Autism grows up: social media, bullies, and boundaries

When we adopted the twins 22 years ago, I couldn’t have known the challenges we’d face with them when they became adults. Besides having to use key-less entry locks to keep things in the proper places, we’re also learning to navigate this brave (sort of) new world of social media. How does a parent with adult children with disabilities help their child through the swamp of online bullying, manipulation, and outright danger of online relationships? Disability rights advocates frown on parental interference in adult relationships, but what if that adult functions on an eight-year-old level? Isn’t it indeed abuse not to intervene to protect that individual? I’ve learned the hard way that I never should have allowed the twins unfettered access to social media. Not that I could have stopped them, really. They’re both tech savvy. They both want to fit in, and they both love the socialization that happens on Facebook. That’s been a huge plus for them socially because they’re more comfortable writing than speaking. But frankly, I wish I didn’t have to oversee what goes on with them online because it’s extremely time-consuming. In my interview with Gloria Doty, I learned how her daughter with autism was manipulated, raped, and abused due to online relationships gone wrong (the incident is discussed at 57:10). What my sons have experienced is bullying, controlling and manipulation. But what is worse, I’m terrified one of my guys will contact an underage girl and be misunderstood. This has happened before and we almost had a dad show up ready to kill. We had to talk him down and explain it was a harmless contact. Nothing would ever come of it. He was not very understanding. I don’t blame him.  (Nothing inappropriate was said or done. But the fact my son was 19 at the time and the girl was 14 freaked the dad out as it should have.) I’m looking into alternative social media for the guys but there’s slim pickings. PLUS, they want to be where everyone else is. And why wouldn’t they? If Facebook appeals to over a billion people, of course they’re going to want in on the “fun.” (Personally, I don’t like Facebook for many reasons, but that’s another post for another day.) Do you know how difficult it is to delete a Facebook profile when the owner can’t remember his password? Do you know how difficult it is to keep an intellectually-immature person from creating one in the first place? Do you know how embarrassing it is to have people sending me screen shots of stuff my sons post in innocence but could be taken wrong? (I do appreciate this, by the way. It helps me...

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Are you old school 3-D or digital?

I think I live in an awesome time to be a writer. What used to take months, even years, to research, I can learn now with just a few clicks. I don’t have to travel anywhere but to my writing cave to go all over the world. I don’t even need a thesaurus, dictionary or encyclopedia at my side. Click. Click. A plethora of resources appears at the command of my fingertips. As I’ve shared before, I really do wish it were possible to read the entire Internet. Then again, sometimes I read so much of it I’m left with even fewer answers than before. The reason? Not every expert agrees. Our knowledge on this earth is finite, and our faith, work and lives extremely complex. There’s simply no way to know everything. And then there’s the issue of digital versus 3-D. Print book vs. e-book. Hard copy versus virtual. I find myself unable to commit to one or the other. Fact is, I’m a hybrid consumer when it comes to using resources. When organizing your thoughts while writing and planning, do you lean more toward digital or 3-d? I find myself doing both. I still haven’t completely committed to a digital calendar. I record both in my hard copy planner and my digital google calendar. For some reason, the hard copy planner is like a security blanket for me. Maybe if I’d grown up recording my life in the virtual world I’d be more willing to let the hard copy calendar go. For now, though, I have it on my phone, computer, on the wall on a whiteboard and in my planner. I don’t know if that’s because I’m getting older and am afraid of being forgetful, or if I just enjoy planning. As for planning a novel, I find myself using both Kanbanflow, WriteWay software and a 3-D notebook for storing ideas, outlines, characterizations and research. I found a really awesome little notebook that I wish, oh wish, they’d make in a 2″ binder. In this I keep all sorts of notes, such as my Pixar graphic organizers, character charts, names, research and more. I like being able to reach for the notebook instead of having to figure out where I stored the info online or on my laptop. And while WriteWay has given me a great tool for storing research and ideas, too, I still like having that back-up of a 3-D notebook. For now, both 3-D and virtual/digital planning works for me. I know I’m probably working at it a little harder than the next person because I use redundant methods. But it makes me feel safer somehow. Plus, I’m an extremely visual person. Not being...

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An open letter to friends and family from a writer

Dear Friends and Family: (Note: This letter is not in any way a reference to my darling Mr. Himself!) There have been some rumbles lately about the time I spend writing. To help us all get on the same page about this wordsmith-ing gig I’m into, I thought I’d write this letter to set a few things straight. Few people understand the sacrifices a writer makes other than other writers. Especially writers with full-time jobs outside of writing. The perception most of the public has of people who write books, is that their work is easy and effortless. Authors sit down and *POOF* out pops a book. When you’re a writer, people assume you don’t have a “real” job with “real” hours. Deadlines, to them, are just excuses to say no to things you don’t want to do, when the opposite is true. People also assume writers who are published get big royalty checks each month. Um, no. Not unless you’re a national/international best-seller. So far, no one is banging down my door offering me movie contracts or begging me to publish with them. And if a big royalty check arrived in the mail, someone stole it. Some of you wonder how I juggle so many things and wear so many hats. It boils down to three basic things: I don’t watch TV. Think of how many hours you watch TV each week and add it up. That’s probably several whole days of writing for me. I get several whole extra days a week others don’t because I spend my spare time writing and researching instead of passively frying my brain on drivel. (As you can see, I have a high opinion of television these days.) Writing for me is as much a part of me as breathing. I must write. It’s been such a part of me, from such a young age, I simply can’t imagine not doing it. Ducks swim. I write. You hunt. I write. You are a car enthusiast, I’m a writer. I’m different from you. Different isn’t wrong, it’s just different. I’ve learned to say no. It upsets people. They call me names. They hurt my feelings by saying things like, “I’ll be sure they put ‘I have a deadline’ on your tombstone.'” (More about that in a minute.) But I’ve learned that no one will respect and protect my writing time but me. No one understands it, or wants it, as badly as I do. I’ve learned that there’s no way to please everyone, so I’ve stopped trying. My aim is to please God and God alone. This has taken me far too long to learn. I wish I’d have done so many years...

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