autism comic strip explaining that autism is another way of thinking

Many of my high school mentees on the autism spectrum are huge comic book fans. While teaching them about self-advocacy, I decided to create my own comic strip to explain my own journey with autism to them. Today I wanted to share it with you all.

autism comic strip explaining that autism is another way of thinking

I hope to create more comic strips in the future to help spread autism and disability awareness in our community.

Follow this journey on



The unarmed caretaker of a young adult on the autism spectrum was shot Monday by police in South Florida.

Charles Kinsey, 47, was trying to retrieve the young man, who had wandered away from the assisted living facility where Kinsey works, and, according to reports, was blocking traffic.

In a video released by Kinsey’s attorney, Napoleon Hilton, Kinsey can be seen lying on the pavement with his arms up, attempting to get the young man to do the same. The young man sits beside Kinsey, fidgeting with the white toy truck in his hands.

“Rinaldo, please be still,” Kinsey says in the video. “Sit down, Rinaldo. Lay on your stomach.”

Moments later, Kinsey is heard appealing to police officers, who stand with guns cocked about 30 feet away.

“All he has is a toy truck in his hand. That’s all it is,” Kinsey is heard saying. “There is no need for guns.”

Editor’s note: the following video contains screaming as well as images of Kinsey with officers after being shot.

Shortly thereafter, Kinsey was shot in the leg by an officer. The incident was not captured on camera, but a second bystander video shows Kinsey and his patient being handcuffed, surrounded by officers. Kinsey’s attorney told reporters his client was made to lie on the pavement for 20 minutes before being transported to the hospital for treatment.

“I was really more worried about [my patient] than myself,” Kinsey told local news station WSVN from his hospital bed. “I was thinking as long as I have my hands up … they’re not going to shoot me. This is what I’m thinking, they’re not going to shoot me. Wow, was I wrong.”

Kinsey told WSVN the gunshot left him shocked.

“I’m saying, ‘Sir, why did you shoot me?’ and his words to me, he said, ‘I don’t know,’” Kinsey told the station.

In a press conference Thursday, police said officers on the scene were responding to a 911 call, made at 5:01 p.m., of an armed male suspect threatening suicide. The shooting officer, who has not been identified, has been placed on leave while the department and State Attorney investigate the case.

North Miami police chief Gary Eugene, who was sworn in July 12, refused to answer questions at the press conference.

In an email, Lori McIlwain, cofounder and chair of the board of the National Autism Association, told The Mighty:

Everyone at NAA is devastated by the recent event in Florida. Mr. Kinsey was clearly attempting to protect an individual with autism, and was in need of assistance… Wandering (elopement) is a common occurrence in the autism community, and individuals with autism may be unable to respond to verbal commands. We often see cases where an individual with autism elopes from a group home. These individuals are in need of understanding, support, and assistance.

She cited a photo that went viral in May, of an officer in Charlotte, North Carolina, consoling a teen with autism who had eloped from his high school, as a model of police involvement with autism.

“Individuals in our community, and the caretakers trying to protect them, should have our assistance and support,” McIlwain told The Mighty. “We encourage law enforcement agencies to visit local group homes to meet these beautiful individuals and their caregivers.”

UPDATE Thursday 7/22:

The police officer who shot Charles Kinsey Monday was reportedly aiming for the young man with autism whom Kinsey was trying to escort back to the nearby MACtown Panther Group Homes facility, according to NPR.

As Kinsey lay on the ground with his hands up, his patient sat nearby, holding a toy truck that was mistaken by both the 911 caller and police as a gun.

Believing that Kinsey’s life was in danger, the officer, described as a 30-year-old Hispanic man, discharged his weapon.

“Fearing for Mr. Kinsey’s life, the officer discharged his firearm, trying to save Mr. Kinsey’s life,” John Rivera, president of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association, told reporters. “And he missed, and accidentally struck Mr. Kinsey.”

The officer said in a statement that he “did what he had to do”, and Rivera, of the local union, characterized the case as a misunderstanding, distinguishing it from other recent police-involved shootings of black men.

“This is not a case of a rogue cop; this is not a case of police abuse,” Rivera said, according to NPR. “Listen, Mr. Kinsey did everything right. Let’s be clear about that. Mr. Kinsey did everything right.”

According to NBC News, Kinsey was released from the hospital Thursday, the same day U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch indicated the Justice Department was working with local officials on the case.

Many people in the autism community have heard of Dr. Stephen Shore’s quote, “If you’ve met one person with autism — you’ve met one person with autism.” Autism is a spectrum disorder that manifests itself differently across individuals. I am going one step beyond Dr. Shore’s declaration by distinguishing a small but increasing segment of the autism community.

“If you’ve met one person with autism—you haven’t met any with deaf autism.”

The most recent statistics determining the national average of children with autism in the United States is 1 in 68. Within that number, there is a growing number of deaf/hard of hearing children who find themselves caught between two worlds. My 6-year-old son is one of those children caught in limbo; a member of two communities, but belonging to neither.

For deaf autistic children, the ability to communicate is strongly affected by the combination of not being able to hear what is being said, accompanied by limited verbal skills, which is characteristic of many children with a single diagnosis of autism. I learned that my son Kameron is deaf when he was 9 months old. His audiologists educated my family about cochlear implants, so we opted to have his right ear implanted first. I also began a quest to learn sign language. Even after a couple years of early intervention, he did not make any progress. He experiences sensory issues that resulted in an inability to wear the external components of the cochlear device.

On his second birthday, I discovered that he is deaf and autistic. His language is currently very delayed. At 6 years old, most typical developing kids are speaking full sentences and reading simple words. Many non-verbal autistic children are experiencing success with communication devices and tablets. Similarly, many children who are only diagnosed as deaf are using sign language. I can’t say that my son fits into any of these categories.

Communication or Assistive Technology (AT) devices require the ability to point and manipulate buttons or navigate different screens. Kameron has difficulty with finger isolation, which makes using an AT device as a mode of communication ineffective. In order to build a strong sign language vocabulary, a child must have strong imitation skills. Currently, Kameron does not have the imitation skills necessary to use sign language as a primary mode of communication.

His limited communication skills tend to alienate him from other children. He doesn’t have playmates that are not relatives or close family friends. Even those relationships are a bit forced, as he cannot share in their conversation and interests. He can’t utter the words “play with me.” A game of catch is more of a therapy session in turn-taking and imitating, contrived by an adult. Almost every step he takes during the day is shadowed by an adult, who must stand within several feet to ensure his safety.

Modes of communication is a hot topic among speech language pathologists (SLPs), behavior analysts and special educators. For children who are deaf and autistic, choosing a primary mode of communication is doubly challenging. Education programs and school placements are built around modes of communication; however, when a child does not fit nicely into one of the modes, the result is an educational program that lacks the adequate resources and programming options.

When my son turned 3, the “team” (not me) made the choice that a half-day Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) program was the best placement for him. After my request for a mediation hearing, we compromised on the DHH class in the morning and class for children with autism in the afternoon. There was no one like my son in either of the classes. In fact, there was no precedence for deaf autistic children. The research is limited. The resources and programming options for children like my son do not exist. He is the needle in the haystack.

So, how does my family manage in a world not designed for those who are deaf and autistic?

Day by day, just like everyone else. Our outings may require a bit more planning and thought. One person has to be the designated aide to follow my son throughout the day. Not every activity can be modified for my son’s enjoyment, but we try to make adjustments when we can.

After several years of him struggling to wear his cochlear device, he now wears it every day. Through determination and strong advocacy skills, I was able to find a suitable educational placement where he is beginning to make progress. He is still the needle in the haystack, but his team is very accommodating and progressive in their thinking and approach to education. In terms of receptive language, he understands some simple directions such as “clean up toys” or “go bathroom” that I usually pair with my voice and a sign/picture. He can consistently respond to his name being called. He can wave “hello/goodbye.”

I still long for him to speak so I can hear the words, “I love you mommy,” but he is a master of facial and body expressions. He is affectionate and absolutely loves hugs. His face lights up when he sees me. Sometimes I am all that matters to him. To many others these things may seem basic, but they mean all the world to me.

Most products for people on the autism spectrum are geared towards children or their parents, so Cynthia Kim created something adults on the spectrum could enjoy. Enter Stimtastic, a jewelry and toy company that promotes “stimming” or self-stimulatory behaviors like arm flapping, rocking, humming and other repetitive movements common among people on the spectrum.

“My goal for Stimtastic and for the products we sell is to help adults and teens who stim feel not just comfortable but celebrated,” Kim, who was diagnosed with autism when she was 42, told The Daily Dot. “For an adult who has spent years or decades having to suppress their stims in certain settings, knowing that they can now walk into a meeting or classroom wearing an item that will allow them to quietly stim can be empowering.”

All of the toys and jewelry sold on the site are made for and tested by people with autism. The jewelry is affordable, with many pieces costing under $10. All pieces are designed to allow either fidgeting or chewing, and are designed for any gender who wants to wear them.

Stimtastic’s line of toys includes crocheted stress balls, chewable pencil toppers, puzzles and an iPhone case that mimics bubble wrap. For those concerned about sensory sensitivities, all of Stimtastic’s chewy products are made from a food-grade silicone, which is tasteless and odorless.

Kim wants Stimtastic to become a community where people with autism can feel comfortable being themselves. On the Stimtastic website, Kim invites visitors to contribute to the blog, submit a stimming video, comment on the Stimtastic Facebook page, and share ideas about making Stimtastic better. In addition to fostering a community, Stimtastic donates 10 percent of all proceeds back to the greater autism community. Stimtastic’s largest donation has provided weighted blankets for those who cannot afford them.

One Irish mother is calling her nonverbal son with autism “the happiest boy in Ireland” after receiving a surprise shipment in the mail.

Nicole Duggan, 27, is mom to Riley, a 2-year-old who has a penchant for Angry Birds-themed Happy Meal toys from McDonald’s.

So when Riley misplaced several of his favorite toys — and an hour-long search for them turned up empty — mother and son were both devastated.

Duggan decided to email McDonald’s to ask if she could buy any extra of the toys for her son, but was pleasantly surprised by what happened next.

The next morning, she and Riley woke up to a package from McDonald’s containing the burger chain’s entire Angry Birds toy collection.

“He couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw them,” Duggan told The Mighty.


LOVELY GESTURE – We’re speaking to Cork mum Nicole who was overwhelmed by this lovely gesture from McDonald’s for her…

Posted by Corks RedFM 104-106 on Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Duggan was so touched by the gesture that she reached out to local Cork radio station RedFM to share Riley’s story:

Anyone who has a child with autism knows how hard it is for them to take to new toys and it is very rare for them to find something they love,” Duggan told the station. “To most people this would be a stupid delivery to get, for my little boy it was like Christmas morning!!! McDonald’s went above and beyond for my small man and I can’t thank them enough.

For Riley, the gesture was especially meaningful, Duggan said.

“Being nonverbal, he cannot get his feelings across, so he couldn’t tell me why he was upset and it just built up and he was so frustrated,” Duggan said of her son losing his toys. “It just shows how something so small can make such a difference to a child with autism.”

I was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum when I was 15 years old. Back then, I really didn’t know what that meant. So I focused on other (seemingly more important) things. My biggest focus was getting ready to learn how to drive!

Like most people who want to get their driver’s license, I was so excited when I finally turned 16. But when I asked my parents about it, they were very hesitant at first. Of course, I didn’t understand at the time. I just wanted to drive. My parents needed to figure out the best way to teach me, though. So it took another full year before the process began.

I started off with a typical driver’s education class, but I couldn’t handle the class itself. The workload was stressful, and there were so many other kids in the class that I just couldn’t focus on anything. My mom found a special mail-in course I could take instead. I read over a large book and had to take a test after each chapter with a licensed teacher watching. It worked. I passed the course and eventually got my learner’s permit.

Then the real work began. I will never forget that first day my dad took me out to practice. We arrived at an empty parking lot. My dad told me to get out of the car, and he brought me to the front of it. He instructed me to simply feel the hood of the car, and then to imagine it hitting something at 35, 45, or even 55 miles per hour. I truly began to understand and respect the power of the vehicle.

It was time to learn how to drive the car, and I realized it was a lot harder than I thought. As someone on the autism spectrum, I felt overwhelmed getting on the road with other cars. I started off in a business corporate center that had a road looping around, and it was probably another six months before I was ready to venture out onto an actual road. Then I would drive around outside the corporate center in a slightly larger loop, ending by going back into the corporate center where I was comfortable.

After about a year of practice, I passed my driver’s test. I’m so happy I learned how to drive. I actually found out later that my parents didn’t know if it would be possible, but they decided to let me try. I’m glad they did. Even though I’m limited on the places I can drive to, at least I have a little bit more independence.

I struggle with areas of construction and large highways. If there is a detour, I get extremely nervous. And since the GPS is distracting to me, I need to know exactly where I’m going before I leave. But I’m able to drive locally, and my loop has gotten larger over time. My autism diagnosis might have slowed me down at first, but I’m still moving forward!

Real People. Real Stories.

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