First Autism at Face Value Comic is Released!

We’re so grateful for our patient fans. Autism at Face Value is excited to announce that our first issue is available now at Indy Planet. Click here to get it.
Download a free four page insert (a special treat for our awesome fans), too! We’re very proud of our first Autism at Face Value comic and wanted to offer you that special bonus. Inside this special four-page color insert, you’ll find safety tips from Project Lifesaver International and definitions for 10 Victorian vocabulary words. For instance, did you know that an “addle plot” is a spoil sport?
Get your free Autism at Face Value Download here!
An Autism at Face Value comic makes a great gift and you can get them in time by visiting one of our local stores. At our signing, the first 100 comics purchased in store will be signed by the artist and writing team. Fans in York, PA can buy the comic at three local comic book stores: Comix Connection, Comic Store West, and Planet X Comics. We appreciate everyone who takes the time to buy their comics from these great shops and hope you enjoy issue 1, the first of many comics that will deliver a fun and inventive storyline AND build understanding about autism.

Helping Teens with Autism with Social Learning

Social learning refers to the process of observational learning, often internalizing social norms. For neurotypical children, social learning usually happens intuitively, without the need for explicit instruction. For children and teens with autism, social learning is something they really struggle with. In part this is because social learning takes place in a context of attention. People with ASD are often deep in their own minds and thoughts and have a hard time paying attention to what others are doing. Reading emotions is also a big struggle for people with ASD. These struggles contribute to feelings of social awkwardness.
With an attentive teacher, children and teens with autism can learn social norms through explicit instruction. Face Value Comics hopes to be part of the process of social learning, too. By using the Ekman theory of expression, we are aiming to give autistic teens tools to read other people and understand the subtle cues of social contexts.
By giving our autistic hero Michael a group of friends, we are also modeling social learning in a way that is easier for an autistic teen to internalize. While we can’t go back to social situations in real life and “replay” them, we can always re-read a comic book. Each re-reading reinforces the concepts of empathy, reading emotions, and learning social norms. We hope to be part of many teens’ process of social learning and overcoming social awkwardness.

Use Self Care to Combat Holiday Stress

Teens with ASD are especially vulnerable to holiday stress. All the disruptions to the normal routine and the changes in celebrations from one year to the next can be enough to push a person with autism toward feelings of overwhelm and sensory overload. While some level of holiday stress may be unavoidable, there are several strategies of self care that can help keep the holidays manageable and fun.
One key to combatting holiday stress for autistic teens it to identify triggers. What makes you feel overwhelmed, anxious or depressed? Once you’ve identified your triggers, you can take steps to minimize negative feelings. This may mean that you say no to certain parties or outings. Or you decide to avoid some people.
Another important factor in decreasing holiday stress is to practice positive self care. In addition to avoiding situations that are stressful, make sure you schedule time for things that you enjoy and that help your relax. Get plenty of rest. Make time to bake a special treat. Visit a close friend. Practice meditation techniques that calm you and get you in touch with your inner emotional state. Make a plan of activities you want to do. Allow enough time between events to rest and recover. Be sure to enlist the help of family and friends so they can help you decrease holiday stress and make time for self care.


Helping People with Autism Read the Signals of Depression Over the Holidays

The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and togetherness. Unfortunately for many people with autism, the holidays can create extra stress. Holiday stress can then trigger or exacerbate depression. It’s important for family members and friends to be on the watch for signals of depression. Since people with autism can have a hard time expressing emotions, they’re especially dependent on others to help them recognize signals of depression and develop coping strategies.
Signals of depression for all people include dramatic increase or decrease in appetite or sleep needs, consistently negative thought patterns, despair, irritability, or a lack of interest in physical appearance. For people with autism, depression might manifest as an increase in self-harm behavior (like hand-biting), an increase in tantrums or violent behavior, or find everyday tasks harder to perform, especially in different environments.
Sometimes people can cope with depression through more regular sleep and exercise, healthy eating, prayer or meditation, or finding a hobby or social outlet. It’s important for family and friends of people with autism to respect the need for those things, even in the midst of holiday obligations. Sometimes knowing that others struggle with depression can help a person cope with it.
Face Value Comics include characters and stories about depression. When anyone notices signals of depression, whether the person with autism or a friend or relative, that’s a sign to slow down. During the holidays, that may mean turning down some invitations or having more subdued decorations. It’s better to have a quieter holiday season than a frantic series of events leading to depression.


Autism Labels As a Tool for Understanding

Many people receive autism labels these days.  Sometimes people are diagnosed with autism when they are young children.  Other people struggle into adulthood until their challenges are given the autism label.  This labeling can be helpful for some to get professional support and education.  Different labels can help us understand aspects of ourselves and our loved ones, and help us empower ourselves to address our unique challenges.
At Face Value Comics, we’ve dedicated ourselves to helping society understand those given Autism Labels: children, teens and adults everywhere who are challenged with Autism Spectrum Disorders, or ASD. At the same time, we want to give people with ASD tools to help them navigate the neurotypical world.
One thing that people with ASD struggle with is recognizing what others’ facial expressions mean.  In our stories we use the theories of Dr. Paul Ekman and his Facial Action Coding System (FACS) to illustrate different emotions.  Because a comic is a static image, people can study the face as long as necessary to decode the emotional signals.  The words appear in speech bubbles and captions help place the scene in context.
More than anything, we hope that Face Value Comics will give useful autism expressions, both to help people with ASD understand the emotions of others, and to give a positive and affirming view of people with ASD to a neurotypical world.  An autism diagnosis isn’t the last word on a person.  Autism labels should just be a tool for understanding.  We hope that we can further this understanding with our stories of Michael, his friends, and The Zephyr!