Thoughts and illustrations on living on the autism spectrum.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Spectrum Soundtrack: Ol’ Man River

I thought I'd start an occasional music feature here on this blog. I’ll call it Spectrum Soundtrack for now. It’s not meant to be “songs about autism,” which is next to impossible, given how different each individual is. Instead, it’ll be songs that speak to me, and that might speak to you if we share some of the same experiences. Simply put, these are songs that help me deal.

Today I want to introduce you to “Ol’ Man River” by the Beach Boys.

I’ve written before of my love for the movie Fantastic Mr. Fox, which introduced me to this song. It plays over one of my many favorite scenes, near the end (spoiler alert) when we see the animals going about their daily business in their new, underground sewer habitat. Forced to flee their natural forest homes, they’ve taken refuge in this dank, smelly space that meets their basic needs, but not much else. Sort of “an animal version of the projects,” as Wes Anderson referred to it. Their lifestyle, and their pride, have taken a hit. But, they make do as best they can, because there is no other choice. Life goes on.

The use of “Ol’ Man River” in this scene perfectly sets a mood of endurance in the face of hardship, much like its original use in the musical Showboat.

Ol’ man river,
He must know something,
He don’t say nothing,
He just keeps rollin’,
He keeps on rollin,

To me, the song, specifically this Beach Boys version, has become an anthem of survival. Because this is not your dig deep, pump-your-fist-and-come-out-fighting, Gloria Gaynor style of survival. No, this is about pushing yourself forward, perhaps with great uncertainty, even when your whole being may be telling you to turn back. A lethargic march onward. That kind of survival, I think, is more typical of real life.

Real life can deal a cruel blow. It can shock, with sudden changes in health, career, or living situation. When you or a family member are on the spectrum, you might very well find yourself with multiple stressors at a time. You may not be able to see your way out, or where to turn for help. You might look up and see a reality that looks to you, like a dark and dirty sewer.

So what then? You keep going. You endure. Because just maybe, that river might lead to a better place. Kind of like 1:20 in the video. Cue tempo change. In the movie, the guitar kicks in as Mr. Fox and family discover that on the other side of a manhole cover is a fully stocked supermarket. Suddenly, things are looking up again.

And that is why you keep on rollin’.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Find Me On LinkedIn

One of the great pleasures of doing my cartoons has been the people I’ve had a chance to connect with – parents with kids on the spectrum, adults with Asperger’s, authors, and advocates. Knowing that you support what I’m doing convinces me that I should continue to lend my voice - and my doodles – to autism spectrum awareness.

But did you know, that while I moonlight as aspie cartoonist extraordinaire, by day I work for a non-profit behavioral health center as a professional marketer/fundraiser? I write grants, I blog, I maintain the Web site, I thank the donors, and much more. Most importantly, I love to tell stories.

A well-told success story engages the emotions and opens minds. It gains loyal support for your cause, and is one of the most effective forms of advocacy. I enjoy this part of my work the most. Here are two stories I was privileged to write, one of a young woman’s journey from the streets to motherhood, and another of a man who survived a suicide attempt to gain a new lease on life.

I believe there is no better way to advocate for people on the autism spectrum than to tell their stories. I would like to do this one day.

So I’d like to keep making connections with an eye on this goal. Are you a professional with an autism services or advocacy organization? Could you use someone to tell your stories, engage your supporters, and promote your cause? I invite you to get in touch to explore ways we might work together. Visit my LinkedIn profile to learn more.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Instant Moron-Maker (aka Voice Recognition Phone Menu)

This goes out to all you companies who use automated voice recognition to screen your calls because you think it’s more “customer-friendly.” No, it isn’t. It requires me to interact with a disembodied, robotic voice. My confusion at social cues under normal conditions becomes even more pronounced in this artificial environment, thus making me feel like an instant moron. I have a hunch, even NT’s suck at conversation under those conditions. Do us all a favor, and let us use the frickin’ keypad, it works perfectly fine.

It’s called dignity. Would you like to give it a try? Say "yes," or "no," now!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Dude, I'm An Aspie! (Starquake Remix)

Hey, look what I found! It's a lost cartoon from my original Dude, I'm An Aspie!

OK, hold on a minute, I don't remember drawing this... and yet, it looks like I did... What gives?

Actually, this was done by a fan named starquake using my original artwork! He says he wanted to describe what bothers him the most about Aspie-ness. (He's the one on the left.) I have to agree, invasion of personal space is high on my list, too.

So, now I know how musicians feel when someone "remixes" their work! I love the style and humor of this one, I wish I had done it myself! (Even though I did, sort of.) Good job, starquake!