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By Dave Kot
Some doctors, educators, family members, and other groups want to find a cure for autism. In fact, discovering how to prevent Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) or “un-autism” people becomes a billion-dollar enterprise. ASD sparks new political campaigns, educational reforms, therapeutic interventions, and social media news like few other causes have. Therefore, some people may be surprised by our discovery: we found a cure.
…so we wrote a comic book about it.
Face Value Comics is the world’s first comic book to feature a “Golden Age” hero. We believe kids need and want heroes like themselves. Our stories follow simple guidelines to make relatively inexpensive, family-friendly entertainment. “Good” unquestionably triumphs over “evil.” Characters use good grammar, including Victorian-era slang in a steampunk science-fiction world. Against a backdrop of galactic invasions, we minimize violence – not clothing or plot. Michael is autistic.* He and his new friends in middle-school often find themselves fighting.
Michael encounters aliens and bullies, laser-blastin’ robots and test anxiety, huge space-ships and pre-teen romance. Will Michael save the world? First, he needs to understand who he is. Michael wants to feel safe, wanted, and successful in a world filled with experiences to which he cannot always easily relate.
Having a person with autism become a comic book hero would be a great social statement by itself. We add dignity and clinically-accurate descriptions. Furthermore, we feel responsible for having Michael be more than a poster-child for ASD. Our voice—Michael’s voice—is only one amidst a large crowd of naysayers. He is going to need help.
Understanding nonverbal facial cues, Michael and readers begin to better understand emotions. Our artist freezes a universal facial feature on the static page. In real-life, people may miss a flash of an upturned sneer or depressed eyebrows that depicts anger or sadness. Now, readers can read and re-read the page, at their pace, to learn how a person may be feeling. Speech and thought bubbles give language to the expressed emotions. Actually, the entire comic book becomes a fun social story by placing responses in context. Kids begin to recognize facial features in a comic book, and identify them in real-life situations to predict some behaviors. Our strategy builds empathy.
…and begins to “cure” ignorance and a gross public misperception of autism as a bad or terrible problem.
Admittedly, some people diagnosed with ASD may have very difficult experiences; don’t we all have unique, daily challenges? Our comic book compiles years of academic and professional experience about what autism is, and what it isn’t. Some readers may be disappointed that I, as an autistic adult and comic book script writer, didn’t reveal a cure for autism in 500 words or less. However, I’ve outlined a way to reduce misunderstanding and prejudice, and build on compassion and emotional strengths. For more information about it, read our comic book!
*Michael comfortably identifies himself as “autistic.” People using person-first language may bemoan his label, but Michael takes huge steps towards self-advocacy.
**Dave Kot founded Autism at Face Value as a non-profit business to promote the strengths of persons with autism. His wife Angela helps write script as a team. Sky does all of the artwork, from sketches to final coloring, using his thirty years’ experience in the comic book profession. Face Value Comics is their first public work on their mission. WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER
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With a network of affiliates across the United States, the Autism Society is the nation’s leading grassroots autism organization. Their mission is to increase public awareness about the day-to-day issues faced by people on the spectrum, advocate for appropriate services for individuals across the lifespan, and provide the latest information regarding treatment, education, research and advocacy. Contact and join a local affiliate and get involved! To find the affiliate nearest to you, click on your state below.