Monday, April 30, 2012

Cynthia Parkhill to ‘I Wish I Didn’t Have Aspergers’: #AutismPositivity2012

What a revelation to learn in adulthood that I’m on the autism spectrum and that, moreover, I am part of an amazing, versatile, diverse community.

The difficulties and challenges I’d suffered in childhood were finally explained! The teasing and ostracism, the food sensitivities that led to battles at the dinner table. My differences were known, they were documented and explained. Even understood and shared by actively blogging members of an autism community.

Even more amazing to learn that those traits that I consider to be my greatest strengths — honesty, creativity, an absence of pretense and my passion for animal welfare and zero-tolerance for bullying — could be attributable to autism too.

I don’t know what circumstances led you to to google “I Wish I Didn’t Have Asperger’s.” I don’t pretend to know your problems. I can tell you that you are not alone.

Yahoo! avatar customized using
Adobe Creative Suite 2
The ribbon of interlocking puzzle pieces is very beautiful to me in its bright variety and color. To me it suggests that each of us is unique but with shared experiences from which we can draw strength.

Here is a perspective by Dr. Tony Attwood that helped to shape my awareness of what it means to be on the spectrum. I hope it is of as much comfort to you as it was to me:
“From my clinical experience I consider that children and adults with Aspergers Syndrome have a different, not defective, way of thinking.
“The person usually has a strong desire to seek knowledge, truth and perfection with a different set of priorities than would be expected with other people. There is also a different perception of situations and sensory experiences. The overriding priority may be to solve a problem rather than satisfy the social or emotional needs of others.
“The person values being creative rather than co-operative. The person with Aspergers syndrome may perceive errors that are not apparent to others, giving considerable attention to detail, rather than noticing the “big picture”.
“The person is usually renowned for being direct, speaking their mind and being honest and determined and having a strong sense of social justice.
“The person may actively seek and enjoy solitude, be a loyal friend and have a distinct sense of humour.
“However, the person with Aspergers Syndrome can have difficulty with the management and expression of emotions.
“Children and adults with Aspergers syndrome may have levels of anxiety, sadness or anger that indicate a secondary mood disorder. There may also be problems expressing the degree of love and affection expected by others. Fortunately, we now have successful psychological treatment programs to help manage and express emotions.”
I like Attwood’s emphasis upon different and not defective. In a longer article, he explores what would happen if society focused on discovering Aspergian strengths and advantages. I hope this perspective is of comfort to you.

This essay is part of the Autism Positivity Flash Blog event.

The Autism Positivity Flash Blog Event is the brainchild of Thinking About Perspectives, a group of bloggers committed to increasing autism awareness and acceptance via open and respectful dialogue.  They are: 30 Days of AutismOutrunning the StormThe Third GlanceAspie KidFlappiness IsQuirky and LaughingLife on the SpectrumFairy Tale ForgottenThe Aspie Side of Life and Inner Aspie.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

‘Something’s Gotta Give’





I started singing “Something’s Gotta Give” on Friday as the bus driver pulled away from my stop and I settled in for the ride home:
“When an irresistible force such as you 
“Meets an immovable object like me ... 
“Something’s gotta give, something’s gotta give, 
“Something’s gotta give.” 
Repeating this over and over for at least a minute, maybe longer.

I think the name for what I was feeling at the time was “relief” that I’d come to the end of my week with my responsibilities met. Perhaps the feeling was flavored with “anxiety” over whether this will continue to be the case.

The driver and I were the only two people who were on the bus at the time and if she heard me singing, she kept it to herself.

One of my known challenges is being able to identify and then to articulate what I’m feeling. I think that when I spontaneously sing, there may be a connection between the lyrics and emotions I am feeling at the time.

In the case of my week that concluded on Friday with my bus ride home, it was characterized by new opportunities that joined existing responsibilities.

While I was proud that I had met these challenges, part of my mind may have expressed concern that “Something’s Gotta Give.”

Echolalic tendencies are among my constellation of Aspergian traits. I often repeat what other people say but not always audibly. Much of this takes place in my head.

I sing snatches of lyrics and I engage in what I describe as cat mantras, repetitive chanting that is so-named because it involves cats:
“Precious little Starfire! Lovely little Starfire!”
or the more general:
“Precious little kittycat! Lovely little kittycat!” 
While I am much more aware today of my echolalic tendencies, I believe these traits persisted throughout my life.

Emotions remain difficult for me to identify but I think paying attention to when, where and what I sing may be a key to better understanding them. Singing, for me, may be indispensable to communicate what I am feeling at the time.


Autism bloggers promote positivity

Curated in Storify: Someone, somewhere, googled “I wish I didn’t have Asperger’s.” The Autism Positivity Flash Blog asks autism bloggers, “What would you say to that person?”

Friday, April 27, 2012

‘Bully’ reaches Lakeport

Hand-fashioned “No Bully” design, prior to stitching onto shirt
It’s casual Friday and I planned to wear anyway, my hand-fashioned “No Bully” shirt. But today turned out to be even more of an occasion to wear my “No Bully” shirt.

The film “Bully” opens today in Lakeport. I hope everyone who is at all influential upon a child’s education will go and watch this film.

I know of at least one class-wide trip to see “The Hunger Games;” how much more vital if Lake County schools arranged field trips to view “Bully” on the big screen.

Looking ahead, once the film has been released on DVD, I hope it is shown in every classroom and to parents during back-to-school events.

I would like this film to become part of orientation for newly-elected school board members. I would like bullying to be a campaign issue for anyone who seeks election.

Put simply, it is that important. Bullying is serious. Bullying is wrong. It can have devastating short- and long-term consequences. Every child (and adult) should be protected from bullying.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lake County libraries: Let’s have a ‘Measure A’

Mendocino County Library’s “Traveling Branch Library”
http://www.facebook.com/Mendocino.County.Library
 I think Lake County libraries should have a Measure A sales tax of its own, after reading about the numerous benefits to Mendocino County libraries.

As posted March 6 by the Ukiah Daily Journal, Mendocino County Library has acquired a bookmobile that is first-of-its-kind in the United States: an electric-diesel hybrid that operates with a prototype auxiliary generator.

Funding for the bookmobile came from American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funds but thanks to Measure A, the library was able to expand bookmobile services to previously underserved areas of Mendocino County.

I’ve argued previously that Lake County should operate a bookmobile: a “Traveling Branch Library,” as emblazoned on the Mendocino County bookmobile’s side.

I see a need for bookmobile services particularly in greater Kelseyville and Cobb communities. District 5 is the only Lake County district that does not have a branch library. A bookmobile would provide services to people who have limited traveling ability.

A bond measure or a sales tax, such as Measure A, would help pay for that bookmobile.

A celebration through yarnbombing of Measure A funding for Mendocino County libraries
But consider these other benefits to Mendocino County libraries, realized since the passage of Measure A:

The UDJ posted a report on April 13  about a presentation by Librarian Melanie Lightbody before the Mendocino County Supervisors. In addition to adding services back, Lightbody noted, the library hoped to put $300,000 in a library reserve fund.

Measure A sales tax revenues would also mean that the library “will now have the ability to pay our overhead costs, which the board of supervisors has paid for us out of general fund money for over 20 years,” Lightbody said.

The UDJ further noted that the board approved a Librarian II position for a children’s librarian for the coast, so that there will be one children’s librarian for the coast and one for inland Mendocino County. The board also approved hiring 10 part-time library assistant positions for various branch libraries.

When I consider the new library that is being built in Middletown, I wonder how it can reasonably run with only one library employee. Surely library Director Gehlen Palmer will be in need of help beyond that which can be provided by volunteers.

The Measure A library sales tax measure also paid for new online resources. Our libraries can always use added funding for collections, whether tangible or online, as well as for vital community services.

For these reasons, I hope Lake County will consider putting a measure to vote and, if it comes to be, I hope Lake County voters will approve a measure for libraries.

Published May 1, 2012 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Skillful means helps cultivate awareness

Cover image: “Mastering Skillful Means” by Tarthang Tulku

During lunch today I was reading “Mastering Successful Work” by Tarthang Tulku (Dharma Publishing, 1994). I encountered this passage, “Daily Checklist,” that I thought valuable to share:
“Start the day by reflecting on the key questions below, adding your own to the list. Remember to check back at the end of the day: How well did you do?
“What are my priorities for the day?
“How will I focus my awareness?
“How can I measure my success?
“Who is depending on me?
“What am I forgetting or ignoring?
“What is cloudy or foggy? Being covered up?”
The checklist highlights a chapter in the book that is called “Paying Attention.”

I have found  Tarthang Tulku’s book and an earlier book, “Skillful Means,” to be valuable in developing awareness. In my personal and professional endeavors I am required to learn new things and to meet expectations that are imposed by myself and others.

Skillful means is worth pursuing because it cultivates the mind in ways that can benefit irregardless of what task I am trying to pursue. I know that in some areas, I still need improvement for cultivating greater awareness. I turn to these books to help myself develop in that direction.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

YA book response: Pedro and Me by Judd Winick

Book cover: "Pedro and Me" by Judd WinickI enjoyed Pedro and Me, a graphic-format memoir by Judd Winick, because it illuminated a television show that was part of the cultural literacy of the time.

During the time that “Real World” aired, I did not have access to MTV and do not remember viewing any episodes. But it seemed to be of prevalent interest among people around me.

I did a Google search of “Real World: San Francisco” today to augment my reading of Judd’s memoir.

A Wikipedia breakdown of the season’s episodes reads very much like a soap opera. It seems to center upon the antagonism between Pedro Zamora and Puck. I see references to incidents documented by Judd in his memoir but no reference to the close friendship between him, Pedro, Pam and later Cory.

I think the graphic format is well-suited to this memoir, which is presented in an episodic style that further breaks up delineated chapters. It resembles a blog in which these stand-alone entries explore a single subject: “The Little Things,” “Pam,” “Small Problems,” etc.

The black-and-white style enhances the story by seeming to add dignity.

Altogether, I would encourage this memoir being included in a Young Adult collection. Through Pedro’s presentations, the reader is exposed to a frank and potentially lifesaving discussion of how HIV/AIDS is spread and what a person can do for protection and emotional health.

Compiled for LIBT 118, Connecting Adolescents with Literature and Libraries

More ‘Bully’ blogging: Refashioned ‘No Bully’ shirt

 The “No Bully” button that a theater manager gave to me because, well, I asked for one, inspired me to refashion a shirt into my own “No Bully” shirt.

Step one in the creation of my shirt involved cutting out the letters and the circle shape.
Step one in the creation of my shirt involved cutting out the letters and the circle shape.

The letters were cut freehand from yellow floral fabric and the circle with line through it was cut from a red bandanna. The bandanna pattern worked perfectly, forming a circle with its paisley motifs.

Letters and circle arranged on the shirt in preparation for sewing
Once cut out, the next step was to machine-applique the letters and circle to the shirt.

Wearing the finished shirt, I cuddle my crafting helper Starfire.
The completed shirt turned out great; the base garment is a T-shirt I bought through Toastmasters International. Much love and thanks to my helper Starfire for keeping me company while I worked.

‘Bully’ highlights shared experiences

“No Bully” promotional pin given to me by theater manager because I asked for one
Viewing “Bully” on Saturday was an opportunity to reflect upon shared experiences with the children who are profiled in this film.

I viewed this film with especial solidarity with Alex Libby and Tyler Long, two youths on the autism spectrum who were bullied by their peers. Those traits of autism possessed by Long and Libby, clearly identified in the film, are traits that I share as well: sensitivity to crowds and to loud noises and a difficulty with social communication.

Like Libby and Long, I believe these traits made me a vulnerable target for bullying.

Long committed suicide at the age of 17 and the film documents his parents’ efforts to advocate for  school environments in which bullying is not tolerated. It’s a crusade that I share.

I commend the filmmakers’ willingness to depict behavior by school administrators that self-incriminates to say the least.

A school administrator forces a child to shake hands with a child who has bullied him. When the victim is understandably reluctant to accept this forced, insincere overture, she chastises him, telling him he is no better than the child who bullied him. She is clearly lecturing the wrong child in this scene.

A school board member, stating on-camera that bullying is not a concern at the school, nods her head “yes” as she speaks. I am grateful for body language insights gained by watching the show “Lie to Me.” Here is “Lie to Me: ‘Bully’ Edition.”

A concern by some members of the autism community was that the film did not disclose Libby and Long’s autism spectrum diagnosis.

I would like to quote a statement by Jackie Libby, Alex Libby’s mother, because it’s a viewpoint I share concerning how bullying should be addressed:
“My son Alex is also a subject of ‘Bully’. He also has Asperger’s and it was also kept out of the film. Admittedly at first, I did not prefer it because of the comments people would make about Alex’s ‘weird’ behaviors in the film. I thought if they had an understanding as to why, it may have softened their sometimes cruel remarks. However, after being around the country and meeting so many families and kids who have been tormented by this issue I came to realize it shouldn’t matter. This is not a film about Aspergers, it is a film about bullying. It shouldn't matter if it’s Aspergers, homosexuality, race, religion, or even if the child is just perceived as ‘weird’ for no reason at all. ALL KIDS have the right to be protected and to feel safe at school! By removing our labels we only invite more individuals to relate, to discuss, and to resolve these issues. Because at the end of the day, we all want our kids to feel safe and accepted and if we stick together, they can.”
I am one of those children who was perceived as “weird” for no reason at all because when I was going to school, “autism” was more rigidly defined than it is now.

Being diagnosed at 39 was a revelation for me. Suddenly, my feeling out of place and even being targeted for bullying finally made sense. My condition had a name, it was understood and documented and I was not alone in my experiences.

But the bottom line for me is that bullying is wrong. Who the victim is, what characteristics incited the abuse and ostracism, should be less a consideration than to have zero tolerance.

The victim is not to blame, is not responsible, for the bullying.

People need to be aware that children with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to bullying, but they should be prepared to advocate for and support all targets of bullying. Abuse and ostracism is wrong, no matter who directed against. No one deserves to be bullied.

Some of the most hopeful scenes in this film show people getting involved through organizations like Stand for the Silent and Challenge Day.

Stand for the Silent was founded by Kirk and Laura Smalley, whose 11-year-old son Ty committed suicide to escape constant bullying. Its mission is: “End Bullying. Save Lives.”

For more information about “Bully,” visit http://thebullyproject.com/ and http://action.thebullyproject.com/. Follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/bullymovie.

To learn more about Stand for the Silent, visit http://www.standforthesilent.org/. To learn more about Challenge Day, visit http://www.challengeday.org/.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

YA book blog: Inheritance cycle

Cover art: Inheritance
Cover art: Inheritance

Inheritance or, the Vault of Souls by Christopher Paolini (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011) is the fourth and concluding volume in the Inheritance cycle, an epic fantasy set in the land of Alagaesia. Dragons and their riders — chosen from among humans and elves — formerly kept the peace but were cast down by an evil dragon rider and 13 other riders, “the Forsworn.”

The books tell the story of Eragon, a young man of humble origin who finds a dragon egg. It hatches for him and he and his dragon, Saphira, work with rebel forces, called the Varden, to battle the evil Galbatorix.

Paolini was 15 when he wrote Eragon, the first book in the Inheritance cycle. His family self-published the book in 2001 and Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers published Eragon in 2003 (Inheritance Cycle: Author, www.alagaesia.com). The series continues in Eldest (2005), Brisingr(2008) and concludes in Inheritance.

This epic fantasy will appeal to readers who enjoy this genre. There are presently 57 holds against copies of this book in the Lake, Mendocino and Sonoma County libraries. It is shelved in Young Adult fiction.

The books’ longer length and multiple characters and storylines make them suitable for teens who already are comfortable with and enjoy reading. I think the author’s young age during the writing of his books will add further appeal and perhaps even inspiration to similarly write a book.

Originally submitted to a class discussion board for Cuesta College LIBT 118: Connecting Adolescents with Literature and Libraries.

Recommended books for readers on the autism spectrum

Cover image: All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome
Cover image: All Cats have Asperger Syndrome
Welcome to my curated list of books for people on the autism spectrum and their allies. While my primary intended audience is people who are on the spectrum, I believe that parents, caregivers, professionals and other advocates will find much of value here too. There are many books written about us, and I have found it much more difficult to find books that speak directly to the person who is on the spectrum. In compiling this list, I sought to fill that void.

Some people don’t deserve dogs


Our dog Frankie, whom we rescued from abandonment, interacts with a kitten.
Frankie died of lung cancer in 2009.
Far too often during the years that I have lived in Lake County, I have observed dogs placed by their humans in positions of neglect: left in cars, left tethered to bark untended in their yards or allowed to wander unleashed.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Social media training for Northern California journalists

Deborah Petersen and Mandy Jenkins reviewed tools of social media for MediaNews Group journalists in Chico and Vacaville. Assisted by their use of a designated hashtag, I curated their presentation with Storify.

‘Bully Recognized, Bullying Resource Launched’

David Long, Tina Long, and “Bully” director Lee Hirsch at the National Center for Learning Disabilities’ 35th annual Benefit Dinner at the Mandarin Hotel on April 18 in New York City.
(Brian Ach /AP Images for National Center for Learning Disabilities)
I received a press release at work today about a partnership between “Bully” and the National Center for Learning Disabilities to raise awareness of bullying’s effect on children with special needs. Here is what it said:
“Lee Hirsch, director of the groundbreaking documentary ‘Bully,’ was honored last night at The National Center for Learning Disabilities’ (NCLD) 35th annual benefit dinner, held at the Mandarin Oriental hotel.  During remarks, Hirsch urged Americans to move from awareness to action, citing an anti-bullying toolkit  just introduced by NCLD that gives children, parents and educators immediate means to open dialogues and help save lives.  Among the evening’s special guests were David and Tina Long, whose anti-bullying advocacy to honor their son’s memory is chronicled in Hirsch’s film.  Paula Zahn served as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies. Mayor Bloomberg, Anne Ford and Paul LeClerc were also in attendance. The event was chaired by philanthropist Nancy Poses.

“Also honored last night for their extraordinary work in child advocacy were Dan Tishman, Chairman and CEO of Tishman Construction Corporation, and his wife Sheryl, and Dr. Stevan J. Kukic, who was given the Distinguished Education Achievement Award.

“A lead supporter of ‘Bully,’ NCLD has a long-term commitment to helping families understand and deal with bullying. Twenty-five percent of school-age children report having been seriously bullied, a proportion that swells to 60 percent for children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and other special needs, according to findings by Ability Path.  The Longs’ late son, Tyler, was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction.   

“‘Bully the film is one part of a growing, national effort to inspire positive change toward eradicating an epidemic in this country,’ said Hirsch. ‘Committed partners like NCLD and resources like its anti-bullying toolkit are vital to this effort.’

“‘The sad fact remains that millions of kids are bullied every day, and children with special needs like our son Tyler are all the more vulnerable,” said Tina Long. ‘We want to thank NCLD for sharing our understanding and determination to end bullying, and are urge parents, educators, and anyone who cares about kids’ well-being, to access this toolkit.’”
I share personal interest in any resources that can raise awareness of bullying. I was diagnosed in adulthood on the autism spectrum and believe my social impairments contributed to my being bullied and ostracized in school.

“Bully” examines the impact of bullying upon students and their families. One of the students, Alex Libby, is on the autism spectrum. So was Tyler Long, who is mentioned with his parents in the press release above.

I learned this week that the film will be shown at a Santa Rosa theater. I plan to view it in a spirit of solidarity with these boys for our shared bullying experiences. The anti-bullying toolkit is available at http://specialneeds.thebullyproject.com/toolkit.

‘What is a blog?’

Cover shot of Biz Stone’s book, “Who Let the Blogs Out?”
Source: http://www.bizstone.com/2004/09/who-let-blogs-out.html
In my continued reading of “Who Let the Blogs Out?” by Biz Stone (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2004), I share this passage, “So What is Blogging?”
“Is blogging self-expression, personal publishing, a diary, amateur journalism, the biggest disruptive technology since e-mail, an online community, alternative media, curriculum for students, a customer relations strategy, knowledge management, navel gazing, a solution to boredom, a dream job, a style of writing, e-mail to everyone, a fad, the answer to illiteracy, an online persona, social networking, resume fodder, phonecam pictures, or something to hide from your mother? It’s all of the above and more.
 “A blog is a collection of digital content that, when examined over a period of time, exposes the intellectual soul of its author or authors. Blogging is the act of creating, composing, and publishing this content; and a blogger is the person behind the curtain. Part social software and part web building, blogging is peer-to-peer publishing -- the future of our connected lives.”
What is clear when reading this book is that blogging is more complex than simply composing an entry and clicking  “Publish Post.” Stone delves into the history, philosophy, etc.

The blogging culture has rules, as summarized by Stone’s section on etiquette. There are implications to consider, such as personal privacy and blogging on personal or company time.

 Stone cautions, “Remember that your blog is an extension of yourself.”

Bottom line, because I’m sure this book is due back soon at my library, is that I think it worthwhile reading by anyone who is composing a blog. I found it shelved in 006.7 at the Middletown Library.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How to block a troll in Tweetchat.com

Screen capture: The #DFMChat troll makes his appearance
With #DFMChat slated to begin at the top of the hour, here's a reminder to my fellow media professionals:

Tweetchat.com makes it easy to block a troll. The little button in the upper-right hand corner of each user's post allows you to block that user. Thanks to handy troll-control, the troll is distant memory within moments of deployment.

Troll's response to Twitter post in which I communicate ease of blocking him.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

‘You Can Do It!’ Booktalk for teen girls


The Lake County Office of Education is hosting workshops on April 28 for girls in grades six to 10 to explore non-traditional careers for women. My boss, the managing editor of a news company, is one of the presenters.

I decided to use this real-life scenario as the (fictitious) backdrop to a booktalk for my Cuesta College class, LIBT 118: Connecting Adolescents to Literature and Libraries. With this booktalk, I hope to inspire girls to pursue their dreams to the fullest.

I’m a costumed superhero of league-bowling dream come true.

I wear my “Killer Bees” bowling team shirt, hand-beaded and fringed, and bring my bowling ball. Maybe even the Etonic Youth PDW Dragonzilla Jr. bowling shoes I’m ordering — black with yellow dragons — if they’ve arrived by then.

Have you ever wanted to travel? Perform on stage? Join a rock band? Learn a foreign language?
Maybe you, like Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas did, want to write a book.
On Sept. 11, 2001 Lauren was flying home from her grandmother’s funeral on United Airlines Flight 93:
“Already a hero to all who knew her, she became another kind of hero on that horrible day. As the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States reported, ‘The nation owes a debt to the passengers of United 93. Their actions saved the lives of countless others and may have saved either the U.S. Capitol or the White House from destruction’” (Grandcolas xi).
Lauren imagined a book that would help women “achieve their goals, realize their dreams and embrace life’s joys and challenges to the fullest” (Grandcolas x). After her death, her family worked to make her vision — her book — a reality.
Lauren saw this book as a way to re-create the feeling of accomplishment and community that she felt as a Girl Scout earning badges with her troop.
Each dream is broken down step-by-step with a mentor to guide your way.
Earning the badge — yes, there are badges — is only the beginning. Each dream includes suggestions for carrying it further once you’ve accomplished it.
Maybe your dream isn’t specifically mentioned — like mine: join a bowling league. Not a problem, the book encourages you to apply what you’ve learned toward whatever your heart desires.
“Invite your dreams to come out and play.
“Commit your dreams to paper.”
“Entertain the possibilities.”
“Picture yourself living the dream.”
And “Let your dream take shape.”
(Grandcolas 2-5)

Grandcolas, Lauren Catuzzi. You Can Do It! The Merit Badge Handbook for Grown-Up Girls. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2005. Print.


To enroll a girl in the (real) free workshop on April 28, visit www.lakecoe.org or call 262-4162. The event is funded by Mendocino College and LCOE Career Technical Education.

Animal control to hold first adoption event

Lake County Animal Care and Control
http://www.facebook.com/L.C.AnimalControl
Lake County Animal Care and Control will hold its first “adoption event” from May 5 to 11. The announcement was posted April 12 to the Lake County Record-Bee’s website and appeared in its April 13 print edition.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Website for teens: YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten

My distance-ed class through Cuesta College, LIBT 118, engaged in a semester-long discussion of websites that library workers could recommend for teens:

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) is a division of the American Library Association. From its website, its mission is “expand and strengthen library services for teens, aged 12-18.”

I like to keep track of happenings with YALSA and with other divisions in the ALA. I visited the site this week because of YALSA's promotion of the 2012 Teens’ Top Ten nominees.

My viewing this week included an announcement that applications are being accepted to participate in the Teens’ Top Ten. Teen book groups are led by an advisor and a list of FAQs explains expectations and benefits for the groups. There is a June 12 deadline to submit an application and four sample teen reviews.

This site could be a valuable outgrowth of a teens’ advisory group at a local library. If the teens and their adviser were willing to commit to the responsibility of a Teens’ Top Ten book group, they may greatly enjoy reading and reviewing books.

Curated responses: Bully opens in 55 U.S. markets


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

YA book blog: The Girl's Guide to Absolutely Everything

Cover art: Girl's Guide to Absolutely Everything
Cover art: Girl's Guide to Absolutely Everything
As its title suggests, The Girl's Guide to Absolutely Everything by Melissa Kirsch (New York: Workman Publishing, 2006) is a comprehensive guide to issues that girls and women  face in society.

Its contents include Health and Body Image, Careers and Jobs, Money and Finance, Etiquette for the Present Day, Friends and Relating, Dating, Sex and Romance; Family, Spirituality and Self-Discovery, Home Ec 101 or Remedial Life Skills and The Pitfalls of Pantyhose: Fashion Sense for Any Era.

I became aware of this book by pulling it against requested holds at the Lakeport Library and immediately placed a hold of my own through our catalog.

The Publisher's Weekly review for this book identifies Kirsch's background as former senior producer at Oxygen Media and author of its "Ask Princess" advice column. It states that Kirsch "specializes in helping young women face the challenges of life in the real world."

I was so impressed with this book that I put it on my Christmas list (having exhausted available renewals). My sister bought me a copy and brought it to Easter lunch. I believe I will refer to this book frequently and would include it in a YA collection.

Originally submitted to a class discussion board for Cuesta College LIBT 118: Connecting Adolescents with Literature and Libraries.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Why we belong @ the library

During National Library Week, the American Library Association invited library users to write six-word stories on Twitter about why they belong at their libraries. The stories, which used the Twitter hashtag #nlw6words, were compiled via AtYourLibrary.org, part of an ALA public awareness campaign that promotes the value of libraries and librarians. I used Storify to curate tweets that contained #nlw6words.

Follow breaking news with social media

Screen capture: Twitter posts with #bradenlopez tag at Tweetchat.com
Staff reporters and editors with Lake County Publishing use social media accounts to promote breaking news and to “live-Tweet” events as they are happening. Interested viewers can follow along.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

‘Blogging Makes You Smarter’

Cover shot of Biz Stone’s book, “Who Let the Blogs Out?”
Source: http://www.bizstone.com/2004/09/who-let-blogs-out.html

I promised readers I’d share my impressions of the book by Biz Stone that I found at my local library: “Who Let the Blogs Out?” (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2004).

Here’s a selection under “Benefits of Blogging” that I thought worth sharing, because it relates to the benefit I derive when work-Tweeting for the Lake County Record-Bee.

This selection is excerpted from a passage titled “Blogging Makes You Smarter:”
“With a seemingly infinite supply of information on the Internet, a blogger is forced to choose wisely when offering up a link. Then that blogger is tasked with adding succinct commentary to explain why that link is blogworthy. This in and of itself is not so hard, but doing it every day exercises the analytical mind because it forces us not only to choose what we think is interesting but also to pinpoint why we think it is. Then, we convey these thoughts in a short, descriptive paragraph.”
We are, in a word, summarizing — precisely that activity identified by Landon Bryce (thAutcast) as so extremely important a skill after identifying similarities and differences.

Just as when I try to communicate as much about a story as I can with a limited number of characters in a Twitter post, so does blogging offer me a chance at succinct, brief summary.

Bryce’s post about the importance of summarizing is at http://thautcast.com/drupal5/content/autism-and-summarizingStone blogs at http://www.bizstone.com/.

What does that QR code link to, anyway?

Facebook comments by Cynthia Parkhill in response to user's question, "What's a QR code?" CYNTHIA PARKHILL: "They're little mosaic-looking squares printed on paper. When you point a smart phone at them, they launch the smart phone's web browser to a designated web location. Only without any sort of context to explain their presence they might as well just be little decorative squares." CYNTHIA PARKHILL: "I only learned about them, myself, a short while ago." CYNTHIA PARKHILL: "I have to think about viewer familiarity and explanatory context because my next planned yarnbombing installation is going to include QR tags."
Philosophical musings on Facebook in response to the question, “What’s a QR code?”
My walks about town reveal the same QR code (or another, identical, one) that I wrote about a few weeks ago, still posted at a local grocery store with no explanatory context.

What is that little square mosaic and why is it posted on the door and at checkout stands?

The best designs with QR codes include a hint about what it links to, i.e.“Download our specials for the week.” They also include explanatory instructions, i.e. “Scan with your smart phone.”

The design will, ideally, display the URL that the code is supposed to link to. It’s a matter of courtesy to viewers who don’t have a code-reading device.

I recently saw a newspaper ad that I thought set a new standard in QR code accessibility.

The purpose of scanning the code was made clear with explanatory text. Not only did the display ad also make clear that the code should be scanned with a smart phone, but it also included text-messaging address to download a free QR code reader. No ambiguity there!

Friday, April 6, 2012

‘Bully’ is rated PG-13

PG-13 logo. Source: http://www.facebook.com/bullymovie
An update from PACER Center in my Twitter timeline alerted me to the exciting news: the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) had given a PG-13 rating to the “Bully” documentary. In the words of the movie’s Facebook page, “This is a great victory for us all!”

The MPAA originally refused to budge from its decision to issue an R rating for the documentary film, which follows families impacted by bullying.

An R rating meant that the film could not be shown in schools.

Weinstein Co. co-founder Harvey Weinstein appealed the rating and on March 27, MTV reported that Weinstein had decided to release the film unrated in the United States.

A viral petition by 17-year-old Katy Butler drew nearly 500,000 signatures according to the MTV report, which can be viewed at http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1681835/bully-movie-unrated.jhtml?fb_ref=fblike_web&fb_source=profile_multiline.

A PRNewswire press release, dated April 5, relates an enormous victory for the documentary film: the MPAA agreed to lower the R rating to PG-13.

Three uses of the F-word were removed from the film but a crucial scene was left intact (PRNewswire).

This victory is personally rewarding to me because of my own experience as a survivor of childhood peer abuse: I was physically and verbally abused as well as isolated and ostracized by my classmates at Calistoga Elementary and Calistoga Junior/Senior High School.

Poignantly, children on the autism spectrum are especially vulnerable to bullying.

A DisabilityScoop report dated March 26 cites research indicating that 63 percent of children with autism have been bullied compared to 12 percent of their typically-developing siblings: http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2012/03/26/kids-autism-bullied/15242/.


That a PG-13 rating will make this movie more accessible to children, I view as a personal victory. No child should have to be bullied as I was and I hope this film expands the awareness of everyone in the community who can do something about bullying.

“The end of bullying begins with me.” Add your name to a digital petition at http://www.pacer.org/bullying/digitalpetition/.


The movie’s Facebook page gives special thanks to Butler and has posted a video link of her acceptance speech at the GLAAD Media Awards. View it at http://www.facebook.com/bullymovie.

Read the PRNewswire press release at http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/pg-13-rating-granted-for-bully-by-mpaa-without-cutting-crucial-scene-146358165.html.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

YA book blog: Scrawl by Mark Shulman

Cover art: Scrawl
Cover art: Scrawl
In Scrawl by Mark Shulman ( New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2010), Tod Munn, a bully, has to serve detention by writing each day in a notebook under the supervision of Mrs. Woodrow. As he writes, he increasingly reveals details about his school experiences and home life.

A classmate’s comments about this book on an earlier discussion thread made me want to read it. I was teased and ostracized in school for precisely those problems that are faced by children who have Asperger’s syndrome. From my classmate’s post:
“They have trouble communicating with others, using imagination in response to situations, and making friends and participating in social activities. Bullies use these against them to tease, manipulate relationships, and isolate them from their peers.”
(I don’t remember the reason that my classmate brought up Asperger’s syndrome; as I recall, she was not suggesting that Tod was on the autism spectrum.)

Since my diagnosis in adulthood, I have compiled a list of books that I believe would be informative to people with an Asperger’s diagnosis.

What I found interesting about this book is that there is more than one bully in it, and the bullies have different motivations. Tod takes other students’ lunch money because his family is poor. But Tod in turn is being cyber-bullied; humiliating videos of him are being posted on the Internet by a student named Greg.

Greg enjoys a position of privilege in the school; he gets special treatment from his teachers and the school administrators.

One of the most compelling aspects of this story for me was watching Tod become comfortable with letting down his guard to admit the existence of the videos and the cyber-bullying.

I think a student who was being bullied in school would find the portrayal of Tod enlightening. I think this book belongs in a YA collection.

Originally submitted to a class discussion board for Cuesta College LIBT 118: Connecting Adolescents with Literature and Libraries.

Part of the Quiet Revolution



Susan Cain offers an explanation for why I am so comfortable with social media.

“Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read, to say that they can ‘express the real me’ online, and to spend more time in certain kinds of online discussions.”

Cain’s book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” (Random House, 2012), validates the worth of people like me -- the one third of people who are introverts. Her book is a welcome antidote to a society that values outgoing personalities.

Like the people profiled in Cain’s book: Guy Kawasaki and Pete Cashmore, I prefer online communication to that taking place face-to-face.

“Wouldn’t it be a great irony,” Cashmore asks, as quoted in Cain’s book, “if the leading proponents of the ‘it’s about people’ mantra weren’t so enamored with meeting large groups of people in real life? Perhaps social media affords us the control we lack in real life socializing: the screen as a barrier between us and the world.”

True enough, I like to spend time in those “certain kinds of online discussions” that Cain is talking about.

(Emphasis upon  “certain kinds.” Inane small talk is still inane small talk, whether in-person, on the phone or instant messaging.)

When a group of people self-curate Twitter posts by using an agreed-upon tag, it’s far easier to follow their dialogue than when I try to talk in public. Even when people engage in cross-conversations in the midst of the larger set of posts, I can use Storify.com to organize their postings in a way that makes sense.

My first exposure to Cain was through following a Twitter thread: posts left by people who were attending the American Library Association’s Midwinter gathering, #alamw12.

While monitoring people’s updates, I encountered this one by Sara Kelley-Mudie, @skm48: “We are losing out on the skills & talents of introverts by comepelling them to pretend to be extroverted @susancain #alamw12 #quietrevolution.”

I was intrigued by the statement, having felt out of place in a culture that seems to place so much emphasis upon large-group social activities and inane social chattering.

I followed Cain’s presentation during Midwinter Gathering through the medium of Kelley-Mudie’s tweets. I’ve curated those Tweets, and my reactions to them, at http://storify.com/CynthiaParkhill/susan-cain-promotes-value-of-introverts.

Cain tells the attendees at Midwinter Gathering (as related via Kelley-Mudie’s Tweet), “‘We need a world where it is culturally permissible to go off and be quiet.’ At work and at school. @susancain #alamw12 #quietrevolution.”

In this area, I feel I have an advantage with my Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis: it helps me to assert cultural permissiveness to be by myself.

After viewing Kelley-Mudie’s Tweets of Cain’s presentation, I placed a hold upon her book through my local library and was reading it this week when I discovered the quote that I mentioned at the beginning of this commentary.

For so many reasons, I find online communication preferable to face-to-face:
  • Multiple conversations taking place around me make it difficult to concentrate when I am trying to track only one.
  • Direct eye contact that is trained upon me makes me awkward and uncomfortable.
  • The uncertainty of encountering someone that I would rather not meet isn’t an issue online because my social media accounts can be set to block those individuals.
  • There’s a name of a person — or at least of an account — directly tied to a person’s Tweets. I don’t have to worry about not recognizing a person’s name or face.
For these reasons and more, consider me a member of the “Quiet Revolution.”

Live-Tweets of a presentation by Cain during Technology, Entertainment, Design can be viewed at http://storify.com/CynthiaParkhill/susan-cain-presentation-for-ted.

Published April 10, 2012 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Results of diversity study in newsrooms

Curated with Storify: Journalists live-Tweet, re-tweet, react to release of the #ASNE12 newsroom census numbers on diversity in journalism. Among their reactions, I emphasize a need for representation by people with disabilities.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

New ‘Generation T’ book arrives

As if Tuesday couldn’t have been awesomer — I was wearing my “Killer Bees” bowling team shirt, fringed and beaded with the guidance of Megan Nicolay’s first book, Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a Shirt when her second book, Generation T, Beyond Fashion: 120 New Ways to Transform a T-Shirt arrived.

I found the first book while shelving returns at the Middletown Library and couldn’t resist applying its projects to a drawerful of T-shirts I had at home. Now with the arrival of Nicolay’s new book, having had so much fun with the original, I look forward to additional creations.

Monday, April 2, 2012

There are many colors on the spectrum

“Autism Awareness” puzzle-piece ribbon magnet on a car
Photo by Cynthia Parkhill

There are many colors on the autism spectrum. Happy Autism Awareness Day.

Read U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s message for Autism Awareness Day at
http://www.un.org/en/events/autismday/2012/sgmessage.shtml.

Here are my autism blogging picks for World Autism Day:

Steve Silberman: Autism Awareness is not enough:
http://blogs.plos.org/neurotribes/2012/04/02/autism-awareness-is-not-enough-heres-how-to-change-the-world/

 Lynne Soraya: Stigma and the “othering” of Autism:
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/aspergers-diary/201204/stigma-and-the-othering-autism

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I am the 1 in 252 and 88: New autism prevalence numbers

Infographic by Landon Bryce: 1 of 252 girls in U.S. has autism
http://thautcast.com/drupal5/content/new-cdc-autism-numbers-looking-and-thinking
New autism prevalence rates released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that one in 88 children in the United States has autism. The autism rate for girls is one in 252.

Landon Bryce (thAutcast) has created infographics about the autism statistics at http://thautcast.com/drupal5/content/new-cdc-autism-numbers-looking-and-thinking. As a woman diagnosed in adulthood on the autism spectrum, I consider myself to be a “1” among the 252 and 88.

I react to these numbers with hopefulness and optimism because it suggests to me that we are doing a better job of detecting autism occurrences.

I do not believe we are seeing an “epidemic” or an increase in prevalence of autism. As reported in Time, in 2009 England’s National Health Service found roughly one in 100 adults are on the autism spectrum. The article can be read at http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1927415,00.html.

I grew up with an undiagnosed “invisible” disability and, as a result, I had no explanation for why I absolutely did not fit in. It was a relief for me to learn in adulthood that there was a reason for my differences: for the abilities as well as the challenges.

Improved detection means that fewer children will grow up with their characteristics unrecognized.

About.com Pediatrics explains the methodology behind the CDC’s new estimates at http://pediatrics.about.com/b/2012/03/29/cdc-reports-that-autism-rates-up-again.htm. It links to the CDC news release at http://www.cdc.gov/Features/CountingAutism/.



Notable week for autism
The CDC numbers stand out during a week that was notable for news about autism. Here are some additional highlights: