Selling Kids’ Work: Is It Ethical?

From mommy blogs to books, parents sometimes now use their kids’ stories and creations as a way to support their families or raise money for charities. This in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but a lot of it depends entirely on how it’s done.

Do the kids know their stories are being told? Are they alright with it? Are they active participants and understand what’s being done with their work?

Consent and Respect
The two biggest factors inherent in this issue are the concepts of consent and respect.

I personally prefer not to name family names, or tell more than the vague outlines of what my family members have dealt with. Since my family members are adults, I can ask their permission before telling parts of their stories. They know what and how I write, which helps them understand what to expect.

If I choose to tell the stories on a forum like this blog, I send them a draft for their approval before hitting the post button.

It’s different with kids, though. Can young children understand what their parents are doing? Are older kids allowed approval of how they’re portrayed to the vastness of the internet?

A picture of the book, Dyslexic Renegade.

Contrasting Cases
I greatly admire how The Dyslexic Renegade‘s social media is conducted. If I recall correctly, writing her book, which the Facebook page is named for, was Leia’s idea. When she was diagnosed as dyslexic, she wanted to spread word about the neurodivergence through sharing her thoughts and experiences with other kids.

Her mother supported her, helped her and guides her online experiences, as parents should. They work as a team to promote and revise the book as needed or desired. I’m sure Leia is learning a lot about advocacy, strength, creativity, hard work and many other important areas of life through this experience.

As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the best ways to go in regards to this issue.

Candy Waters’s art, on the other hand, seems to be the polar opposite of Leia’s book. I’ve written more extensively about my thoughts here, however, in relation to this topic, Candy’s parents don’t seem to involve her directly in any of the actual operation of the selling.

If the art is genuinely Candy’s, she doesn’t seem aware at all of what’s being done with it. Although she’s nonverbal, there are more than likely options available that could be used to help her communicate with the online community.

In short, her parents seem to be using her and her alleged work more as an object off of which to profit instead of a partner with which to build an actual awareness campaign.

When it comes to kids’ creations, they, as creators, should be encouraged to take part in what’s to be done with it. This should be both a learning experience and opportunity for healthy growth for all parties involved.

Mommy Blogs
So, what about mommy blogs? Some writers make a full-time living off of their blogs through things like product promotions and selling ad space. Again, that in and of itself isn’t a bad thing at all.

The issue I have with some of them is when they share everything about their children’s lives with seemingly no concern about what the kids potentially feel about that information being shared. Still, that is the parent’s choice, and I have no doubt the vast majority want to protect and nurture their children.

I personally have reservations about sharing children’s images and full names. That’s more due to a sense of worry on my part about safety issues. I have some amazing nieces and nephews, but I share neither their full names or identifiable pictures on any of my public online profiles.

Girl scout cookies (Somoa and Thin Mints) on a white surface.

I may have hated selling Girl Scout cookies, but I love eating them. Especially these two varieties. via flickr

Fundraisers
The question of fundraisers has also been raised from time to time. Yes, there are school and organization fundraisers. I did them in school and for the short time I was active in Girl Scouts. The only thing I learned from them is that I’m not a sales person by nature. However, those are different.

Most of them offer direct rewards for selling a certain amount of items and offer kids a “choice” of whether or not to participate. I say “choice”, because there’s an immense amount of pressure on reluctant kids to take part, but they’re not officially required to do them.

What about parents who have children help them with their fundraising efforts? Again, the keys to this one for me are consent, respect and safety.

In short, there’s nothing inherently wrong with selling kids’ work or stories. It just gets shady when the children aren’t allowed to be involved with the process the business or given the choice of what to do with their work.

What do you think?

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Have you seen Understood.org’s new commercials?

Ah, commercials. So many are poorly done, while relatively few are done right.

I don’t watch much television anymore. These days, I treasure my peace. When the TV is tuned to network programming, it’s usually my husband watching it while I’m off in another room doing some chore or another.

A couple of weeks ago, while I was battling the never-ending cascade of dirty dishes, I heard the below commercial come on.

I realize it’s just a commercial, but the message it gets across is incredibly important, and one I’ve always wanted to portray.

When your mind works like mine does, it’s hard not to make those seemingly off the wall connections. It takes a lot to focus, and in many cases, once you finally DO focus, you’re completely focused on whatever it is you’re working on. That makes switching gears incredibly difficult, if not impossible.

As an adult, I’ve figured out my coping mechanisms, though they may not always work when I’m interrupted or I’m not feeling well. When kids are still learning how to regulate those issues, behavioral problems often come into play. Teachers and parents may not understand why the kids are having such a hard time, because these challenges are not visible.

Learning how to help kids and adults who are struggling with these types of executive function issues is a huge step towards a more inclusive, peaceful society. You never know what a person can achieve, especially when they have a hard time at first.

As annoying as commercials are, they can still be incredibly powerful tools. I especially like how Understood.org put this one together, because it demonstrates how frustrating it can be, without pathologizing the wiring behind it.

It’s not touting some miracle drug or promising a cure for something that doesn’t need a cure. It’s just offering more information and demonstrating how frustrating the situation is from both the parent’s and the children’s point of views.

While it may not be anything dramatic, this commercial, and the other one out now, does take some big steps into spreading awareness of a common, greatly erased, issue faced by a big part of our population.

Life Updates

My life has been pretty hectic for a while now. Here’s a quick update on what’s been going on.

Four candles of different shapes burning in front of a houseplant, jar of decorative rocks and an ornamental wooden glass.

These candles have been helping with stress relief. It’s amazing how soothing their light is.

Work
That job I started back in February has gotten a bit odd. Almost all of our old managers have been transferred away, and new people hired, except for the one directly above me. That’s actually been a good thing, since the environment has gotten much more positive.

However, the turnover rate for other employees has been just as high. Suddenly, I’m the senior member on my team, despite the fact I haven’t even been there for a year, yet.

It’s incredibly strange. Suddenly, people think I know more than I do about how the company in general works, and I’m teaching new hires things I only learned weeks ago.

I’m not entirely sure of what to think about it all. I do know that I’ll be requesting fewer hours once school starts. I know I won’t be able to handle going in five mornings out of the week.

Health
Part of how I’m trying to get a better handle on my ADHD is by cutting down on junk and increasing healthy food. I’m cooking more, and while progress has been pretty slow, I am gradually starting to feel more focused for longer periods of time.

One advantage of that job is that I’m getting a lot more exercise, which is part of why I took it. I’m actually starting to build visible muscle. Naturally, I’m slowly beginning to feel better physically as well.

Better physical health usually translates into better mental health and cognitive function, so I’ll take it.

School
Tomorrow, I’m finally attending orientation and getting registered for classes. It has been a long ride just getting to this point. It’s a little overwhelming to think this is just the beginning of a whole new phase of life.

I’m still completely torn over whether I should return to school full-time or just start part-time to ease my way into it. The more I think about it and my current energy levels, part-time makes a lot more sense.

However, it also depends on which classes I’ll be taking. There are a few easy classes I need to take in order to satisfy school requirements, like the physical education class. I also have the feeling an online class would be easier on me than one I need to go downtown for.

I’ll be talking to my advisor about that tomorrow. While I want to get this degree out of the way and move on to a better paying job, preferably in a field I’m more interested in, I still want to do well without burning myself out.

One ring-bound blue planner opened to show the September divider, sitting on top of an open wirebound red planner open to the title page.

Organization
I’ve sort of, kind of, developed a fascination with planners. I know, I know, it seems like a mundane thing, but with how hectic my life’s gotten, I really need to be better organized.

The thing with ring-bound planners is that they’re so customizable while still having enough structure to keep them from getting too disorganized. My wire-bound planner has been useful for keeping appointments and to-do lists in, but it just doesn’t have the space or flexibility I need for everything.

Since I’ll be starting school later this month, I picked one up to dedicate to that. Today, I used my Bing Rewards to get a third planner for my internet stuff, including this blog and #AbilityChat.

At the end of the year, I’ll be picking up another one for household/general life purposes to replace the wire-wound one.

Come October and December, I’ll be posting reviews of the two new planners in relation to focus and cognitive organization. Hopefully, the added structure I can give thoughts and ideas will help me update this blog more regularly.

Of course, this transitional period has meant I’ve been sacrificing quite a few things in order to keep my sanity. Unfortunately, one has been online correspondence.

I haven’t been reading as many articles as I’d like, and haven’t been taking part in #AXSChat, #DDChat or #LDChat. There are also news stories I’d like to follow, but I simply don’t have the energy to do so.

I suppose I can apply the adage “choose your battles” to this period of time. I am only human, but I’m a human who’s actively working to better her life.

That counts for something, right?

At the very least, all of that is good reason for my wanting to nod off at 8:00 pm most days.

#AbilityChat and Making Medical Care Easier

An animated picture of a tea setting with the words "Click here for more information about #AbilityChat" next to it. "*No tea was harmed in the making of this chat" is the subtext underneathAll my life, I’ve tended to attract people who didn’t really “fit in” with everyone else. I’m sure a lot of that had to do with the fact I’d spent so many years in special education, but even after I’d been mainstreamed and left high school altogether, the pattern held.

Now, I’ve met quite a few parents of children who happen to be neurodivergent. These kids range from nonverbal kids on the ASD spectrum to kids with LD. Interestingly enough, many friends from my teenage years also have neurodivergent kids.

One of the most trouble commonalities I’ve noticed between their online posts and rants is the difficulty they have in finding decent medical care for their kids. From what I’ve seen, the group pediatricians seem to have the most trouble with are kids with autism.

Although autism isn’t nearly as common as some other forms of neurodivergence, it’s still highly likely that these doctors will see at least one child on the spectrum during their careers, especially if they’re working in an emergency room or urgent care clinic.

From speaking with adults with neurodivergence, I know they face similar challenges. Yes, it’s absolutely different when you’re a child or you’re advocating for a child, but it’s still a very real problem.

I haven’t had much personal experience with that sort of thing, mostly because, although dyslexia is technically a medical diagnosis, it’s not something treated with medication. Now that I also have the ADHD diagnosis under my belt, I wonder how much that will change, especially if I have to switch clinics for whatever reason.

Tonight’s #AbilityChat centers on this issue, so it can be brought further into the light and to brainstorm ideas about how to make the experience of getting medical care a little less difficult than it needs to be.

Really, computer? I already met the requirement, so WHY?

As much as technology helps us, it can hinder us, too.

Late last week, I finally had an appointment with my new schools Accessibility Office, formally known as the Disability Office. One of my most pressing concerns was in making it through the math placement test without needing to take, and pay for, a bunch of remedial math classes.

As stated in entries past, I have big problems with math. I used to think it was just because my brain didn’t think in a way that handled equations well, but now I know it’s an executive function thing.

While I’m tempted to figure out how to get better with higher math, there’s no real reason to do that at this point. I’m not interested in professionally pursuing math intensive fields, and, let’s face it, the most complicated every day math isn’t so bad with a calculator.

For basic calculators from Microsoft.

If you’re on a computer, you can open as many calculators as you want. So many calculators!

That’s right, kids, unless you’re making your own sewing patterns, designing your own house or plotting your own landscaping, most adults just don’t need higher math. Addition, subtraction, division and multiplication are pretty much all general adulthood requires.

Anyway, I don’t know what it’s like in other states, but Minnesota allows students to take a logic class in order to meet the math requirement for an AA in writing. I had done that, passed and had thought that was behind me.

That said, when I got the paper telling me I had to take, and pass, that math test just to get in, I was less than thrilled.

On Thursday, I brought that up with the person who was helping me out. It had confused him, too, so he called someone else to see what the deal was.

Apparently, the computer forces a figure to be entered into that slot. Since I’d already required the math requirement for my degree, I didn’t even have to pass. I could randomly pick answers, get a zero and still be able to enroll with the school.

I still plan on doing some studying and doing my best on the thing, but still, it seems like a lot of wasted time and effort. All because there has to be something entered into that field. There’s no work-around, either.

So, this week, I’m going in on Thursday to take the test in the Accessibility Office. The result won’t matter, but I thought it would be good to get an idea of how they handle testing for people who need double time.

The somewhat ridiculous thing is, I’m still nervous about it. I wouldn’t say it’s full-blown anxiety, but butterflies still decide to tap dance around my stomach when I think about it.

It doesn’t matter what I score on the thing, belly bugs. Calm down already.

15 ADHD-I Steps to Updating A Blog

Here are the steps I’ve followed to write this entry.

Step One: Realize I haven’t written anything yet today.

Step Two: Notice the ice pack I’ve been using for my mildly sprained ankle is no longer cold.

A forest with a lake of blue water and mountains in the distance with a peek of Lake Superior. The sky is blue with white clouds.

This is the overlook I hurt myself getting to.

Step Three: Get up for ice pack.

Step Four: Look in fridge and wonder why I’m in the kitchen.

Step Five: Remember there are pictures on my phone that need to be moved over to the computer.

Step Six: Hobble to office and return to computer with USB cord for phone.

Step Seven: Remember the ice pack situation. Get up again.

Step Eight: Return to kitchen. Look in fridge, think about cleaning it and making a grocery list.

Step Nine: Grab my weekly soda and return to computer.

Step Ten: Remember ice pack. AGAIN.

Step Eleven: Return to kitchen. Return with bag of pretzels.

Step Twelve: ICE PACK. I NEED THE ICE PACK.

Step Thirteen: Return with ice pack, elevate foot and apply pack. Realize I need to log into blog site.

A bandaged foot with an ice pack on it.

Well, I’ve accomplished this at least.

Step Fourteen: Enter wrong password. Reset password before I’m locked out.

Step Fifteen: Finally write the entry.

And that, folks, is how this attentionally challenged person updates a blog in 15 quick steps!

Jade Street Comic Review! (Mild Spoilers)

I am always on the lookout for new fiction with neurodivergent representation. Often, I find it in the least expected places, which is why I wasn’t super surprised to find it in Artist’s Alley in CONvergence this year.

A comic book titled Jade Street Protection Services, with a picture of two girls sitting back to back in front of a brightly painted brick wall. One girl wears a pink hijab, a matching shirt and a black vest over a long sleeved shirt, and the other has black hair shaved on one side of her head, wearing green lipstick, a black jacket with a green tube top underneath, faded jeans and untied black and white sneakers.

Such a fun comic. And autographed!!

After chatting briefly with Katy Rex, I decided to give the comic a try.

The main characters all attend a school reminiscent of a modern, Americanized Hogwarts, but with a sort of X-Men-ish spin to it. It has a definite Sailor Moon feel to it, too, because there are quite a bit of Magical Girl elements thrown in. There’s more cultural and neurological diversity within these five girls than in most mainstream comics I’ve seen to date, but it’s well done enough not to feel forced.

For me, the characters make or break a comic.

The main character, Emma, is autistic and nonverbal. She narrates the book, but doesn’t speak at all, save for text messaging. The writers and artists include her stimming in certain scenes throughout the book, and include a scene demonstrating some of the bullying so many nonverbal folks deal with in public settings.

However, they also demonstrate how wonderful it is when peers step up and actively include Emma in their shenanigans.

A 3/4 page of the comic depicting Emma texting with two of the other characters. In the last panel, two of the characters send single emoticons, while the third replies with "OK, BUT I'M BOOOOOORED" followed by seven emoticons.

As a quick aside, I’ve also found that texting is a lifesaver on days where words don’t want to word for me. Others with language problems have shared similar experiences with me, as well. Thank you, autofill!

As great as Emma and the rest of the characters are, the one who really resonated with me is Saba. I’m not sure if this was intentional, but I’m 99.9% sure Saba has ADHD. She does so many of the same things that I’ve done long before my diagnosis of ADHD-I this year.

I’m not exactly hyperactive, which is why I have that Inattentive tagged on at the end, but being completely unable to shut up about needless details when I’m feeling discombobulated continues to be a problem. Saba demonstrates it perfectly in the below panel.

A panel where Saba rushes to class, explaining why she got there late in a wall of words. One of the other characters responds with, "Wow. Um, BREATHE."

I did the same thing when I was younger, and I find myself doing it to this day. I also abuse emoticons like Saba does in the second picture.

The fact Saba adopted a bug and named it elsewhere in the comic had me laughing, because I have a habit of naming things. When it comes to insects, for example, I’ve named all the spiders in and around our house Lloyd. My houseplants are named after Addam’s Family characters.

Another thing I heartily appreciated was the fact that romance had an extremely minimal role in the book. One of my pet peeves is when female characters are reduced to a yearning for marriage and babies. Although this aspect did play a part in the developing story line, it’s not done in the way most writers do for female-led books.

While I won’t expand on that, I will note that one of the main characters was established as gay early on. Most importantly, this aspect of who she is isn’t the main differentiating element of her character.

The only thing I didn’t care for was the general aesthetic, but that’s just a personal taste thing. Despite the fact I wore a pink robe most of the weekend*, I tend to prefer a darker look. Jessica Jones is a good example of my tastes. However, I know that’s not a general preference for the intended audience, so I understand why the bright, sparkly look was adopted.

That said, the story and characters vastly outweigh the conflict in predilection.

Of course, like all good continuing stories, it ended on a cliffhanger. I would like more, please and thank you. I’m already following Katy on twitter, so hopefully I’ll catch any updates.

If you’d like to read this book, contact your local comic shop, or buy directly from the publisher’s web page, here.

*It was a gift! I would have chosen a different color, but it’s fuzzy! And comfy! And it’s DESERT ROSE, not pink. And it has POCKETS! And did I mention it’s fuzzy?

Panel Review: Exploring Neurodiversity

One of the absolute coolest thing about neurodiversity and disability panels at CONvergence is how eye-opening they are. At least, that’s the case in my experience.

A photo of a panel listing - black text on white background. It says "Exploring Neurodiversity: The New Frontier. DoubleTree Plaza 3. Fact: Human brains vary widely. Theory: this fact is totally okay. Join us in exploring the variations in the human mind and how "disorders" may just be differences. Emilie Peck (she), Jess Banks (mod,she), Olivia James (she), Richard Wielgosz (he), Sarah Ravely (she)"

I was the only allistic panelist, though I was also the only one with ADHD-I and learning disabilities. I personally would have liked to see more of a diversity of neurodivergence represented, but it wasn’t a problem.

During the conversation between panelists part of the hour, we covered a little bit of our respective experiences, how they shaped our lives and just what neurodiversity is. We also discussed the impact of diagnosis, when we were each diagnosed and the differences it made in our lives.

For me, it strongly reinforced just how similar our experiences are while still being highly individualized. No two people experience life in the same way, even if they happen to share a label, but the societal reactions to the “other” is always stunningly similar.

Our audience was standing room only, which surprised me a little bit, considering there were 8 other panels taking place at the same time and the other things going on elsewhere. The questions they gave us were all great, and I was incredibly happy to have so many different folks attend.

I was especially impressed with the teachers who came and took part. As hard as I can be on teachers, I still greatly admire those who take the plunge. My respect levels skyrocket for those willing to go the extra mile to help their students who struggle the most.

There was one gent, who I kept running into over the course of the weekend, who was moved to tears, because he had felt so alone. This was the first time he was able to openly talk to others who were also autistic in person. That sense of “Hey, I’m not alone!” is a big reason why I enjoy taking part in those types of events and why I run this blog.

Regardless of label, that isolation and sorrow is another thing we hold in common. Sure, there are isolated stories on the news, but LD, Autism and all other forms of neurodivergence just aren’t talked about. Those of us in the neurodivergent neighborhood have faced enough bullying and stigma that we just don’t have the energy to deal with it all the time.

To my surprise, I was approached by a couple of people after the panel. One gent suggested a podcast from the Nerdist that involved dyslexia (or ADHD?) and a lovely young woman wanted a little more information and advice about dyslexia. I still have to look up that podcast, and I hope the stuff I pulled off the top of my head helped her out.

Although I’ve only been on four panels to date, I have been to quite a few more. I have to say, this was one of the best ones I’ve taken part in. I’m already looking forward to next year!

Perhaps a title would be a good idea.

A white identification badge with a long stream of ribbons attached to it.

CVG2016: Year Of The Badge Ribbon

This year’s run-up to CONvergence was pretty brutal. I was already sleep deprived by the time Thursday arrived and I was pretty non-functional by the time I got home on Sunday.

Monday, I had to call into work, because I was feeling so poorly. I think I was conscious for something like 4-5 consecutive hours that day. Tuesday, I managed to finish my shift, but slept the rest of the day (and night) away. I think that exhaustion also had something to do with fighting off a mild bug I picked up somewhere along the way.

Today, I’m finally feeling better, for the most part, but overwhelmed at everything I still have to do in preparation for next week’s camping/hiking trip and the frustration I’m having with STILL not having the paperwork for my new diagnosis in order to get accommodation for school.

Seriously, this is just ridiculous. I started this five months ago in attempt to get everything in order well before school started, but that didn’t seem to work.

So, what does all this rambling mean for the blog?

Well, I’ll number it:

  1. I’m planning on my entry about the Neurodiversity panel to be posted tomorrow.
  2. I picked up what looks like a fantastic new comic to review for the blog, which will hopefully be posted on Friday.
  3. IF POSSIBLE, I’ll schedule entries for next week while I’ll be donating blood to Lake Superior Mosquitos.
  4. No #AbilityChat tonight, BUT next week’s is going to be hosted by one of the awesome regulars, Ruthie.

So, hopefully this will all go according to plan, and if it doesn’t, hopefully it will all at least happen.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled Wednesday.

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Spreading the word

When you work in retail, you learn quickly that merchandise for the next season comes in long before the season in question actually happens. That said, I spent most of my shift setting up fixtures in which to put the fall seasonal stuff when it comes in tomorrow.

Yes, we’re getting Halloween stuff already, including pumpkins.

A photo posted by Emilie Peck (@peckemilie) on

The erasers and rings went VERY fast. The year before that, the little games and bouncy balls went as fast, if not faster, than the candy.

10 Second Conversation
My store manager happened to be there, and I decided to ask her if she knew about the Teal Pumpkin Project. It turns out the store will be selling teal pumpkins, but she didn’t know why.

So, I told her. She seemed pretty interested in it, but I don’t know if the store will be taking part come Halloween.

I know I will, at least.

The project itself isn’t the point of this entry, though. One of the most important ways of spreading the word about neurodivergence, neurodiversity in general and disability is to actually talk about it in your personal life.

Obviously, I take it a little further, what with this blog and the panels I take part in at the convention I attend, but chatting with people you know goes a long way.

You Choose How to Do It
As someone who is neurodivergent, it has been one of the most freeing choices I’ve made to date.

That said, I completely understand why people work hard to pass as neurotypical. I did that for many years, and have experiences the bullying that comes with closed-minded people in power. Not all people are open-minded enough to actually learn about others’ experiences, and too many of them are in powers in institutions like companies, schools and the government.

There’s nothing wrong with not admitting your neurodivergence or invisible disabilities if you’re not comfortable in doing so, but coming back with facts instead of stereotypes could open many more eyes than staying silent. Many minds change when faced with facts.

You can always use the old standby of “I know someone who’s…” or “I have a cousin/brother/sister/parent/whatever with…” to add credence to your words if you’re not comfortable about talking about your personal experiences.

I strongly encourage as many people as possible to speak up when the topic comes up. The only way we can beat stigma is to eradicate it with accurate information. Simple ignorance is cured by education, and willful ignorance is harder to maintain when few people back it up.