Thursday, December 29, 2011

Guest artists and Autism!

As some of you know, I have launched and started building on my project called Galaxy Zento. In that project, guest artists are invited to come and draw their renditions of my characters. Special considerations are given to work that showcase connections to autism, anti-bullying, or anti-abuse. Themes are asked to be family friendly. With that, my second guest artist has come into the fold and this is what I wrote in the Galaxy Zento blog:

My second guest artist is Kevin, known as "ayelid" on Yes, his name is a link to his page. When you're done reading here you really should check it out! Kevin did a pencil drawing of five GZ characters in one picture. I will tell you right now that this has spurred a short story idea with me! But back to the picture (click on it for larger view), from the top you have King Frederick the giant rat, Bloodraizer the assassin with his secret mentor hovering over him, Victor Darksong, and War Horse. King Fred and War Horse are the heroes of this picture by the way. Below you'll see the original works of these characters. The most awesome thing he did, was to create a connection to autism, that's the puzzle pieces.

I want to pause and make note that you will likely see differences between my drawings of my characters and the guest artist's renditions. But that's what's amazing about sharing views of other artists and I am honored and humbled when ever someone comes in and gets involved. It's about involvement and an interactivity. When it comes to autism education, nothing could be more true or of more importance. People with autism need patience and understanding (in general as not all of us feel this way). They need interactivity to help them get along in a world that never quite feels right. So when someone comes in and does this kind of work out of such generosity, I am truly honored and grateful for it. Galaxy Zento, no matter where it goes, will always stand for autism education. I'm also posting this at both my autism and GZ blog for this very reason.

Now about Kevin, I asked him a few questions. Here is the short interview: ME: How long have you been doing your artwork? KEVIN: I've been dedicated to drawing for as long as I can remember. My parents have photos they took of me studiously doodling away on a little chalkboard or paper and such. I guess a lot of parents cherish and encourage creativity, but my whole thing went beyond the folks just putting the random drawing on the refrigerator lol. I was getting awards and such for drawing throughout grade school and all the way into high school. I was known as that guy who draws lol. I could get other kids to pay me while I was still in elementary school for drawings they'd want done. I never attended college, but I continue to research and learn whenever I can. I began to seriously try to hone my skills and pursue a career with my artwork around my senior year of high school. I've also been a student of the guitar and other stringed instruments for about as long.

ME: What are your mediums for your work?

KEVIN: Mostly pencil and black ink on good thick, sturdy sketchbook paper. It's always fun to try other things just to see what results I'll get, too, such as using a throwaway ball point pen on cardboard. If I'm working with black ink, I may cover large areas that require ink with a paintbrush, and do little detailed work with technical pens. When drawing with pencils, I might sketch the basic structure of the drawing with an HB pencil, and add finer details with a 2H pencil and use a 2B for large areas that require darker shading. I've also tried my hand at sculpting small scale figures, and tattooing, in a proper safe environment, of course lol.

ME: And what's your favorite part of art?

KEVIN: I think my favorite part about the art that I do is the part when you begin to have a drawing or sculpture that is taking form and beginning to look like you've created something. It's nice to make it look as slick as possible, and get compliments from people on it, but that point where you're like, "yeah, it looks like what I was going for" is the most enjoyable, I think.

I think I couldn't agree more! There's a journal on Ayelid's page where he talks about doing commissions and you can see that and his work through the link above. This work will also be posted at the Facebook fan page, faves at my Deviantart page and the website when it launches.

Monday, December 19, 2011

How to be and not be an advocate

So you want to be an advocate. You want to help others with a cause in some way. Most advocates on the internet are volunteers, using what they know to help others. Some actually have a good relationship with schools and law enforcement; others even have some legal pull. Whichever of these you want to be, you will have to consider a few things that I strongly advise. I advise this from personal experience and events I have personally witnessed. I hope this helps you. Consider it a ‘do’s and don’ts of advocacy. I’m going to speak from the advocacy of autism, but this really does go about the same for whatever cause you support.

First of all, if you want to be an advocate with legal backing of any kind, make sure you get the education and any proper licenses you need. Take classes and obtain a degree. Don’t go out and make wild claims to puff yourself up, like claiming to be a DC Lobbyist. Things like this (all DC Lobbyists are accounted for and fully listed for the public) are easily found out and will hurt your standing as a trustworthy advocate. Be able and willing to show your credentials if you claim to be a legal advocate. The sad truth is that some people out there just want your money or to be seen as something important. They are willing to use others to achieve this. Don’t be one of them. Advocates like this can do way more harm than good.

Educate yourself on your cause as much as you can and always be ready to update that education as terms and issues change. Research, research, research, learn how to do research. The more you educate yourself, the more help you can be to others.
Aside from your working knowledge, you need to protect your image. A lot of internet advocates don’t do this. Your image is how people see you and worse, how they may choose to portray you. I can tell you that autism is as bad as politics when it comes to advocate mudslinging. There are advocates out there who see this as a competition for who you should go to. Don’t get involved in that. Let me tell you a little story, (some of you long time readers may know it already).

In late 2009, a young man with autism was restrained in his school and struggled to get free. He was charged with felony assault and the family was in turmoil. The boy’s grandmother came to the internet seeking any help she could. Advocates came together and put up a “chip in” to raise money for legal fees. During this time (into 2010) the Grandmother stated she was being harassed and investigated by a group of other “people” on the internet. I stepped in and tried to get them to stop. I tried to be Mr. Internet Hero and let me tell you something. Pay close attention to these words.

It blew up in my face. Do NOT do this.

All I did was make myself a target. I thought I should warn the autism community about my experience and that was the wrong thing to do to. I had my past dug into and slathered on the internet (20 years into my past). There was a case where I filed a suit against and an employer. Naturally they made several accusations against me to protect themselves. Those digging, took those accusations and posted them on the internet for all to see. Accusations that are not an accurate reflection of who I am were posted and they were damaging. I’ve been fortunate to have readers who know me and were able to see how much hostility were in the postings. Since then, to this day, I’ve been hounded, harassed, and even threatened. I’ve been accused of being some ringleader of white collar crime and had everyone who wants to put me in their own internet court room pop out of the woodwork. I’ve had some of the nastiest comments and postings you could ever think of posted at or about me. It’s not pretty, not nice, mature or ethical. All because I thought I was standing up for someone else.

If you want to stand up for someone’s rights, do it with the people who matter to those rights. Tell your client to block all attackers, that’s what the block button is for. And then block them yourself. Do not confront, you have no idea what kind of mentalities you will be dealing with and they will attack your image and anything else they can.

I have found that my advocacy is best done as simply giving out the information that may help others. I give advice where I can and will no longer ever engage in trying to “protect someone” on the internet. I can’t. I will give advice on what to do. Block them, ignore them, and keep up on what’s important. There are many internet advocates who go out and pull the “rallying” card to get people to shut so and so down, etc. It’s not worth it. All you’ll do is make yourself a target. Put the time into actually helping others, a far more rewarding issue. I’ve gone so far as to remove all mentions of negativity and other “advocates” or attackers from my blog for sake of being a more positive place for others. The same cannot be said for my pursuers. So learn something from my mistake, okay? Avoid the dramas the best you can.

So, hopefully, this gives you some ideas on what you should and shouldn’t do to be an advocate. Remember there are several types of advocates, research them to see what you can do best.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Book about growing up undiagnosed

This was going to be pointers on how you can be an advocate. However, I recently found something that I hadn't seen in some time. It's a link to download my book, Raised in Hell for free. Yes, my first book about living with autism from a very special perspective is free and always has been.

Why is it free? Because I know that families seeking answers already have enough on their plates. If you're wondering about seeking diagnosis and there are problems, read my book.

Why is it special? I know there are a lot of books about people and their autism out there. My book is about what can happen when no one knows what is wrong. It's about growing up undiagnosed. My father was often perplexed on what to do with me as were many. No one knew what I had or what I suffered and I couldn't explain it to them. I believe that frustration is connected to the abuse and bullying I survived. If there were the right education available at the time, my life would have been very different.

So I think it's important, very important to see what can happen. It's just one example and there are tougher ones out there.

So there's the LINK to the page where you can download my story (book one anyway) and hopefully it's thought provoking. Wondering about getting diagnosis? Read this. You'll have to scroll down a ways to get to the download.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Understanding Advocates

First, another looks at Webster's definition: A person who writes or speaks about a cause.

That's me. But there are other kinds of advocates out there, both good and bad. On the internet, the differences get blurred. Hopefully, this article will help define the lines. So what kinds of advocacy are there? Here's a list:

Individual: for the rights of a single person

Self: for the rights of yourself

System/Political: to promote changes in a broader system or promote a broader cause that affects a greater number of people

Legal: legal rights of various degrees (this can branch to the others easily, but issues will require someone with legal training)

Legislative: for changing laws which can branch to system political at times.

So, you've got problems. You're child, who needs and IEP is having trouble in school and it seems the school will not listen to you. You may need an advocate. Like many people nowadays, you turn to the internet and you find someone who says he can help. He says he can force the school system to play straight. Sounds great. Then he asks for money for airfare to come and visit your child's school. He plays on your desperation and you give in. You send the money and he never shows. Either that, or he actually contacts the school and ticks them off so badly they'll never work with you. So how do you know if you have found an advocate who can help you?

This is something I've actually helped people do several times over. My form of advocacy is in education. I believe that the more we learn, the better off we are. I advocate for people to learn about conditions to help erase stigma and abuse. So I give lots of advice for people looking for help.

What to watch out for on the internet with advocates:

Asking for money. Depending on the kind of advocate you are looking for, you shouldn't be looking to connect with them on the internet. Any advocate who's asking for your money, you need to look at closely. As in my last blog post, ask questions. Often they'll make wild claims of what they can do and what degrees they have. If they can't be verified, run. If you ask and they get belligerent, run. Verify all information. Let me write that again, verify ALL information before giving any money to anyone for their "advocacy".

Now let me tell you what an advocate is not and shouldn't be. An advocate is not some special authority who goes around demanding answers of individuals or other advocates for every detail of their doings and lives. They are here to help people, not police them. When Nick Dubin, a well known advocate for autism, was arrested; I was contacted and asked why I wasn't demanding answers and writing blogs about Nick Dubin. Simple, because that's not what an advocate does. I'm not trying to write the National Enquirer of Autism here (some people are and do). I'm not writing the gossip column of autism either. That's not what an advocate does. That's not an advocate, period. Now, there are plenty of advocate blogs out there and some of them are indeed doing just that, some aren't. You have to judge for yourself, what kind of information you are looking for. But I challenge you, look up definitions for yourself of "advocate" and see how many times you see "vigilante" or "gossip columnist" in the description. You won't.

Now, what's the best way for you to find help for your child? Every place and state has lay advocates of some kind somewhere. You just have to know where to look for them. Here are some updated ideas:

-Look in your phone book or online for your states Ombudsman's offices. Call them, they can often give you solid advice of where to go if they can't help you themselves.

-Contact your state's chapter of the Autism Society. You can google it by "state name" Autism society, try it. They often have lots of links with people and groups you can call.

-Google for your state and a chapter of NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) and contact them.

-Contact your states or county school board and request a hearing for your child. Most times, this costs nothing and it's part of your rights for your child.

-you cold google School Advocate and your area, town, county, or state and see what you get, but remember the above.

Just a few ideas. Do you want to be an advocate? In my next writing, I'll tell you the do's and don'ts from personal experience and more.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Holiday scam season

It's that time of year where finances run high and people are out after your hard earned dollars. Unfortunately, scams are everywhere and you have to watch out. It's gone far beyond your doorstep or phone. Now it's all over social media sites and you might be surprised at who gets involved.

Donations. This is one of the worst because they tug at your heart strings and make you want to help out. People will claim they are collecting for some family who went through a fire all the way to collecting for big name charities. Well, I'm about to give you some pointers to avoid giving your money to unsecured donation scams.

First is a big rule you need to follow. Make it your policy and don't break it. When people come to your door or call you on the phone for donations, DON'T DO IT. Almost no one goes door to door for sales anymore because of all the scams and dangers involved. None of the big charities do this. NONE of them. Even school fundraisers have instructions telling kids not to go door to door. That's not to say you have to worry about little Jimmy next door. If you know him, know his parents, and know his school, you're probably fine. Even the Girl Scouts aren't supposed to go door to door anymore. I know that's a bit extreme, but it's to deliver a point. Joe Blow who you don't know is in your area selling magazines for the Autism Society? WRONG! Get it?

Now, as for those people claiming to collect donations for big charities, there's a few things you need to know. Here is the most important:

Anyone, ANYONE, claiming to collect donations for a major charity or organization (who is not part of that organization) MUST do so with the approval of that charity or organization. If they don't, they risk themselves towards things like jail time.

Even if a person is legitimate and still doesn't have approval of the charity organization to represent them and collect donations for them, they are doing it WRONG. I have personally seen people get into trouble for posting that they are collecting for the Autism Society or March of Dimes when they had NO approval to do so.

Check this out LINK. This man was arrested for selling raffle tickets for the Make a Wish Foundation. He even claimed to be authorized but he blew a big rule. NO door to door! On top of that, Make a Wish said he was never authorized to collect donations in their name.

Make a Wish's official status is this: Anyone collecting for them in any fashion must do so ONLY after going through an approval process. That will result in a signed agreement and letter of authorization that one must be able to show upon demand.

So, even if someone is collecting legitimately, one phone call could get then arrested. Protect yourself and do it the right way if you are considering this. If someone can't show you they are legitimate (as pretty much ALL the organizations do it this way) don't give them you're money. Don't give them your money for this, no matter what.

But how else do they look convincing past that?

Maybe they are selling something? Doesn't matter. If they claim proceeds go to a named organization, they have to protect themselves by following protocol. Otherwise you just can't be sure.

Maybe they say their kid is doing it. Same answer as above. People use their kids for personal gain all the time and it's pretty sickening. "My child has cancer and six weeks to live. It's his personal wish to give to the American Cancer Society and he'll draw you a Christmas card for just five dollars so he can give." (note the quotation marks, I am NOT looking for donations at all), I have personally seen this one on the news with parents who's child wasn't sick at all. They even did the Christmas cards and were caught with over 60,000 bucks!

Maybe they claim to be advocates or some special interest group? They might even have a list of tips like this on their website. That's right, they'll advise you on how not to be scammed by practicing due diligence their way. Well, just throw their own questions back at them and see what happens. If they are legitimate they:

-won't get offended
-won't insult you or bash you in any way
-will give you a DIRECT answer
-will be able to show proof requested

When they don't give you a direct answer based on above... run.

So what do you do when you come across these people?

Two things:

1: Do not confront them. Even on the internet. Many of them are willing to be major internet bullying nightmares and you won't hear the end of it for a long long time.

2: Call authorities and inquire. Call the organization and inquire. Leave it at that and don't buy or donate if in doubt.

It's really just that simple. Protect your money and don't give it out to support fakers and scammers. Be sure to check in next time for another survival blog dealing with advocates.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Still an advocate

Advocate: Webster's Dictionary: One who speaks or writes in support of a cause.

If you've been following my blog then you will know that I both speak and write (especially write) in support of autism education. To me that is a worthy cause to write about. I'm sure we can all agree on that.

Now it's true that I am pursuing a great goal in my life in my writing and illustration of my fantasy universe, Galaxy Zento. Even so, I remain an advocate. I still write and speak in support of a cause. I volunteer my efforts to help others understand. I have even incorporated this cause and others I support into Galaxy Zento.

I may only get a good post on here once a week, but that doesn't mean I'm turning my back on the autism community. I will always support autism education. I have already made steps toward this. Granted, I'm not making money at this, but I'm building something. I'm building something positive and good.

I would think that stands as an example of what people can do. So, I'm still an advocate and my blog still stands. Anyone can peruse through the entries or google me and find my work any time they like. They can share it with anyone it may be of help to. I love sharing! So long as credit is given where it is due.

As for me being a cartoonist... THANK YOU! It's so nice to be recognized for my talents. Of course, cartoonists are much better at drawing the same thing a hundred times over for motion than me. I'm really just a humble illustrator/artist.