Although I haven’t read her books or saw the HBO special based upon her life, I just watched the C-Span InDepth interview with Temple Grandin. It’s long but as a mom of an autistic child, it was extremely insightful and worth it. She was diagnosed with autism when she was four. She is nearly 60 now and a Ph.D university professor. I LOVE how she said that autistic people can continually keep learning and developing, and improving! I needed to hear this hope from her. I need to feel reassurance that I didn’t miss the proverbial window of opportunity with an earlier diagnosis for Oliver. I have been beating myself up about this lately.
She is so literal. So is Ollie. Yesterday he walked in when I was watching the final episode of The Bachelor. They had flown the girls in on helicopters in grand fashion for the finale. One of the girls was crying because Jake was dumping her. Oliver said, ‘Why is that girl so sad? Oh, it’s because her helicopter just left’. I LOVE that kid! Sometimes when life gets so complex and convoluted, it is refreshing to be confronted with such unpretentious, blatant honesty. To laugh when you’re happy and cry when you’re sad. Or, in Oliver’s case scream with joy when he’s happy, and flip over coffee tables when he’s mad.
I was relieved to hear Temple Grandin state that she understands what is inappropriate and what is appropriate because she learned this. And, she is able to effectively articulate this. In the past year Oliver has learned so much and made such strides. Yes, it is true that picking up on social cues is not innate to him as it is to you and I, but he CAN learn this. We can teach him this. So, it is possible that he may someday understand that it is not socially acceptable to show people his Thomas the Train underwear when first meeting them.
Here are some other important take aways from her interview:
-mentors and setting goals were vital to her.
-autism is a very broad spectrum. She mentions that there are not enough expectations for the children on the higher end of the spectrum. In the 50s, they were forced to have manners and to learn different social cues.
-all kids need to have a way to communicate. There is much more going on in these kids brains that you think.
-autistic kids need to have contact with normal students.
-she spoke of her middle school/high school years as, ‘socializing with teenagers is not a life skill that I need’. From here she elaborated that it’s a shame that schools have removed hands on job skills/vocational skills for different kinds of kids. These skills are necessary in order to find the right job for autistic/non-mainstream people to give them life skills.
-she spoke intensely that normal people cannot imagine the alternate sensory reality that autistic people live. Apparently florescent lights are a huge problem. The flickering can drive people crazy. (I didn’t know this!) There are ways to accommodate for other sensory processing disorders.
-she touched upon the whole BAD plastics theory that I subscribe to fully. (they’re leaching bad, bad things into our bodies). She also believes that biomedical approaches need to be utilized in conjunction with medicinal approaches AND that the genetics component to autism is huge.
-she mentioned that she was ‘allowed to act autistic for an hour a day’. She had high expectations set for her that she was upheld to but then was allowed to be free, too.
-she doesn’t believe that there is necessarily an increase in aspergers/autistic kids, but rather, this less structured society makes it more apparent and it is hurtful to them.
-autism is a gift.
This woman is a true pioneer. Her insight and her incredible spirit are a true gift to those of us who are just starting in this journey. We are all benefitting from her inspiration.