Tag Archives: Autism

Autism, Heroes, and the TSS

Heroes take action. This truth draws readers to comic books. In Face Value Comics, our hero evolves his social awareness and sensory coping skills to overcome his clinical expressions of autism. His greatest friend remains a loyal bio-droid, T.E.S.S. She, too, changes and matures. Sky Owens created the image of T.E.S.S. as this blog post’s Featured Image.

T.E.S.S.’ name is a clear nod to therapeutic support staff, or TSS. As professional helpers, these front-line warriors frequently assist young persons with autism. Sadly, T.S.S. services offer just similarly-comparative wages to most entry-level positions (despite requiring college graduation). A well-educated person who spends a LOT of direct time in a child’s immediate proximity – to help the child – gets paid peanuts. When we, the autistic community, ask for “awareness” and “acceptance” each April, why do we think neurotypical people find the same any easier?

T.E.S.S. took action. Although she is a sentient plant/robot hybrid, T.E.S.S. understood her programmatic responsibilities. She upgraded her photosynthetic plating to appear more human…for the (now) young adult once in her care. T.E.S.S. learned the most valuable lessons she teaches is about being human: showing care, compassion, and concern. So too can a TSS role-model how to be one’s best self in many different circumstances – even in comic books.

T.E.S.S. reminds us why we take action. Even without comic book antics, these characteristics define memorable heroes. Heroes take action to help others be their best, because we believe in beautiful human potential and happiness.

Do you think our literally-personified T.S.S. is a hero? The Zephyr does. Do you think therapeutic support staff are heroes? We do.

Finally, notice her eyes. The University of Massachusetts-Lowell found autistic students gravitated towards steampunk art because of its easily recognized cause-and-effect patterns. Other diagnostic studies find eye-contact difficult for some persons with autism. We remembered these ideas while designing our T.E.S.S. image, above. The cog and eyes are the same color and shape. Our artist added blue-within-blue pupils. Together, this art helps draw the viewer to T.E.S.S.’ eyes…with or without autism.

BY the way- did you notice an oppressive use of “eye” sounding words in the above paragraph? Words like di-agnostic and i-deas helped reinforce the topic: “eye” contact and desensitization. Now you see two ways we can make it happen with comic books; art and printed script work together.

Oh, and T.E.S.S. can recharge her batteries by absorbing sunlight. She can also re-emit sunlight through her eyes to cause unfocused enemies to pause, causing “mindblindness.” In an emergency, she can project whip-like vines from her fingertips. To be honest, we don’t think your TSS can do those things under your health insurance. Here’s a sketch of T.E.S.S. taking action to protect our hero:

Punch Page 9

Much love to our friend, Travis Woo. Watch Travis, a gaming legend, talk about what makes a hero, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8U_0EuW7VpI

 

Do. You. Want. To. Play. A. Game, Superheroes?

This sentence disappears in my blog. Why?

Happy National Superhero Day! This is the ONE time we can use “superhero” without copyright infringement. Did you know that DC and Marvel Comics jointly share the copyright on a word: “superhero?” Today, I’m teaching you how to use your own new superpower, one that functions like x-ray vision!

Augmented Reality Games (ARGs) are small puzzles built into existing, real-life situations. I find ARGs quite compelling and engaging. In fact, incorporating ARGs into comic book script and online social media now overtakes my Hollywood-like D-List celebrity status as a political hack or sociologist. My success lies in authentic comic book creation, not mobilizing more autistic voters. Personally, I’ve disliked hearing actors or fiction writers tell us how to vote or feel; why am I any different? #Done.

Many people extoll autistic virtues of mathematics and puzzle-solving, so I rightfully seek out our audience to play games with us. As with other entertainment, rewards are often available. Maybe it’s easier to show you how ARGs will work in Face Value Comics going forward. Sit back, grab a soda, and pay attention: I promise you’ll be happily surprised!

 

Punch Page 9
SAMPLE SKETCHES FOR STEAMPUNCH’D #1, pg. 9

 

Imagine robots fighting our comic book hero with autism, The Zephyr. One robot might exclaim, “01001000 01100101 01101100 01110000.” This is simply binary code for “Help!” In other words, I think this Easter Egg is (too) easy for our readers. Instead, I insert ARGs into the script without affecting the story. How? Let’s continue!!

Next, another robot might reply to its partner with a series of new numbers. These numbers may correspond to real-life GPS coordinates. Another robot utters another set of GPS coordinates later in the comic book. Collected together, these “hidden” clues relate to a public park near my home. So far, so good?

In this same comic book issue, readers might otherwise neglect background scenery in Michael’s home. This could include a calendar with a month and date circled. Elsewhere, another character might point to a clock (or, more creatively, “2 o’clock”) as the villain’s bomb timer counts down.

Guess what we did? We just invited ALL of our readers to meet our creative team for hot dogs and ice cream at a local park near my home (for my convenience) at 2:00pm on Month, Date of the publishing year. Welcome to ARGs, or games-within-reality. We’ve already begun to drop clues within blog posts and in script scheduled for the future. Some examples include 12 pages of comic sketches and a t-shirt give-away! These are just examples which I would rate as “beginner” level experience. Search the internet for other ARG examples, including an amazing one played by the band, Tool.

Never judge a book by its cover. This advice applies for/to persons with autism, and now to Face Value Comics. Happy Hunting, Superheroes!!!

P.S. I gave you clues in decoding other hints. We began inserting surprise content no earlier than 2017.

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

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.

 

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