Is Autism Support being Roadblocked by parents?

Is Autism Support being Roadblocked by parents?

10 years ago when Marty and I first started our journey as parents of a non-verbal, extremely anxious child, we had some very specific misconceptions. For example, we had to learn the concept of normal vs neurotypical … and start to understand our responsibility to help our child grow to be the best person he can be, rather than trying to make him “like normal kids”.

The Autism Community is (mostly) Self Educating

As a community, when we see facebook postings, emails or message board comments with things like “cure my child”, “cause of autism”, “making my child act/be normal”, etc, we typically react in one of two ways. Sometimes (let’s be honest), we react to words like “normal” a fair bit too harshly, which often leaves people who may have just recently received a diagnosis feeling attacked and unwelcome. We need to be more careful about that.

The most helpful way to respond is to gently nudge that parent into the fold by helping them understand the community and culture — educating them. This way, we can help parents to stop thinking of their child as “broken”. All children have challenges of one type or another. As parents, we guide our children in the right direction using whatever methods we personally feel is most appropriate. Some prefer therapy and training, some use medication, some prefer natural approaches — the list is endless.

Sudden Up-Swing in “High Functioning”

Marty and I have been reading New Member applications for our Houston-based support group for about 4 years. In the last year or so, I’ve seen a growing number of parents describe their child as “High Functioning”. The parent of a recently-diagnosed child often includes long descriptions of what makes their child “high functioning”. In fact, it often feels less like an “introduction to the support group” and more like an explanation of why the Dr. got the diagnosis wrong.

Today a parent left the support group and sent me this message:

“My daughter is high functioning and I’m concerned that she may see others worse off and sort of lump herself in with them…she already has low self-esteem b/c of not being “normal” ….plus she is resistant to being labelled “autistic” or as having Aspergers.”

The term “High Functioning” has been around a long time. Its the recent use — and frequency of use — that its concerning. The thing I find most disturbing is that its used as an excuse to exit from the community entirely. Somewhat like the Cochlear Implant is leading some families to avoid providing support for their child (not joining the Deaf Community, learning sign language, or even “admit” their child is deaf, etc).

You Tell Me!

Am I off-base with my assessment of the recent use of the term “High Functioning”? Is it being over-used? Should it be an area that we should focus education and encouragement? Is “High Functioning” a crutch (or an excuse) for believing “My kid doesn’t belong with kids like yours.”? Feel free to reply with your comments below.

The “Nice Shot” Comment Myth

The “Nice Shot” Comment Myth

Don’t let the Comment Haters slow you down.

Most people appreciate and maybe even crave feedback, especially positive. When it comes to photography, there are those who are very comfortable providing constructive, well crafted critiques. These paragraphs of personal opinions are often (at least hopefully, always) provided with the best intentions in mind, to help the photographer understand what works, and what doesn’t, in a particular photograph.

But there has been a growing trend of fellow photographers withholding their positive encouragement for the most silly of reasons: embarrassment and shame.

How Can Leaving A Comment Be Embarrassing?

Recently I have seen or heard photographers suggest (or outright telling) someone that if they can’t “intelligently” explain why they like someone’s image, they shouldn’t bother posting a comment. In other words, if a photograph catchers your attention, you show your own ignorance by posting “Nice image!” Telling someone they are unqualified to post a comment on photographs is frankly one of the most degrading remarks one photographer can say to another.

I’ve heard members mention mention occasionally that they loved one image or another from their fellow community member, but didn’t comment because Joe Blow Pro Photog told them that “Love it!” Or “great pic!” is amateur. Frankly, telling you that you are not qualified to “like” a photo makes Joe Blow Pro Photog lame and amateur-ish. (Point him to this blog post is he disagrees).

All Feedback is Important

It’s true that learning to read a photograph, how to detect subtle use of intersecting lines, angles, strong color (or not), and other composition techniques is very important. And providing details when commenting on a work is always helpful and informative, even if that feedback may include some “suggestions for improvement”. The end result is that we help each other grow, right?

As we grow as artists, we slowly learn to talk the trade, learn the language, etc. And as we grow, we can spot areas that seem to “not work” both in our own photographs and others. These are important steps for an artist’s maturity. So by no means am I saying that learning how to “Read” a photograph or provide constructive critiques aren’t important skills to grow into.

But someone should never feel intimidated or uncomfortable telling another photographer that their work had an emotional effect … even if the viewer is not prepared to specifically explain why.

It is Rude to Look at a Sketch Without Making a Nice Comment …

We are not required to withhold friendly feedback for other art forms. If someone shows you a quilt, lawn, drawing, or pottery, do you withhold positive feedback because you don’t know specific technical terms?

If someone shows you their drawing with stunning detail, strokes, and perspective … do you just hand the image back with no comment because you haven’t taken a proper sketching class? No, you say “OMG”, because you recognize skill, and its polite and encouraging to our peers!

So if someone creates a composition that affects your perception positively, they have knowingly or unknowingly tapped into the skills of artistic expression. They would like to see your “Like”, “Fav”, or “Amazing” just as much as a three paragraph examination. Don’t let the rules of a staid and inflexible photography critiques keep you from telling a fellow photographer, “I really love your work.”

If you like it, Like it! Don’t be shy, don’t feel judged. The recipient will really appreciate the time you took to comment. Don’t let some cranky old photographer make you to think you are unqualified to like something … or to express your appreciation for someone else’s work!

Feel free to post comments on the subject, I’m interested in hearing your view … or if you find this article helpful.

My Drobo is About To Die! (But That’s Ok)

My Drobo is About To Die! (But That’s Ok)

Recently, Scott Kelby posted his angst against with the Drobo Storage Device, concluding that he’s “Done with Drobo”. His post generated a pretty lively group of comments, including some that disagreed with his statements.

Scott is a great guy, he’s done much for both the design and photographic community. His books are excellent tools, well written and full of beautiful photography and illustrations; I own three.

[EDIT and disclaimer: Its been a while since I’ve bought a Kelby book. Scott and Ben sends me one book a year as part of my work with the Worldwide Photowalk. However, I do recommend them when asked about reading material.]

Unlike some public personalities, he is a really nice guy when you meet him outside his branded persona. And let’s be honest, any person that loves P.F. Changs as much as I do HAS to be a great guy, right? I mean, they were among the first to take the Gluten Free menu to a whole new level.

But I digress.

The Fan’s Respond

Scott’s “I’m Done With Drobo” post resulted in a long thread of replies, which is the best possible result. Its a wealth of excellent alternatives to Drobo for anyone considering a backup system purchase.

However, among the Kelby-fans, there are some who disagree with the premise of the post. I was one of them, and that generated “didn’t you read the article?” replies.

I like my Drobo, but …

First, I’m a Drobo owner, but not a fanboy. There are key areas of Drobo ownership that hasn’t met my expectations. For one thing, the fans are loud. Its hard to hear my wife vacuum (ok, maybe not that loud). This wasn’t apparent in videos posted on Drobo’s web site like they are when I make training videos for work. Also, the startup time double’s my boot time.

Lastly, when swapping drives, it takes nearly a full day for the device to become stable. That’s a full day of work that’s not being backed up (yikes). Good thing is, that’s only been about 4 times a year over the past 3 years.

So far I haven’t had a bricking, but I figure it’s right around the corner (more on that in a minute).

Some Folks Disagree with Kelby

Drobo ownership isn’t why myself and several others disagreed with Scott Kelby’s article. In fact, every one of those who disagreed didn’t take issue with Kelby’s beef with Drobo, rather his assertions about his photographs being “held hostage”.

One of the primary concerns about a Drobo (or similar) device is the proprietary nature of the software. That’s a valid concern. Its important to know that in the event of a failure, you still have access to your data. Since you can’t take your drives out of a Drobo and put them into some other device, this can be an issue. For this reason, some will opt for RAID configurations that are standardized and well-understood.

In fact, that was my 2nd reason for not wanting to buy a Drobo (the first being, they didn’t originally have FW800). When discussing the purchasing options with a Drobo Representative, that was a very specific question I asked.

Backups are Supremely Critical

Honestly, I was not worried that the machine would die; all things that consume electricity have a finite lifespan. But what if it died and the company had gone out of business, how do I get my data back?

The person on the phone was pleasant even though I just suggested the new company she worked for could possibly be doomed. But her reply was stunningly obvious: “Drobo wouldn’t be the only place you store the data.”

… oh. Ever ask a question and then feel really embarrassed when you hear the answer?

Some would say, if it doesn’t exist in 3 places, it doesn’t exist at all. Probably sound advice.

Be Honest about Why You Dislike Drobo Devices

If Scott feels the product no longer fits with his backup strategy, then its important he migrate to something different. If he wants to share the reasoning with his followers, his review of the product may be helpful to others considering a purchase.

However, there were some omissions and areas of the article that could lead people to the wrong conclusions. Its not clear if these omissions were intentional, or would have been corrected if he hadn’t accidentally prematurely posted.

His readers have a high expectation of transparency and honesty, regardless of what product he is reviewing. This posting didn’t reflect Scott’s typical, well-prepared blog post.

The Required Clarifications

So to provide context to my original comment on his blog, here’s my beef with Kelby’s post:

  • He’s been using Drobo for about four years. Four years is probably a bit premature, but all electronic devices fail over time.
  • He own(s/ed) multiple Drobo’s. If each died after 4 years of continuous daily use, it significantly changes the impression left by the article. The article could be interpreted to say he’s had to replace the same Drobo 4 times. Clarification is needed.
  • He insists his award-winning photography collection is being held hostage by Drobo. In fact, he suggests the evil Tech Support people want to extort $100. This is probably the most inflammatory (and unnecessary) portion of his post. The Drobo device should not (and I sincerely hope, is not) the only location he is storing his collection.
  • If Brad is only stored the collection on a single Drobo device, Brad needs to be fired.
  • Drobo’s software is a closed, proprietary system. This may be a perfectly reasonable concern for someone making purchasing decisions. However a company that protects their long-term business health by locking their software in Intellectual Property does not make them evil.
  • Photographers complain that Chinese companies are knocking-off hardware and running American companies out of business — and then complain that companies don’t publish their software’s code. Can’t have it both ways.

Hearing and reading the experiences of actual product users is very helpful when making purchasing decisions. And when well-known, well-trusted individuals endorse (or not) specific products, there is an expectation of transparency and honesty.

The lack of specifics on the previously failed Drobos and the assertion that his images are “held hostage” by the Extortionist Drobo Tech Staff can lead trusting followers to conclusions that are quite likely not true.

*MY* (Honest) Conclusion

My Drobo is pushing 4 years old. When it fails (not if), the time to replace it (possibly with something different) and re-copy everything from my backups would be very disruptive. But I have my backups and in some cases, my original source media.

Backups ensure I will not be held hostage by a bricked, proprietary Drobo system, and neither is Scott Kelby.