Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Cure Messages of "Hope"

I understand that holiday fundraising is a tradition. Here's a cute child. You care about children. Send us money.

At the end of every year, I receive dozens of emails from autism advocacy groups. The higher-end email newsletters from Generation Rescue and Autism Speaks offer "hope" for a cure… someday. Other emails promise recovery through "treatments" ranging from fad diets to pressure chambers. Sure, autism is just like recovering from a deep sea dive.

It is almost impossible to judge these organizations and determine which are worth money or time. I don't send money to these groups and I'm not as involved locally as I was when we lived in Minnesota. I'm on a single board and volunteer to speak from time to time. I'm not convinced even the more serious organizations are accomplishing much, beyond "awareness" of autism.

We're aware. Thank you. Now what?

I'm not sure what should be next. I've written before that I'm not opposed to epidemiological surveys, genetic screening, and other basic research. But, that research takes years and won't benefit autistic children and adults today. The range of services needed is as broad as the "types" of autistics you might encounter. Organizations, however, like to focus on children and cures.

If you give money, research the organization. Does the money go to research and supports or to administrative overhead? Does the organization focus too narrowly on "curing" autism instead of supporting autistics today? What would you like to see for the autistic in your life or yourself? Find groups that support what you might need.

Don't send money without knowing something about any group. If you support what you discover, then give. Remember, volunteers are often harder to locate than funding, especially for any events.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New Year, New Plans

This fall was a respite of sorts from academia while I concentrated on writing and considered my path ahead. For the last few months, I've been working on a mix of screen and stage projects, while also collaborating on some creative writing projects.

As December ends, I'm returning to both academia and corporate life, which will reduce my creative output significantly for at least 2016. I'll be completing my MFA (master of fine arts), something I started before my doctoral studies. If I complete the program, I'll have an MFA in Film and Digital Technologies, which will complement my interest in screenwriting and "transmedia" theatrical productions. At the same time, I'll be doing some corporate consulting to pay for classes and some home renovation projects.

My consulting work will be as an ADA compliance expert for Web, application, and new media content. This work aligns wonderfully with my doctoral research and my dissertation. Working on projects that help people with special needs will be rewarding. I have done a great deal of speaking and consulting on ADA issues, and educational accommodations, but this new assignment will be particularly challenging because of the nature of my client.

These two parallel paths should let me pursue teaching again by 2017, along with creative writing in all its forms. Ideally, I [finally] will be able to pursue teaching within "Digital Humanities" or "Media Rhetoric" instead of composition. (I love teaching almost anything, but I am not at home within the "college composition" community.) Plus, working on ADA compliance will exercise my Web and development skills, something many colleges will appreciate.

And so, as 2015 comes to a close, I am reminded that plans keep changing for some of us. I have friends, and a wife, who have spent years working for a single employer. I envy that stability. Ideally, 2016 leads to that sort of long-term stability for me in the years ahead.

Even if I end up freelancing and teaching as an adjunct after 2016, at least I should be working in the fields and on the projects I enjoy.