On Monday the 8th the Autism Live crew was joined by Glee actor Mark Christopher Lawrence, the author of Cowboy & Wills Monica Holloway, Wrong Planet founder Alex Plank, and the director of ACT Today! Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson, and from Onyx Salon Lorenzo the stylist came to help Shannon Shave her head as an act of compassion for a young dad with brain cancer.
Have you ever felt like you were alone and no one understood what you were going through? I have to be honest, in the first year after my son was diagnosed with Autism, I felt that way a great deal of the time. For me that feeling of isolation got better over time. I was lucky that some people reached out their hands and showed me that my family’s journey was a group marathon, not a solo sprint. Those helping hands made all the difference and I am forever grateful to them. But if I’m completely honest there are still days, 7 years after we first got that diagnosis, that I marvel at the sometime complete lack of compassion for what my son has gone through, and what so many other families dealing with Autism are going through. “Where is the compassion, where is the perspective taking from people who are supposedly neuro-typical??!!!” I sometimes rage. Those moments leave me feeling powerless and I’ve decided to do something about it.
My favorite things about this project? It is SO easy and it is age appropriate for everyone! (Who hasn’t been mesmerized by the soothing sound of a rain stick?) Children as young as two can help make a rain stick with adult assistance and older children can make their rain sticks independently.
One of the main things you learn when you talk to Temple Grandin is that she lives to create solutions. Whether it’s finding a humane way to walk cattle through a slaughter house or it’s finding a way to engage a child’s individual imagination, she is excited to brainstorm and find a viable path. As soon as Temple Grandin found out that I was an Autism Mom, she wanted to know all about my son. What were his interests? What was I doing to feed his interests? One of the things Temple seems very sure about is that we shouldn’t allow children on the spectrum to just wither away by themselves playing useless games that don’t teach them anything useful. And let’s face it there are lots of those games out there.
Interviewing Temple Grandin is a rare treat. Sitting and chatting with her after an interview is…life changing. I had that opportunity a few weeks ago. The interview portion of our time together went well. She is a consummate professional. She restates your question so the editing job is cleaner and easier, she knows where to clip the mic so her cowboy tie won’t rustle. She’s in the zone and ready when the cameras are on. So when the interview was over I really expected her to be all business and quickly depart. Not Temple. She graciously stayed for pictures and the autographing of plastic cows, during which I asked her if she was still teaching.
I was a fan of Temple Grandin’s long before I was the parent of a child on the Autism spectrum. Once my son was diagnosed with Autism I became a fan of Temple’s mother, Eustacia Cutler. In an era where Autism awareness wasn’t even in its infancy and treatments were basically relegated to institutionalizing your child and walking away, Eustacia Cutler forged her own path.
When I found out I had been granted an interview with Temple Grandin I was as excited as a 10 year old girl going to her first Justin Beiber concert. There was only one problem. The terms of the interview stated that I had to interview her at her hotel and I had secured an interview location at the venue where she would be speaking later that night. It wasn’t going to work, and now I was back to square one. I was short on time and the hotel was been singularly unhelpful. So I arrived really early, before the crew, to secure a location at the hotel. The pay-off was that I found myself in the lobby of the hotel, sitting next to Temple Grandin, chatting like a couple of old friends.
She walked into the hotel lobby wearing a black cowboy shirt with a colorful design splashed across the upper chest. I was completely and unashamedly star struck. I had been talking with the director of the upcoming documentary, “Autism in Love” when I saw her walk in. I stopped speaking midsentence and my mouth hung open. “There she is…” I finally said out loud. “It’s Temple Grandin.”
CARD founder and Executive Director Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh is coming to Autism Live!
How many Autism Moms does it take to change the world? Just one. Holly Robinson Peete is the perfect example. When her son was diagnosed with Autism her world changed so she changed the world. She helped her son, researched, asked the hard questions, held on to her family and then reached out to help others. Holly’s journey is one of empowerment, whether helping families to get access to services through the HollyRod Foundation or helping her other children to process their feelings about having a sibling on the spectrum or eloquently telling rappers to use their words wisely, Holly is the epitome of a strong Autism mom.