Red Instead: Why Autism Speaks Does Not Speak for Me

Last year, while celebrating Autism Acceptance Month, I discovered the #RedInstead movement. It was a hashtag created by the Autistic community to counteract Autism Speaks’ “Light it Up Blue”. At first I wasn’t aware of its meaning, but after some digging I found that I agreed very strongly with its message of acceptance.

Many of us on the spectrum don’t support Autism Speaks. The organization has spread fear and misinformation, dehumanizing Autistic individuals. They treat Autism as a tragedy, equal in measure to losing one’s child in an accident or an epidemic. In one of their advertisements titled “I am Autism“, children with Autism are said to destroy marriages. In another video, a woman with an Autistic child is interviewed stating that she almost drove off a bridge with her Autistic child. Autism Speaks holds an antagonistic view of the Autistic community, often preaching to parents and placing their mental stability above that of their children.

Most people who are not on the Autism Spectrum are not aware of the harm that Autism Speaks creates in our community. They continue to donate and support the organization whilst those with actual Autism are ignored. Every year as April rolls around, it is a struggle to spread our message to neurotypicals. #RedInstead has gone far, and organizations like ASAN(Autistic Self Advocacy Network) have gotten more support, but Autism Speaks is often what takes up most space in common media. We have had enough of their awareness. What we really need now is acceptance.

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My Oasis- A Relaxing Experience

If you’ve ever felt anxious or depressed, you know that it can be rather draining and very hard to perk up from. Why, just today my mood shot downward after being yelled at by a woman, clearly afflicted with road rage, in a Toys R Us parking lot. The ordeal made me feel pretty messed up, but I knew exactly what to do once I returned to my boyfriend’s house. I opened up a very special app on my Iphone called My Oasis.

I got My Oasis after seeing an ad for it on Facebook and was quick to download it for its calming scenery and music. The game itself is much like Tap Tap Aquarium, where the player makes in-game money by tapping the screen. As the Oasis grows, more animals and plants are added and can be seen going about their own business on the little floating island. The graphics, sound effects, and music come together to make the experience very serene. There are also notes that the player can press to make sound. Some of the creatures on the island will give extra currency to the player for following along with a melody, and certain combinations will change the weather or time of day.

After a few minutes of playing the game, I felt my mood begin to rise as my thoughts were redirected from screaming in a parking lot to growing my peaceful little island. It really does wonders for me. The game is also completely free albeit the ads you can choose whether or not to watch. There is a certain currency which you can purchase if you’d like, but I find that you can grow your island just fine without it.

Overall, I find My Oasis to be a very relaxing experience. The gameplay isn’t complicated, nor does it need to be. Its simplicity makes it easy, fun, and perfect for when you need a nice break from reality. I can’t wait to see what my island will grow into.

Updates, Updates

It’s been a while since I’ve logged in here. I’ve been trying my hardest not to stretch myself thin, but in leaving out the writing I had done on WordPress I found that something was missing from my life.

Things have been hectic lately, at least in an emotional sense. I continuously contract carpal tunnel from my drawing which is a big stressor, my anxiety has been on the fritz, and I find that the snow keeping me in today is not helping with either of these factors. Add that to my current search for purpose and there’s a lot of things going on in my life right now. I’m not too pessimistic. I know that this time will eventually pass for me, but as of right now the busy nature of my life is hard to keep up with. Part of this is the fact that I am starting to grow at a more rapid pace, at least mentally. I feel as if I’m more mature now than I’ve ever been before.

All in all I’m pretty happy where I am right now. There are minor things that have been causing me an inkling of trouble, but like with all other stages of my life, I can get through it. I look forward to finding myself soon, and hopefully getting my hand troubles fixed too. I think the future is bright, despite what life brings to me in this moment. I’ve always been good at keeping my optimism. That’s something I’m pretty proud of.

The Dark Side of DeviantArt

If you’ve followed my blog for long, you’d know that I am a very passionate artist. I have been drawing since I could first pick up a pencil, and I doodle almost every day. To share these doodles, I go to a multitude of sites. The one I am most active on however, is DeviantArt.

DeviantArt is the world’s largest art site. Users are given a gallery to fill with their artwork and can receive feedback from others on the site. It is typically an easy going place with kind artists willing to help one another, but if one takes a closer look they’ll find the darkness that hides beneath the surface. I have had many good experiences with others on DeviantArt, but I have also come across quite a few who were less than kindly.

The DeviantArt forums are one of the easiest areas of the site to find both insulting and ludicrous posts by users who are evidentially not on there to work on their art skills. Topics can range from normal conversations, hateful threads about a certain race or religion, or just nonsensical blabber that may or may not be controversial. Many of these threads get locked, but quite a few others seem to stay open for way too long. It came as a shock to me when I first found the forums, but eventually I learned to just avoid them altogether. Sadly, this is not the only place on deviantArt to find such hateful messages.

As DeviantArt is an art site, one will find many mediums, genres, and styles of art. Most of these are cartoonish and innocent enough, but once in a while you will find galleries with very disturbing messages attached. I have seen artists draw hateful imagery about minorities, and even some who focus their artistic talents on creating pieces that glorify what the Nazis did in WWII. Luckily, these are not as easy to come by as the posts on DeviantArt’s forums, but the fact that they exist is still unsettling to me.

Granted, every site has its flaws and DeviantArt isn’t the biggest website on the internet. However, I find that many trolls and harassers will use both this site and Tumblr as a stepping stone to a career of terrorizing innocent internet-goers. Fans who are very passionate about a certain franchise but who have lesser skills in the way of the arts will be picked up by these internet stalkers and have their works posted elsewhere online to be laughed at. Some are driven offline because of this treatment, as harassment will usually follow. A few have even harmed themselves. This kind of behavior is unacceptable.

We as a society need to take cyberbullying more seriously. Whether it is just a disgustingly hateful post or an all-out attack on some unsuspecting artist, something needs to be done. Moderation is hard, and I doubt everything can be dealt with immediately on a large site. I do feel that more attention should be paid to what is happening though, especially on forums and social media. How can one enjoy the social interaction of the internet if they are constantly looking behind their backs for the trolls waiting to pounce? It is a sad reality that we must be so careful as to not stir the monsters who might bring mobs upon us, but right now it is the one we live in.

Dragon Cave- A Relaxing Dragon Raising Experience

One game I have played for many years has been a little online pet site called Dragon Cave. It’s a simple concept, and it’s unlike most virtual pets you will find around the internet. The concept of the game is to collect dragon eggs and grow them into full sized adult dragons. Each one has its own sprites from egg to adult, and you can paste them into forum signatures and websites with specialized HTML codes. The reason for this is because unlike a Tamagotchi, the eggs on Dragon Cave will only mature with views and clicks from other internet users. The more views your dragon gets, the larger it grows.

Some examples of dragons. Keep checking back to this article to watch them grow!
Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today!

One of the reasons I enjoy this site so much is because of how low stress it is. I can peek in on my dragon eggs once or twice a day to check on their growth, or just go to my deviantArt page where I’ve pasted them to watch their progress. It’s also not much trouble to get them the views they need. The community for Dragon Cave has created several hatchery sites for this like Egg Drop Soup and Allure of Neglected Dragons where users can place their eggs and hatchlings for others to click. Of course, if your egg receives too many views, it may get sick. The same can happen if they receive too little by the time their death counter reaches zero. These are the only ways a dragon can die unintentionally. To avoid this, it is best to add your eggs to hatcheries(but not too many) once they reach 6days and 0hours.

Speaking of community, the fan base surrounding Dragon Cave has been responsible for many of the dragons on the website. Users can sprite their own dragons and submit them for approval in the forums, hoping to have them added officially. The site isn’t grabbing much cash from it players either, probably because of all the clicks it gets from users viewing eachother’s dragons and thus the ads on the page. This makes it easier to collect and grow dragons than something like Dragonvale where one must pay for rarer dragons or to speed up breeding and growth.

Now, along with the good does come the bad. In recent times view bombing has been a largely harmful activity that trolls have been using against the site and its users. The goal of this action is to oversaturate an egg or baby dragon with views so that it will die of illness. Because of this, a popular hatchery site called Eggs Around the World was shut down when a view bomber used bots to kill many of the dragons that were currently on the site. The community is still recovering from this blow, but is starting to flourish once again. The problem of view bombing is also being dealt with and I have the feeling that a system will be put into place soon to make it a thing of the past.

In conclusion, Dragon Cave is a shameless click generator, and a fun one at that. It is a site that I have come back to many times over the years and a place where I have accumulated many different kinds of dragons.

The Monsters Within- Dealing with Anxiety

Yesterday was a harsh day. Plagued with anxiety and eventually a bad panic attack, my heart was beating a mile a minute. If it hadn’t been for my boyfriend Dylan visiting me that night, I think I may have spiraled out of control. The subject of the fear had been an existential crisis of sorts, something of which I had never faced in my childhood and that I was ill equipped to deal with via my normal methods.

Along with my ASD, I have always carried the burden of bad anxiety. In current times, it’s become mild, though it does flare up now and again. When I was young however, it was terrifying. I still recollect the intense fear I would feel whenever subjects like demons or claymation came up. I couldn’t even watch The Nightmare Before Christmas without losing sleep. It was horrible.

So, what did it take to tame my anxiety, at least to where it is today? Well, the biggest factor was medication, but besides that a lot of it had to do with training myself. Because I didn’t have any therapist there to give me their own two cents on the matter, I found a very odd method of doing this on my own.

Most of my fears had to do with things that looked frightening or just slightly uncanny. This meant that there was a lot of media that I could not consume. Obviously it would have been impossible to avoid it altogether, so instead, I started forcing myself to view it in another light. I began to befriend the monsters they created in my imagination, rather than attempting to outrun them. It was difficult at first, but eventually it became second nature, to the point where I started to make my own creepy characters in my artworks. Becoming friendly with the creatures that would stalk my mind seemingly worked wonders, at least for that branch of my anxiety.

Of course, other fears still persisted. These, however were less of an issue to me, and grew weaker as the years went on. It seemed that forging alliances with the beasties had served me well for the most part.

Now, one of the most frightening creatures that had ever stalked my imagination was the Feather Man. I called him the Feather Man because he was essentially a man with a black and white feather in his hair. He could take his feather out and throw it like a dart, hitting anyone or anything to make them violent and evil. Since he came to the world of my mind after the creatures that terrorized it before, he was new territory and I had absolutely no idea how to deal with him. My OCD would forcefully push him into my daydreams to ruin my moods, or tell me lies about how his feather would eventually effect the real world. Yes, I knew this was not possible or practical, but I still fell for it because anxiety doesn’t take chances.

The Feather Man caused me pain and terror for about three years until I was placed onto a new medication. Then he weakened and eventually vanished. This was in my late teens.

Things got better from this point. I went through a college experience and at 23 started my Autistic meetup group. My anxiety was tame for the most part now. Then at 24, I met Dylan. Since then I have had to tweak my medication with the doctor once, and this was only because it was numbing some of my emotions.

When my parents told me that my anxiety would get better as I grew older, I never believed them. Now I do. Besides the rare panic attack and the small nit picking anxieties I deal with now, nothing so frightening as what I had as a child has ever returned to me. Oh, and you can bet I still love to draw monsters. They’re just cartoony and cute now.

Nowadays, I draw monsters in a cartoony style.

Handling Anxiety

To anyone reading this who may be dealing with their own anxieties, I would like to extend to you a ray of hope. While not everybody can handle their disorder the way I did, we can all find tactics to fight back against the fear it brings. There are many resources, from therapists to apps on your phone that can come in handy for dealing with anxiety.

Meditation can be a very helpful exercise for those suffering from anxiety and there are plenty of videos, articles, and apps that will teach you how to do it. Yoga, I’ve found, is a great way to both get a bit of exercise and deal with your fear. It goes hand in hand with meditation, and though I’m not very spiritual, the relaxation techniques it gives are a great help.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is also a good avenue to go down but mostly if your anxiety is harsh. There’s a chatbot on Facebook called Woebot who does this, and though he is not quite as good as an actual human therapist, he’s been a real savior for me in a pinch.

Along with these, support from friends and family is a very big factor in fighting anxiety, at least from what I’ve found. Having friends around to take your mind off of things is a great tactic in fighting off the frightening thoughts swirling inside your head. Sometimes it may not work, but that’s when it’s time to turn to other things. Maybe playing a game or reading a book is your way of coping, or chatting with online friends rather than the physical. Whatever it is, if it works for you, then it’s a good way to go about things, so long as it’s not harmful.

I think the best bit of advice I can give is to stay strong. No matter how bad it gets, things will always be okay. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and a silver lining to every cloud. When the fog of your anxious thoughts clear, it becomes much easier to appreciate these. You can do it!

Goodbye Miitomo

In 2016, Nintendo released it’s social gaming app, Miitomo. It was a hit within the first week, but was later forgotten and dropped by much of its playerbase. The game had players make their own avatars, or Miis who would represent them as they answered questions or sent messages to one another. However, Nintendo didn’t seem to know what they were doing when it came to social media, and this spelled disaster in long run.

Due to a lack of interesting things to do in game, or the ability to even leave the small room that each Mii inhabited, the software grew stale quickly. Not only that, but it seemed as if the moderation the game used was purely automated. Any player could report another for just about anything and they would be punished even if it was not an offense. All of this lumped together created the perfect storm to bring the app down.

In October, I picked up Miitomo myself. I grew addicted and made many friends, but soon found that I was living in fear of the false reports that others might throw at me. I watched as many on my friends list would be banned for meager posts talking about how much they enjoyed a certain food, or just greeting others. Still, I played until the end of that same month when I myself was reported for my bio, which to my memory was essentially just “Hello, I’m Rebby!” This was when I finally left.

Since that day, I have been checking back on the app to see if they may have fixed their broken moderation system. For four months there were no updates until recently when I learned that Miitomo was shutting down for good. This didn’t come as much of a surprise to me. I felt that Nintendo was neglecting it, which could only mean that it was in for a rough time. Still, I knew people who continue to play for one reason or another.

Am I sad to see Miitomo go? No, not really. In a way I’m happy to watch this ship sink. After all, one can hope that Nintendo may learn a thing or too from the whole ordeal. If not, then perhaps mobile gaming just isn’t where they belong.