Monday, September 16, 2013

The Mascot

The word mascot has been traced back to colloquial use in Provence and Gascony in France, where it was used to describe anything – animal, person, or object – which inspires and brings good luck. Even a garden!

September 11 is not only a day of remembrance, it has also become known as a "Day of Service", commemorated this year in Raleigh's News & Observer's front-page article: "Doing some good while doing time". It reported how inmates at Johnston Correctional Institution in Smithfield NC work the soil as their part in the "Plant a Row for the Hungry" program. They are learning gardening techniques and using them to raise food for charity. By eating what they produce, you may literally be taking – to quote McGruff the Crime Dog – "a bite out of crime!"

One prisoner said, "It’s like when you’re here, you’re not in prison. It’s like you’re on a little farm, for a couple of hours a day. It gives me something to do, keeps me out of trouble. And at the end of the day, I feel like I’ve done something to help somebody.” The garden has become his inspiration – his mascot.

Around that same time, Fox News reported a similar story from the other side of the world – Japan. The Asahikawa prison, located some 560 miles north of Tokyo has just become the first Japanese prison with a life-size mascot!

"Katakkuri-chan" is a 6-foot 6-inch humanoid with a huge square face and an enormous purple flower for hair. The mascot wears the uniform of a prison warden, (A female version has the same name).

Katakkuri-chan made its recent debut at an annual weekend fair at the prison. On Sunday it played with 1,700 children and visitors (up from 1,200 last year) who were able to buy handicrafts made by inmates, ranging from barbecue parts to TV stands and aprons. Katakkuri-chan is spearheading the jail's efforts to warm up their chill and forbidding image.

Tokyo Metropolitan Police has had its own crime-fighting mascot since the 1980s. Pipo-kun is well-loved across the nation and appears on posters and in crime prevention videos as well as on cell phone cases, notepads, erasers, mouse pads, T-shirts and key chains. A combination of several animals, he takes the best parts in order to be the best law-enforcement officer: his large ears help him hear people in trouble, an antennae to catch quick movement and large eyes to watch every corner of society.
He even has a stirring song on his website.

Now that's thinking "outside the box". Maybe U.S. prisons could try this!

Can you think of a way to do your own Day of Service? Here are three ways to think out of the box:
  • Draw a picture.
    Drawing a picture is more right-brained, and can help break your logical left-brain’s hold on a problem.
  • Work backwards.
    Start with a goal and think back through the steps needed to reach it until you get to where you want to be.
  • Ask a child for advice.
    Ask a child how they might tackle a problem in a way they can understand it. A child thinks and speaks with an ignorance of convention that is often helpful.
Think of it – You may solve world peace. You may come up with a new mode of transportation. You may discover a cure for cancer.

You may even come up with a cure for autism.

Now that, my friends, would be a truly extraordinary day of service. And you would be one humdinger of a mascot!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Autism Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Autism Yesterday

Autism Today
Where can I get help today?
Let me suggest three resources:

1. On the web:
In 1996 Karen Simmons (author, keynote speaker, and businesswoman in autism-related endeavors) had a vision to simplify the information gathering and evaluating process for families dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorders for "help you need now." This amazing website seems limitless, featuring such diverse topics as:
  • Resources
  • Employment
  • "Ask the Expert"
  • Article Library (with over 2,500 pages of content)
  • Help packages for anyone who needs help for a special needs child
  • Much, much more
2. In North Carolina: For over 43 years, the Autism Society of North Carolina has worked to address areas of need and expand services for the autism community in North Carolina. ASNC is a statewide organization, supporting North Carolinians affected by autism. Every dollar that they raise stays within North Carolina, helping people who live and work in our local communities.

I have been fortunate; their headquarters are just three blocks from my home at: 505 Oberlin Rd #230, Raleigh, NC 27605. I have visited these kind, professional people many times for advice on a loved one. They have many resources, including a media library and a huge bookstore. Give them a call at (800) 442-2762. Their magazine, The Spectrum, is published in January and July.

3. In Raleigh: For pre-K children (ages 3-5) with special educational needs and their families, the Frankie Lemmon School and Developmental Center provides life-changing education and support that leads to successful participation in family and community life and achievement of the child’s full potential.

For over four years I volunteered here as "Mr. Pat" until my age caught up with me. So now I restrict my activities to those my body can handle. But with all my heart I can truthfully tell you that this school is truly blessed to have such talented and loving teachers, assistants and staff. They are all saints and I love every one of them. I'll never get these special children – my "friends" – out of my heart; nor do I want to. They'll grow up to be very special adults thanks to this very special team.

The Frankie Lemmon School: Looking Back 20 Years
by Jordan E. Harrell, video editor extraordinaire
Autism Tomorrow:
According to the website Autism Speaks, there's "A Future Full of Purpose and Dignity for Adults with Autism." I agree. My own loved one is living proof.

In other words, there's hope!

Again, according to Autism Speaks,
"Over the coming decade, 500,000 individuals with autism will leave school and enter adulthood. This is in addition to the millions of adults with autism who already live throughout the United States. Many of these individuals will need to access the adult services system, a system that already has exceedingly long waiting lists and few autism-specific supports."
Autism Speaks is among the top 10 autism websites listed in