A huge thank you to Anna Kennedy for showcasing my article I wrote for Mental Health Awareness week as a series of articles she has been featuring on her websites each day this week from the autism community about how we are dealing mentally with this pandemic.
I’m very proud to be Anna Kennedy’s overseas Ambassador.
We first met in 2014 when I participated in an event she holds in London during fashion week called “Wear it for Autism”. A year later I became her overseas ambassador.
Take a look at my article and the other articles as well.
It’s good to see how everyone is coping with pandemic, no matter where we are in the world.
I am incredibly grateful for this honor– receiving the Beta Gamma Sigma 2020 Entrepreneurial Achievement Award and thank you to Dr. Joan Marques Dean of Woodbury University School of Business for nominating me and believing that I deserve such an honor.
I am so proud to be an alumni of Woodbury's School of Media, Culture and Design with my BFA in Animation, and this May 2020 from the School of Business with my MBA in Global Strategy and Leadership.
In my personal academic experience of my last 7 years at Woodbury, the school does an amazing job of making all students feel comfortable and welcomed including people with different abilities such as autism like myself. Woodbury has always supported me in my education ever since I began taking classes when I was in the 10th grade of High School.
The chair of Animation at that time Dori Littel-Herrick believed in me, and allowed me to take part in a sophomore studio and junior studio class, even though I was just a high schooler–which really gave me confidence to go forward with my college career. Before Dori, all I ever heard from educators was I would not be able to even graduate high school because up to the 10th grade, all I had was special education classes due to my autism, but Dori believed in me and gave me the confidence to take the classes that I needed in high school to graduate and qualify for university.
For the past 7 years, I've had the best experience at Woodbury, first by taking classes while in high school, and then my undergrad receiving my BFA in Animation, and now this May, I will be graduating from the school of business with my MBA in Global Strategy and Leadership.
It would of been incredibly difficult to gotten this far without the belief and confidence of my professors and staff at Woodbury. So thank you to everyone at Woodbury for such an amazing educational program. But especially thank you to Dori Littel-Herrick of School of Media, Culture, and Design for your belief and your guidance. Also thank you to Mike Sonksen of Woodbury's College of Liberal Arts for such insight of creative writing, poetry, learning all about my city of LA and your encouragement, and of course Dr. Satinder Dhiman Associate Dean of Business for your support and your continued belief that I can take my education to the next level of doctrine in positive psychology and Dr. Joan Marques the Dean of School of Business for your belief in me.
You will never know just how much you changed my life, and I will go forward doing my best to change the world for you and make you proud.
As always, I would like to say thank you to Anna Kennedy of Anna Kennedy Online for having me as the Overseas Ambassador!
In my university Junior year during my Biology class, I met Ali Dwas. He is an international student, majoring in film.
He said he was having a hard time and was ready to give up and return to his home country. But when he met me and saw what I was doing despite of my challenges, he became inspired, so he decided to do his junior thesis film on me, “Dani 101”.
He received an award from our university for the “Outstanding Junior Film”. And it premiered at the PSIAF 2018 Palm Springs Intl. Animation Festival & Expo, opening up the Academy of Dream Awards panel.
Quote from Ali, “Dani gave me and my family a better understanding of how to treat my autistic nephew, and how to not allow challenges to stop you from reaching your dreams”.
This is the trailer to the documentary.
Unfortunately, we cannot show the full movie because he has entered it to film festivals, so you have to show up to PSIAF 2018 to see the whole mini-documentary. It’s only 11 minutes long because it’s a student film.
Ali, I really think you did a great job, thank you so much.
When I was at Comic Con Palm Springs last month August, I was featured in KMIR news.
Thank you to Lauren Day KMIR of KMIR News for featuring me and my 8th animated short and senior thesis The Audition.
A great cause meets great animation at DaniMation Entertainment, an animation and entertainment company that focuses on animation, illustration, and graphic arts.
I have always had high aspirations for myself. I founded DaniMation when I was 14 years old in 2009. I am also an alumni of Woodbury University's School of Media, Culture, and Design. In May 2018, I graduated with a cum laude and earned my Bachelor's of Fine Arts specializing in animation. Beyond this point, I will continue to run my animation company while striving to earn my Master's of Business Administration (MBA) in Business Management at Woodbury University.
My vision and long-term goal is to have my company DaniMation Entertainment be a mainstream animation studio, like Disney or Warner Brothers, with a new twist—provide an autism and special needs friendly environment to produce animated work and commercials.
For over 9 years with DaniMation Entertainment, I have produced animated commercials, PSAs including Autism Society of America (which was shown at over 4,000 AMC theaters nationwide during Autism Awareness Month, April 2017), 6 books, music videos, and 7 animated shorts that premiered at San Diego Comic Con International through the San Diego International Children's Film Festival.
This year, I will premiere my 8th animated short The Audition to San Diego Comic-Con on July 22nd, followed by the Palm Springs International Animation Festival & Expo in Comic-Con Palm Springs (August 22nd-26th), and will continue through the film festival circuits.
The Audition is my Woodbury University senior thesis film, about a young girl named Mindy, who wants to be a circus clown. Mindy faces lots of obstacles, but she won't let anything stop her including the sword swallowing lizard Sandra, who is competing for the same position. Will Mindy get the spot or will Sandra foil Mindy's plans?
Click on the video player to see the trailer.
In addition to my commercial animation work, for the past 7 years I travel around the country, teaching animation at Joey Travolta's Inclusion Film Camps, and VSA Florida's Animation Gets Real.
Joey Travolta, was the first person who believed in me and gave me my first animation teaching gig when I was 14. I have been working with him ever since, teaching animation to kids with autism. Joey Travolta’s Short Film Camps is a two-week program that teaches teens and young adults with high-functioning autism and Asperger’s Syndrome the principles of filmmaking. I started teaching animation around the country at age 16 with Joey Travolta's Inclusion Film Camps in Jacksonville FL, Tenafly NJ, and Detroit MI. My current location for Travolta's camp is at St. Mary's College with Futures Explored in Moraga CA.
I am also currently working with VSA Florida's Animation Gets Real, a one week animation and music program that educates teens and young adults with autism. It currently has two locations, which is University of South Florida in Tampa FL, and the Miami-Dade Public Library in Miami FL. The previous Miami location last year was at Florida International University. This year is Animation Get Real's 5th Anniversary.
Not only I teach animation around the country, every fall and spring semester, I teach animation at Spectrum Laboratory's Spec Saturday Animation Workshop, locally at Music Space Studios in Van Nuys CA.
Spectrum Laboratory is an non-profit organization that entertains and empowers young individuals on the autism spectrum and with other special needs through works of film, music and animation. "We provide collaboration with professionals to help our students learn the skills of their craft. Learning through the arts helps people on the autism spectrum with self esteem, social skills and interaction," said Jason Weissbrod, one of Spectrum Laboratory's founders.
Spec Saturday Animation Workshop officially started in late January 2017. This is when my students and I animated and produced Spectrum Laboratory's first fully animated music video Be a Friend, which premiered at SpecFest, May 2017.
From Fall 2017 to Spring 2018, I had my animation students work on their own animation projects.
DaniMation Entertainment is sponsored and supported by ToonBoom Inc, an animation software company based in Montreal Quebec, Canada that specializes in animation and storyboard software for movies and television series like The Simpsons, Princess and the Frog (2009), Winnie the Pooh (2011), and My Little Pony: The Movie (2017), among others. In the same year when I started DaniMation, I was first introduced to ToonBoom (with the software ToonBoom Studio 4.5) by my uncle Patrick Eidemiller.
I would like to give a HUGE thank you ToonBoom for providing the software to make my animation camps possible. This would not happen without their support.
ToonBoom has been DaniMation's sponsor ever since DaniMation launched in 2009, it provides the animation software Harmony Essentials to help me teach animation at Spec Saturday Animation Workshop and animation programs around the country. All of my animation work including my animated shorts where done in ToonBoom software (primarily Storyboard Pro and Harmony Premium).
Owning and managing an animation company may be difficult, but it is possible by taking one-step at a time. It will take patience, effort, courage, and determination to keep moving forward towards future success. I am fortunate to live in Los Angeles, home to the animation industry, where I am surrounded by other creative animation talent. With these steps of this action plan and with the great people that support me, I am confident that I will achieve my goal of making DaniMation a mainstream animation company.
My Notes on this Article and the Author
Kendra Quadra is my classmate from Mike Sonsken's Journeys and LA Stories class at Woodbury University. I am really honored that she did this article write up about me and was published on Cultural Weekly. She did an amazing job. :)
Special thanks to our professor Mike Sonsken for all his guidance and encouraging us to just be our best selves. :)
About the Author
Original Article: https://www.culturalweekly.com/limitless-story-dani-bowman/
As a university student with autism, I take every opportunity to research, write, and talk about autism. During the month of April, Autism Awareness Month, I try to make any of my findings public in the hopes of bringing further autism awareness and acceptance. I realize that some of this research findings may be old news to those veterans in the autism community and that not everyone will agree. However, this is published mainly for those new to the autism community and for those that are looking to understand our community a little better.
This research paper was originally for my Psychology class. It has not yet been graded. I will update this as soon as it is graded.
Feel free to make comments.
What is Autism?
Autism is a neurological disorder characterized by challenges with communication and social skills. Some symptoms may include language delay, echolalia (uncontrolled repetition of speech), lack of eye contact, self-injury, and repetitive behavior. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1 in 68 people are diagnosed with autism each year in the United States, and more than 500,000 autistic individuals will turn 18 over this next decade. Autism is a spectrum from severe autism (SA), Rett’s Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD), Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), High-Functioning Autism (HFA), to Asperger’s Syndrome (ASP), and everything in between. The merging of these disorders is based on findings that the symptom profiles are similar, rather than singular like Down Syndrome—which is more physically distinctive from autism. A famous example of a person with autism is Dr. Temple Grandin. She is an animal scientist and author who revolutionized the livestock industry. Those with autism not only have challenges, they can also have some intellectual abilities such as arts or scientific skills like Temple Grandin. Some main differences between a person with HFA and a person without autism is that autistics have challenges in communication and social skills. According to The Science Daily (2014), Some of the brain functions of autistic individuals have been reduced, while other parts of the brain make up for it and become hypersensitive (The Science Daily, 2014, para. #2,5). My study focuses on some possible causes of autism, the early development of people with HFA, the classification of autism spectrum disorders, the research on autistic brain development, and the life and future of adults with autism.
Possible Causes of Autism
There has been extensive research on the possible causes of autism. It has been suggested that the cause of autism is the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccines, which contained a mercury preservative called thimerosal. However, substantial research has proven this to be a misconception. Sandra Blakeslee of The New York Times (2004) reported that the Immunization Safety Review Committee at the Institute of Medicine issued two reports that said, “measles vaccine was not likely to cause autism based on the epidemiological evidence, and there was not enough evidence to reject or accept a causal link between vaccines with mercury and neurodevelopmental disorders like autism” (Blakeslee, 2004, Para. #11). As a result, thimerosal was removed from MMR vaccines in 2002 despite the misinformation originally believed on the cause of autism. Another theory about the cause of autism is from environmental pollution. Andrey Rzhetsky from Malathy Iyer’s article (2014) stated, “‘Autism appears to be strongly correlated with rate of congenital malformations of the genitals in males across the country’. ‘This gives an indicator of environmental load and the effect is surprisingly strong’” (Iyer, 2014, para. #5). Environmental toxins like pesticides and lead could be one of the most likely causes of autism because it has been proven that toxins could lead to brain damage during fetal stage of human development, especially when the mother accidently inhales toxins. The most recent theory is a genetic mutation known as de novo mutation in the prenatal development as Dr. Nancy Fliesler from the Boston Children’s Hopsital (2017) wrote, “De novo mutations can occur in a parent’s sperm or egg. Or they can occur after egg and sperm meet, arising in an embryonic cell. These are known as somatic mutations or post-zygotic mutations (PZMs). If PZMs happens very early, when the embryo has just a handful of cells, the mutation will show up in most of our cells. But the later PZMs occur during embryonic development, the fewer cells will carry them, making them harder to detect” (Fliesler, 2017, para. #3-4). While these possible causes of autism are stated, scientists and psychologists are still researching for the definite causes of autism. As of today, there has not been as singular scientific fact to prove the cause of autism, it is still being researched.
Early Development of a Person with High Functioning Autism
Between ages 0 to l, there is little or no difference between a baby with HFA and a non-autisitic. However, recent studies have found indication that if the baby is not making eye contact, not babbling, not smiling at his/her parents, or seemly oblivious with his/her surroundings, the baby may have autism. Nonetheless, many parents may not notice the autistic traits until the baby reaches age 2. Through infancy to toddlerhood stage, both the autistic and non-autistic learn to walk on their own through motor development; however, the main difference is that the autistic individual may not say words and comprehend sentences. The researchers Ellis Weismer, Lord, and Esler of Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (2010) explained, “Language abilities are one of the most variable characteristics of individuals with autism.” They also determined that autistic individuals “scored significantly lower than those with PDD-NOS on all developmental measures, including measures of receptive and expressive language.” (Weismer, Lord, & Esler, 2010, para. #6). This also explained the differences with individuals with PDD-NOS, who are those that may also have language delay. Temple Grandin (2010) explained that she learned to speak with a help of a speech therapist. In fact, Grandin did not speak until age 4. She also compared individuals with SA that “may never learn to speak because their brains cannot discriminate among speech sounds” (Grandin, 2010, pg. 42). This helps explain the classification of individuals with different autism spectrum disorders in the early human development.
Classification of the Autism Spectrum Disorder
In addition to the differences between a HFA person and a non-autistic person, there are also differences between those with SA, PDD-NOS, and ASP in human development according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th addition (DSM-V)—a book that classifies psychological disorders. The author of The World of the Autistic Child, Bryna Siegel (1998) pointed out “The twelve diagnostic criteria for DSM-IV Autistic Disorder are grouped intro three areas—social development, communication, and activities and interests” (Siegel, 1998, Chapter 1, pg.16). Both people with HFA and SA experience language delay. However, unlike toddlers with SA, toddlers with HFA may start to use echolalia around ages 2-4, then start speaking full sentences between ages 4-5. Individuals with ASP may not experience language delay, but may instead start communicating earlier than age 2, and may develop advanced vocabulary in specialized interests. People with PDD-NOS may experience language delay, yet those individuals may not fit all the specific diagnostic criteria, hence the term “not otherwise specified”. For example, a person with PDD-NOS may have no problem with eye contact, yet may have problems with some social skills and also tone of voice. What these spectrum disorders all have in common is the deficits in social interaction, lack of eye contact, hard time understanding figurative language, and awkwardness in some motor skills. Additionally, language delay in autism involves the Broca’s and the Wernicke’s area of the brain, as psychologist Dr. Stephen Franzoi (2009) described that the Broca’s area is responsible for language production, while the Wernicke’s is responsible for comprehension (Franzoi, 2009, Chapter 9, pg. 359). In fact, SA is the lowest on the spectrum because of their weak Broca’s area while ASP is the highest. This explains the classification of people with different autism spectrum disorders.
Research Studies on Brain Development Differences with HFAs and Non-Autistics
There are some research studies relating to the differences in the brain development in HFA people and non-autistics including brain volume. In a study published by The Science Daily (2014), there is a slight difference between an autistic’s brain vs. the non-autistic’s brain. Scientists conducted a study with 500 autistics and 500 non-autistics via MRI scanning, ranging from ages 6 to 35. One of the scientists Dr. Dinstein found that the non-autistics “differ by 80 to 90 percent differences in brain volume, while differences in brain volume across autism and control groups differed by two to three percent at most.” Dinstein concluded that the “anatomical measures of brain volume or surface areas do not offer much information regarding the underlying mechanism or pathology of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)” (The Science Daily, 2014, para. #2,5). Another research study found that there is a difference in brain development as according to Targeted News Service (2017) that those scientists gave a dose of valproic acid (VPA) to mice embryos to compare with controls. As a result, the VPA mice developed more hyper-connectivity in the subplate neurons in the brain compared to the Non-VPA, which closely resembles the autistic human brain (Targeted News Service, 2017, para. #6-9). Furthermore, six scientists including McAlonan of Psychological Medicine (2009) compared brain systems in HFA, ASP, and non-autistic patients. Unlike non-autistic patients, HFA patients had greater white-matter deficits in the left hemisphere of the brain—which is responsible for language, logics, and reasoning (McAlonan, G. M., Cheung, C., Cheung, V., Wong, N., Suckling, J., & Chua, S. E., 2009, pg.1888) (see Figure 1). In my opinion, the hyper-connectivity in the brain could be the reason why the HFA brain has higher brain volume than the non-autistic’s brain because many autistic people’s brains work 3-4 times harder than the non-autistic’s brain despite the strengths in visual, logics, or scientific skills (see Figure 2 & 3).
The Life of an Adult with Autism
As an autistic individual passed beyond childhood and teenhood stages, the autistic may continue to struggle through later stages of life. Dr. Franzoi (2009) explained about the crisis in Early, Middle Adulthood, and Maturity stages in Erikson’s Psychosocial Development--stages of how a healthy developing individual should pass through from infancy to maturity. The following crisis are “Intimacy Vs Isolation” in “Young Adulthood”, “Generatively Vs Stagnation” in “Adulthood”, and “Integrity Vs Despair” in “Maturity” (Franzoi, 2009, Chapter 4, pg.132). An autistic going through Erikson’s life stages can face negative outcomes because they may lack social skills, may not know how to handle a relationship, lack concept of time and money, and not being accepted in the workforce without the right help and support—which may possibly lead to depression, despair, and suicide. According to the bureau of labor statistics, 90% of autistic adults are unemployed or underemployed, regardless of IQ or education. Additionally, Kenneth Sumner and Theresa Brown of The Psychologist-Manager Journal (2015) remarked that students’ with learning disabilities including autism were less likely to transition from high school to university. Sumner and Brown also stated the “statistics on the percentage of students with disabilities attending college vary, the U.S. government reported that the percentage is rising, and it recently reported that 11% of college students have disabilities” (Sumner and Brown, 2015, para. #4). Even though there has been a huge improvement in helping adults with autism to have a typical life, there is still a long way to go. Many families and autism organizations work to help people with autism to have a typical life like maintaining a job, healthy relationships, security, and housing, so autistics may not have to face isolation, stagnation, and despair in later stages of psychosocial development.
Autism is a neurological disorder that affects the individual’s ability to communicate and socialize with others; however, autism also may give individuals intellectual abilities in visuals, logics, or scientific skills, among others. Autism is a spectrum disorder; from most the severe to high functioning forms. The diagnosis can be recognized when an infant reaches age 2 and has not babbled or spoke any words, displays repetitive behavior, or if in case of Asperger’s, they may use advanced vocabulary. Researchers are still looking for tangible answers of what causes autism despite new and recent information provided. People with autism including HFA do have life difficulties, but with the right help and social support, people with autism may be able to have a typical life like non-autistics. Dr. Grandin stated that despite her challenges in communication and social skills, she was able to beneficially change the animal livestock industry with her incredible architect skills. She also stated that autism “cannot be cured”, but was able to deal with everyday challenges with the help of her family and therapists. If Grandin can have a successful career in life, then it maybe possible for others with autism to also have one with the right help and direction.
Autism may begin early in brain development UMD research shows. (2017, Jan 31). Targeted News Service. Retrieved from Proquest.
Blakeslee, S. (2004, May 19). Panel finds no evidence to tie autism to vaccines. New York Times. Retrieved from Proquest.
Brain anatomy differences between autistic, typically developing individuals are indistinguishable. (2014, November 04). The Science Daily. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141104111707.htm
Ellis Weismer, S., Lord, C., & Esler, A. (2010). Early language patterns of toddlers on the autism spectrum compared to toddlers with developmental delay. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 40(10), 1259-73. Retrieved from Proquest.
Franzoi, S. L. (2009). Psychology: a journey of discovery (4th ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning. Book.
Fliesler, N. (2017). Late-breaking mutations may play an important role in autism. Drug Discovery & Development. Retrieved from Proquest.
Iyer, M. (2014, Mar 15). High autism rates linked to environmental pollution: Study ]. The Economic Times. Retrieved from Proquest.
Grandin, T. (2010). Thinking in pictures: My life with autism. New York: Vintage Books. Book.
McAlonan, G. M., Cheung, C., Cheung, V., Wong, N., Suckling, J., & Chua, S. E. (2009). Differential effects on white-matter systems in high-functioning autism and asperger's syndrome. Psychological Medicine, 39(11), 1885-93. Retrieved from Proquest.
Siegel, B. (1998). The world of the autistic child: Understanding and treating autistic spectrum disorders. New York: Oxford Univ. Press. Retrieved from Proquest.
Sumner, K. E., & Brown, T. J. (2015). Neurodiversity and human resource management: Employer challenges for applicants and employees with learning disabilities. The Psychologist-Manager Journal, 18(2), 77-85. Retrieved from APA PsycNET.
HONORED TO BE THE ONLY OPENLY AUTISTIC Woman Animator TO BE FEATURED IN THIS ANIMATION PROJECT, "Your Face Global Jam"
WOW! My work shown at the MANN’S CHINESE THEATERS!?
I’m so honored to be one of the featured animators on Bill Plympton‘s Your Face Global Jam, AND that it’s accepted to so many film festivals including the Beverly Hills Film Festival, AND will be shown at the TCL Chinese Theatres on April 4th at 9:15pm.
I’m so honored that the creator Ken Mora asked me to represent on opening night "April 4th” on the red carpet at the Mann’s Chinese Theater?!? Double WOW!
"In 1987, Bill Plympton, now heralded as 'The King of Indie Animation' was nominated for an Oscar for his debut hand-drawn animated short film 'Your Face'. For 2017, animators around the world came together for the 30th anniversary of that nomination to 'Jam' this historic milestone and celebrate his world-wide influence." - Ken Mora.
Also the film was accepted to the following film festivals:
...and we're just getting started! ;)
This is such a big deal for me, it feels as if the animation community is finally accepting and welcoming me for my work, In spite of my autism. My work is what matters, not my autism.
YES that is my evil plan......First to be accepted for my work and then to feature what we can do. With the hopes that someday all companies can learn to look beyond our autism, and focus on what we can do, not at what we can’t!
I want to open doors to others with autism to be accepted in the animation industry and other industries for exactly who we are. So no person with autism ever has to feel they need to “act” Neurotypical, and business/companies can soon realize that they have nothing to fear, but fear itself.
I'm hoping that this short is accepted at a film festival or two in London, so that my friends from Anna Kennedy Online can have a chance to see some of my work on the big screen, and also hopefully companies in Europe can be inspired to consider people with autism in their work place.
As a Woodbury University classmate of mine wrote in an interview she did on me:
“After meeting Dani, my perception of autism has certainly changed. I use to think there was a cap to their success and how far they could succeed in the professional world because of their disability. I am more than happy to be proven wrong. Companies need to be more open about hiring autistic employees because autistic professionals like Dani are either going to bring in talent or competition.” - Kendra Quadra
Kendra's full write-up Interview about me will be featured on my next blog entry.
Thank you to my Woodbury University College of Liberal Arts professor Mike Sonksen for inspiring me, and to my Woodbury animation department professors Ric Heitzman, Dori-Littel Herrick, Doug Post, and Novak for all the guidance.
As always, a HUGE Thank you to ToonBoom Animation for providing the software to make my piece of this Global Jam!
This is a blog about Dani Bowman's Adventures as a person on the autism spectrum doing what she does best through Animation, Illustration, Public Speaking, Teaching Animation, Autism Advocacy, and Fine & Visual Arts.