One of my favorite things to do is create things (from nothing) that make people laugh. Though WebMd doesn’t list laughter or humor as a medicine, folklore has, of course, called it “the best medicine” for several centuries.
And though of course technically that might not be so, it has been proven from studies at University Of Md Medical School that laughter does boost the immune system which can often ward off disease and help people tolerate pain better.
On June 13th, 2015 at age 61, I received my diagnosis for Autism (well into the spectrum). This was not a huge surprise. I guess my big surprise was my wife saw it before anyone else did; or at least she had the guts (and caring nature) to tell me that might be something into which to check, so I did. And I’m glad I did. It explained so much from my life. It explained why I was put away in an attic while my siblings lived in the “core part of the family”. It explained to me why I was “always in trouble”. It explained to me why it was so difficult for me to focus on a job. It explained my life.
As I began talking to others with a late or very late diagnosis, I learned that the majority of diagnosis today happens past the age of fifty; though I was glad to hear that one candidate, Hillary Clinton plans to change that with early screening for all students. She seems to be the only one, thus far, with the consciousness of how common it is, and how important it is to get an early diagnosis so that students can learn. Everything I ever learned was “out on the street” and my return to college at age 47, though I had to drop due to health issues.
After the diagnosis I had to decide whether to keep it secret, or be vocal about it. After talking with my beloved wife Lee about it for several weeks, I decided to be vocal. I am so glad I did as another new chapter in my life opened.
I learned rather rapidly who had been my friends all along, and who just smiled real big. So many abandoned me, which was a good thing; hurtful but good. I didn’t need that kind of deadweight in my life. I love people a lot, but fake people can be complicated and hurtful. I much prefer to have less friends, but quality friends, than so many who hate just because something or someone is different. It makes life much simpler, and enforces that I enjoy my true friends that much more. They are very decent people as is my wife Lee who stood by me through this. It would have scared a lot of people away.
One thing I taught myself about two decades ago was the cartoon business. I did so by contacting masters in the field. I am not that great an artist, but most recommended for me to recruit good artists and I write the cartoons and create the concepts, “blueprint them” and assign them to the team artists. That was a big struggle for the first decade and now has stabilized into a very nice collaborative effort. I am proud that my Londons Times cartoons and gifts have been the #1 offbeat cartoons & gifts since 2005. I launched them from a tin shed in 1997.
I like to joke that I learned cartooning “by default”. It’s actually not a joke, it’s true. I was fortunate enough to have Charles Schulz as a “phone mentor” and friend, and he told me he got into cartooning “because he tried everything else and couldn’t do it very well”. That too, was the story of my life. I don’t think anyone wants to go into cartooning. They do so because nothing else worked out so well. I’m okay with that and actually enjoy the creation process quite a bit.
Finally, I have decided to open an “Autism Signature Line” of cartoons which benefits non-vaccine/non-cure Autism causes. The cartoon themes are our regular offbeat topics; not about Autism or Aspergers or neurodiversity. The thing that makes them different is that each images features the familiar colorful puzzle in the corner of the cartoon plus Rick London’s signature and his acknowledgement of being Autistic.
The Autism community does need support. It is one of those rare conditions that is both a disability and an ability. The disability is that our modern society is not catered to the way our brain fires. Our ability is that the way many of our brain fires, gives us the vision to create and do jobs that many others are not able to do. This is known as neurodiversity. The same is true of those without Autism, neurotypicals who can do tasks that we are unable to do.
Most experts agree that the world needs both type of thinkers. Autism is nothing to cure or correct. There are traits that can be modified behavior-wise if one wishes, and I do so I participate in therapy to learn that process. It is never too late to learn.
And it is never too late to help others from ones experience, even if it had been a tragedy. That is one of my major goals for however long God decides I should live. I will always do my best to make others feel better via laughter, and support Autism causes. I never want a child (or adult) to go through what I did (out in the world without a diagnosis). So many don’t make it, in fact I’m told most. That is no longer necessary with the knowledge we have today. Over 3 million Americans have now been diagnosed and it is estimated 2-3 times that many who have not been diagnosed are also on the Autism Spectrum. Please join me in working to solve issues in this vital arena.
Rick London is a writer, songwriter, entrepreneur and cartoonist. He is best known for his offbeat cartoons and funny gifts (Londons Times Cartoons), and now has launched a line of Londons Times Autism Series Line which includes the colorful familiar Autism Puzzle plus his autograph and acknowledgment of being Autistic.