say “low functioning.” Instead, we use words like “high functioning autism,” which immediately supposes its counter-point: low-functioning autism. Likewise, we avoid invoking the word, “diarrhea” because we know peer judgement follows. Instead, words like “upset stomach” or “wiped out” seem more polite. What is a nicer way of saying “low functioning autism?” Yeah, there aren’t any, and you’re foolish to think aggressors won’t prey upon this distinction. Even worse, I contend some people with “higher functioning autism” also know how to throw bully-wolves off their scent by making such comparisons.

“I don’t have diarrhea; I’ve a tummy ache.” “I might have autism, but it’s ‘HIGH functioning autism.'”  Both sentences desperately seek acceptance, and use language to seem more approachable. I believe most people know what diarrhea looks like, but doubt many of these same people could identify two clinical needs which warrant a lower functional categorization. Instead, society fumbles with perceptions over what “low” functioning might be, even if their examples seem disconnected to autism. This becomes a dangerous enterprise, adding more doubt, myths, and missed opportunities for our community as a whole.

Instead, leave the adjectives “high functioning” and “low functioning” autism to the clinicians who crafted the words for their own medical processes. Stop manufacturing more reasons for polite society to fear or further distance themselves from an impolite conversation. As a collection of human beings, we cannot have easy discussions about loose stool, so why do we think invoking high/low functionalities will improve understandings of autism without similar contempt, disgust, or fear of known diarrhea?

Please add to this conversation if you have a counter-point. I boldly contend that we should erase the use of autism functionalities outside of our clinicians’ offices. Someone saying they’ve “high functioning” autism is really saying, “Yes, I’m autistic, BUT please don’t confuse me for someone with low-functioning autism, because I know you won’t give me any chances otherwise.” I dare anyone who identifies as having “high-functioning” autism to say it WITH a person who has “low functioning” autism also present, and then point to that person and call ’em “low functioning” to their face. OWN that glorified trap, if you must insist on its non-clinical use. Outside of educational/medical care, can you name any situation where identifying an autism functionality is helpful to the individual, the recipient of that information, or “polite” society (the same group who cannot stomach talks of diarrhea) as we seek greater acceptance?  Nah, we won’t have acceptance from neurotypical folk until we can accept ourselves.