Focus Comic Panel at LA Comic Con – The importance of the arts to society & those with autism

Hi. Thank for coming to our panel. My name is Yvonne Wan. I’m the creator of Focus comic. We are here today to talk about our
project Focus. So this is a picture of Focus and he is wearing his disco ball outfit. I want to first start of with a commercial. Focus? Focus? Hello? Is the helmet communication not working? Seriously, focus. Are you okay? Yes. Sorry, I’ve just had a precognition. A bank robbery is going to take place. They are going to kill a hostage. People should love each other more. Treat
them like a person. Treat them like you would want to be treated. Focus comic is a social cause initiative created by myself. The book features one of the world’s first autistic superheroes, art by
professionals plus art by interns with autism. So today’s panelists are myself and I’m a
certified social cultural anthropologist. I’m the creator, writer and contributing artist and I am also a film ethnographer. We also have I’m Doug Hebert. I’m the main artist for Focus comic and also the internship coach and in addition I’m an elementary school art
teacher in Phoenix Arizona. Hello. I’m Crystal Perry and I’m a professional artist, musician and teaching assistant for Focus. I specialize in oils, acrylics and pencil art. Writing and singing music and visual arts are creative outlets
that I really love. I’m so glad to be at LA comic con for this. I’m Elisha. I’m 21 and I recently became a teaching intern at the Focus comic
art camp and I’m really loving helping the kids learn about art and showing
them that they can bring amazing creations to life. We have a large international team of professionals working on the project including
interns with autism. Notable talent include legendary Paul Mounts who works on Spider-man and also Tony Todd is our goodwill ambassador. These are our interns with autism. We have Zoe who is non verbal. We have Tabidi and Malekith. It’s a fast paced action adventure comic. It features a main story and community page. It’s available in multiple languages. And here is is a quick review by Elisha. The concept of an autistic super hero. That’s a good thing that someone is writing that. Everyone has their strengths and their weaknesses and they can be used for a greater advantage, for everyone, for the whole and work and use your different abilities and
not just keep using the same one like super strength isn’t going to be able to solve every problem. So you need to bring in other powers. Just the different ways
that people look at things they have different perspectives from the
different ways that they live their lives just to be able to solve problems and get people to relate to each other and communicate and stop crime and have
fun and that’s a very cool concept. Kids, they need to be more involved in
creative endeavors and stuff and just to actually be able to do things. For a long
time I didn’t think I was that creative. When you actually let your mind open up,
you can create so many things that you never have thought you could create before. It’s just pretty much amazing to draw a things that you wouldn’t even thought of.
Just make things that are amazing to you and then hope someone else see something there. And here is a one minute review by Michael who has autism. My name is Michael and I have read Focus and I really like it. It’s a super hero comic.
What’s not to like about it? What’s special about Focus is he has autism. He
wears this suit. It looks futuristic. Disco ball. Focus, he joins this organization
and he fights bad guys as well. I like the way that he’s portrayed cos in my
opinion I find him funny and some of the things he says and does. I can relate to
him in some ways. For example him acting like a child in some parts. It made
me laugh. I like seeing autistic artists getting
their work published because it gives me hope that I could be an artist to
even though I have autism. And here is a four minute review by Chris Brown who owns a comic store in Michigan. I’m Chris Brown from Comics and More at Madison Heights located 28059 John R Road, Madison Heights Michigan. And we’re
talking today about Focus. The – an autistic hero arrives. I was really
excited when Yvonne called me about this book. I thought it was very cool. I
think it’s very important to have things that are representative of people. I have
people from all walks that come in this store and everyone want, everyone wants
someone that essentially looks like them as a hero. Everyone wants to feel the
hero. Even when we talk about out in the world when someone does a horrible thing
we might say, well every villain is the hero of their own story. Every hero is
also the hero of their own story and kids growing up that are made to feel different or whatever should always feel like the hero of their own story. And why
wouldn’t we? If we’ve got so many other people from so many other walks on the
stand. Why not have something where, if we say all the time that these people are special and these people I have all of these great things to offer. Well let’s take a
look at what they actually have to offer and I think that’s really cool and I’m
really excited about this and I know there’s going to be a lot of people at
Comics and More that are really excited to get this book. Because again when we
have, when Black Panther came out it reached the demographic when everyone
thought finally a superhero that looks like me. You know when we started to see
Captain Marvel hit the the movie theaters. Little girls were so excited.
Finally a superhero like them. This, this is important finally a superhero like
like these people on the spectrum who everyone wants to say, you
know they’re a little different, we don’t know are they even buying comics? They do everything that you do. They do, we all do what we do and that’s important to be
recognized by the world at large really. So, I’m excited about Focus so while we are carrying it at Comics and More, you should talk to your local retailer and see if
they will carry it for you or reach out and find it. Yvonne and Doug are very very accessible people. Very awesome people and they will help you
get this book in your hands which you should absolutely do. So I also have autistic employees that work for me and I think it’s very important. When I
first hired Tori, I was talking to her her father’s girlfriend at the time
and what I was told was she has such a hard time, she has a such a hard time finding work because no one wants to give her a chance and she might run
around in circles; she might pick her nose, she might start singing and I sort
of laugh and said “That’s not the weirdest thing that happens in here on a
regular basis. That’s fine by me. And Tori comes in here and she works so
hard. She sorts comics which is something that ultra focused that’s sort of
something that falls in her abilities where she lands on the spectrum. Is that
she likes to take on a task and finish it and so that’s what she does sorting
comics alphabetizing comics. Sometimes she’ll start singing if she’s a little
nervous and she actually has a very beautiful singing voice and she sings in
kind of the style of anime and every once in a while you’ll have a customer
kind of “Is someone’s singing in here?” like “she sounds great. what’s happening?”. “Oh
yeah Tori’s just nervous. She’s just gonna sing. It’s fine. Sometimes there
might be customers that don’t realize that she’s got going on what she’s got
going on and they might ask for a difficult question and she might freak out and speak loudly and I just say “Wait I can help ya. That’s Tori. Don’t worry
about it. You know there’s no comic book emergencies. No reason to be upset.”. And we just, you know have a lot of fun in here and I think that’s an important thing.
Again she can do the job the same way anybody could do the job. We should never
discount a person for the things that again when I talked to Yvonne, she said
what we’re trying to focus on, is the things that we can do, not the things we
can’t do. And you know what? If everyone focused on the things that they can do
instead of the things they can’t do, they would realize that there weren’t very
many things that they can’t do. And that is so important I think for all of us to
learn and especially for us to learn about people we perceive to be a little
different. So ABC News recently honored us with a hero award for our contribution to society through the Focus project. We have a lot of celebrity supporting us. Hi, It’s Roger Clark, I play Arthur Morgan and Red Dead Redemption Two- I just met these wonderful folks here. I absolutely am thrilled by the empowerment that they’re giving to young autistic children all across the board to let
them know that they also have a room in the superhero realm. You know my son
Colin is on the spectrum and I wouldn’t have him in any other way. I think he’s
absolutely wonderful and so many times we don’t understand children with autism. And it might be because of their difficulties with communication. It might
be because of the challenges that they face verbally being social with people.
But all I know is as long as you include them, as long as you involve them and
everything, they have so much to offer us in so many ways that we’re only
beginning to understand. So what these guys are doing is absolutely awesome.
Support them in any way that you can. So our mission is to provide mass media entertainment; raising autism awareness and acceptance. Maintain human dignity for autistic individuals by removing the stigma associated with autism. Put a positive light on human diversity. Stop bullying. We want kids to feel like every day heroes. Help autistic kids and young adults fulfill their creative potential. Give autistic kids and families hope around the world. Unite the community by celebrating
human diversity. Our activities include: community outreach events. We have internship programs in place. We have an art camp which is free for autistic kids. We have autistic representation. We have celebrity representation. We donate books to
children’s homes with autistic kids. We have free art workshops. We are a mass media outlet because I am a broadcast film maker. We are highly involved
with public engagement. So our aim is to have community outreach events in as many states as possible. And we also have started with school visits as well so we are advocating for autism awareness at schools to help stop bullying. So we run a weekly art camp free for autistic kids. We have about 50 students. We enrich the kids lives by empowering them to fulfill their creative potential. And the kids are able to make friends who are similar to them. And parents gain a new support network as well. We will be having an exhibition at the end of the
year to champion autistic talent. So the benefits of the arts to society,
communities, individuals and those with autism and disabilities. I’m going to start talking about
this. So art plays an important role in all societies. It is a powerful way of communication; expression, education and storytelling. It cuts through barriers of language, class and culture. A picture is worth a thousand words. Art captivates, inspires and influences others, moves people intellectually and emotionally. It engages people to discuss issues that are often overlooked, misunderstood, misrepresented and misapprehended. It engages us to discuss issues that are relevant to our existence. Art is a universal language that connects us as humans, help us to be understood, deepening our insights into everything about the human condition. Art provokes social introspection and expands our notion of “we” as a global community. Art has the ability to transcend stigmatization of people, promote human diversity and more tolerance of our differences. Art contributes to social stability by providing people psychological outlets of expression; as well as mobilizing communities towards positive social change. Art offers mental health and therapeutic benefits that enriches the lives of individuals; families and communities; especially those on the autism spectrum. So here is an interview with Professor Bradley. The benefits of art are huge and the opportunity to make sense of the world through communication by an art medium, an art form, or a particular perspective or a particular point of view, an idea so that other people can understand the idea, the concept in a new way. If they put effort into making something, making something that didn’t exist before, their way of doing it, there’s going to
be a sense of accomplishment; a sense of pride. I have created assignments for my
students in my ceramics classes in which they are required to to look at
themselves and create a sculpture that is based upon the things that are
important to them or to reflect on themselves as some kind of an
architectural form. What kind of architectural form would they be? It is an
opportunity for them to come to terms with themselves as a
unique individual. They do have a sense of acceptance, pleasure at this
realization of themselves in this form. People don’t really appreciate how much
art permeates our culture. People have a much more limited view of art and as
being something that is a luxury item or that is not really as important as other
academic areas speaking of the education system. It hurts us all. I think the best
situation would be if if the arts were acknowledged as being fundamental
fundamentally important in our culture and that much more emphasis was given to
that in our educational system. And here is an interview with a representative of the Art – Arizona Artist Guild. Since the cavemen, art has been a practice of humans and as a way to capture what
has been going on in their world or in their lives or maybe in their thoughts
and as we move through and evolve as a community that art making has maintained
its importance in people’s lives. The arts they use in society to one to create change and so oftentimes the artists will have commentary on what’s happening politically or socially within a
community and bring awareness about that. Art is used in societies to to bring
people together to to create change. There’s been a big push in the last oh
god I don’t know 50 years 40 years what’s called social justice artwork
where artists are coming together to help others through art I have seen
first hand the physical, emotional and maybe even
spiritual changes that have occurred in people as they have made art and so for
someone who’s been withdrawn to suddenly become aligned with someone else who’s
doing artwork and there’s a that’s a common bond
forms. Art has an a strong role for people with autism and disabilities
because it might be a vehicle for expression that they might otherwise not have. It’s hugely important for parents to support their children with the arts. I would often suggest to parents that
they frame their children’s art work. I would often suggest to parents that they frame their children’s art work rather than just hanging it up on their refrigerator with magnets. And the level of self-esteem, and self worth, escalated by just that simple act of putting it in a frame and hanging it on the wall I watch these kids become so proud of what they have made, and what they have accomplished and achieved to build that confidence, to build that self worth, to build the self esteem, to move forward feeling really proud and good about themselves and what
they created. And we are going to move to the… My name is Michelle Katz. I run a very
busy pottery studio in Phoenix Arizona and I have had the wonderful opportunity
to see many people enjoy learning how to do pottery and create with art clay and
art I think it’s super important to not only all kids and society but especially
for people with disabilities to enjoy art because it teaches you other things
beyond the art itself. It’s not only a fun activity but it also gives you
understanding of other properties and principles that can be applied in any
part of life and it’s super important for anybody to have that influence in
their life to be able to be well-rounded and to enjoy all of the things that we
should enjoy to understand things that are beautiful and things that don’t have
to be beautiful and I think that without it it makes
life pretty colorless. So here is an interview with a pediatric occupational therapist practitioner Hello. My name is Heidi. I’m an
occupational therapy practitioner and we love art for including in our
interventions pediatrics specifically their sensory needs, some social skills, so
we can provide a tangible item for them to express themselves and allow
themselves to be creative. There’s no limits. It takes the structure out of it but you can add structure into it. Working with textures. Some children have tactile defensiveness and its really
great to allow them to do something fun. To incorporate a bit of a
therapeutic lens into that aspect. Here is an interview with a mother of a daughter with autism. Hi. We’re the Anderson family here with my daughter Alexandra and she’s on the spectrum and we are so thankful for Focus comics putting on
the autistic camps and teaching us how to make pottery and paint and we’re
here at Desert Dragon Pottery here in North Phoenix and it’s just such
a wonderful opportunity that we had to to learn and engage in some sensory play
and for us that’s really meaningful because Alexandra with her unique needs
she doesn’t get an opportunity to participate in a lot of things like
typical children do but today she did so thank you so much focus comics for doing this and we can’t wait to be involved in the future. And here is another. Hi. My name is Candi. I am the mother of a child with autism. And I think art is important because it’s definitely a
therapeutic thing. Helps us to connect a lot more. It helps your fine motor skills
like right now we’re working with some clay in an art studio and when you
are forming pottery you’re able to squeeze it in your hand to be able to
work with it. A lot of times children with autism need to have deep pressure
and need to have like a big hug and lots of time you can do that through art. I think a lot of people who have handicaps people see them as being disabled and they don’t know that they’ve got special talents. And I think that through art they
can kind of show their personalities a little bit more and show more about what
they’re thinking because lots of times they verbally can’t talk and can’t express how they feel but with art they can show it. It can help you to be able to relate to other people and understand them better. If it isn’t a career, I think it would be a
great hobby on the side for him to do. And here is an interview with an autistic young adult. My name is Michael and I like drawing because he gives me a way to show what I
can do and how I interpret certain things by drawing them. I like drawing scary stuff cause it gives me like, it makes, it lets me confront, it’s like confronting
my fears and it doesn’t make me scared of it anymore. Art, it makes me feel better because I think I can express myself more. What do I like
about coming to Focus art camp? It gives me more of a freedom to do the stuff I
like. Gets me out the house more than I would ever do by myself. Art is something that’s deeply meaningful
on a personal level and can help to relieve stress and anxiety for everyone
including those with autism. Art gives individuals a platform to express an
emotion or communicate visually when words can sometimes fail. A person’s artwork
can allow for social interaction with others and a sense of belonging in the
group. An artist can take pride in work they have accomplished and share it with
others. Another thing that is so wonderful about
art is that it can be given away as a gift. Giving brings joy and that you can
bring someone else a smile or help them. You can be a giver too. You could buy the
autistic person’s sculpture, their comic or painting and show that you appreciate
their contribution in this world. This shows that you support them with their talents. Their artwork has value and worth to someone. Imagine how that would make them feel. Ok Doug, would you like to talk about how art benefits autistic individuals? Yeah. I am a K through 8 art teacher and so
you know I’ve got you know approximately seven hundred kids that I teach per week. You know with just kids in general. And I think that, I mean the visual arts just
benefits kids in numerous ways. It connects all subjects together. For
kids that are talented and every kid has a talent. It brings the talent to the forefront.
It is very possible that art can be a career for for many kids who you know I’m not talking just you know autistic kids but other kids with talent. You know, it should be fostered, it should be encouraged, it’s
another big reason why art should be should be really you know, pushed to the
forefront. So play, behavioral and art therapy are very beneficial for individuals with autism. The process of creating art is a powerful form of therapy, in addition to gaining a sense of personal development, self-esteem and achievement through the accomplishment of solving artistic goals and tasks. Art teaches us to understand the world from a concrete and symbolic perspective. It is effective in teaching us how to categorize, prioritize, interpret, recall and apply information through behavior. Art improves our spatial awareness; develop motor skills and improve hand grasp and release reflexes. Art also improves hand eye co-ordination, interpersonal social skills, and ability to focus on details. It helps us to channel our energy positively and productively. It also teaches us to work independently. Art is also an important commodity in the global economy in terms of utility value and creating jobs that support human sustenance. It is source of joy for many people. What can parents friends and family do to encourage the autistic artist? It is important for us to understand and care about the lives of autistic individuals as they are often misunderstood due to lack of representation in the media and public eye. As humans, we deserve to feel understood by others, and we all deserve to live a life free of preconceptions and prejudice that can get in the way of us leading happy and meaningful lives in society. As a social cultural anthropologist, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, that we should support one another, uplift one another when it comes to important social causes. I encourage us to see value in supporting the arts, especially art programs that provide opportunities for individuals with autism to fulfill their creative potential and find meaningful work in society. It is important for us to actively encourage a culture of inclusion in society. No child should be marginalized and no family should have to watch their child be rejected by society. Together we can make this world a better place. Crystal, do you have anything to add? What I was thinking about encouraging
people who have autism and the power of encouraging words, they make a lasting
impact on a child’s well-being and they shape their character as they get older.
One of my earliest childhood memories was when I was first trying to draw as a
four-year-old, I drew a scribbly bouquet of flowers for a mom. My mom highly
praised this work of art and called me an artist. She said it was really good.
She hung the picture proudly in her kitchen. From then on I was an artist. I
thought I think this inspired me to be an artist when I grew up. I still
remember this. This is a reminder that children even had a very young age need
positive words as we grow and develop for their well-being. The words you say
can impact their future and view on themselves. Another thing that is a
must, is getting the art supplies they need. Take them to an art class. Keep
encouraging them. Okay. Art has the power to change the world for the betterment of society. “Art is art and life is life, but to live life artistically; that is the art of life”. And that is a quote by Peter Altenberg. Support the arts. Support social causes. Support autistic people. And we have an internship program. So if you know anyone who wants to join an internship program please
visit our website or we can talk about it at our booth. So we have a lot of plans for the
future. We want more community outreach events. We want to promote and publish
more books in different languages. We want to extend our art camp. We want to do more panels and there’s so much that we want to do. If you can just visit our
website, the information is on there. So autism awareness is important because it affects a lot of people. There’s like 1 in 45 boys who has autism in the USA. 1 in 68 kids who have autism in the USA. So basically, that’s everyone knows
someone on the spectrum. That’s our neighbors, our friends, our family members. You know
so it’s important to care about social issues. And we’re about to
announce the competition winners So that brings us to the end of our
panel. I just want to say thank you very much for your time and support. I hope you guys
have a great time at LA Comic Con. It certainly has been a great experience for us. Thank you. Thank you. And I love your cosplay. Very good. Very good.

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