Thursday, May 2, 2019

Meeting Dr. Temple Grandin

I've been avoiding the blog for a few reasons.  Mostly because it allows me to be alone in my thoughts in this space.  I've been trying to keep busy because I'm finding when I'm alone I'm grieving over the death of my Dad.  I know he is always with me, and that I will see him on the other side.  However, it's the times that I want to call him and "check in" is when I have trouble.I wanted to call him to talk to him about meeting the amazing Dr. Temple Grandin.  I packed a Secret Service pin to give her - and would you believe it, when I told her about my father and how I brought her this pin, she asked me, "Will you put it on me?  Right here?"  I was so nervous meeting her! 

If you don't know who Dr. Temple Grandin is, watch the movie "Temple Grandin".  It's an HBO movie but it's on Amazon Prime Video for free!  Among other impressive titles, she is a professor at Colorado State University, specializing in animal science.  The most important feather in her cap, for me, is her advocacy for the autism community.  She is on the Autism Spectrum and has a Visual Thinking mind.  She thinks in pictures.  She gave a great example of her mind - for instance - like a church steeple.  She said most people see a vague church steeple with a point at the top (and she made the hand motion).  She sees exact pictures of church steeples she has seen in life or in pictures.  She gave some examples, but the diverted to the Notre Dame Cathedral.  She said she was fascinated with how they would rebuild since the fire and already ordered three books on the subject.  

It's like you get sucked in to hearing her fascination with objects and how she sees the world.  You want to know more.  I wanted to know more.  She is utterly fascinating - but what makes her most special to me is that SHE is a connection that I can make to my own son.

There were two events in Richmond.  The first one was a Meet and Great held by the Autism Society of Central Virginia.  It was a lovely event, with a book signing and hor d'oeuvres.  I took my Mom with me.  When we got there she went to "powder her nose" and there I was, standing there, watching Dr. Grandin get a plate of food.  

WHAT IS THIS LIFE?




My Mom and I ended up both getting a plate and grabbed a standing table.  My Mom said, "you should go over there.  Look, wait right behind these people."  I ended up being the second one in line.  Dr. Grandin asked me, "Are you a teacher?" and I said, "No, I'm a mother."  She asked how old my child was and what his name was as I handed her my copy of her book, The Way I See It.  She autographed the book to Luke (which I LOVE).  She said some children have trouble with loud noises and mentioned the vacuum cleaner.  I told her it was funny she said that because the first thing I noticed when Luke was an infant was how he cried and cried when I ran the vacuum.  She told me to let him play with the vacuum.  That turned into me asking her about haircut.  She told me to let him play with the clippers.  Let him turn them on and off.  Let him be in control.  Once he figures it out, he will be fine.  She gave an example of someone who didn't like the buzzer at a basketball game, so they got this person into a gym after hours and let him control the buzzer.  Things weren't so bad for him anymore.  Then she gave some tips on how to control the sound with putting fingers in her ears.

It was all so remarkable because I heard it from a source.  A real source from someone with firsthand experience with auditory sensory issues.

My Mom also talked with her about my Dad, and how he had protected President Clinton, among many other people.  Dr. Grandin immediately commented how President Clinton shut down an airport one time because he was getting a haircut on Air Force One.  We laughed about how he probably had no idea that he was holding up the show.  

My Mom and I got to sit in a reserved section at the Byrd Theater (we chose the second row) and watched Dr. Grandin give a speech with tons of slides.  She took questions and gave really great answers.  

Can you believe that I got to see her AGAIN the next evening?  My dear friend's mother gifted John and I tickets to the Richmond Forum on the night where Dr. Grandin was the guest.  If you haven't been to the Altria Theater - it's beautiful.  Old but renovated.  Lovely.  We had a great time watching Dr. Grandin interviewed.  She had lots of great answers but I paid attention to how John Donovan, the interviewer, kept her on track.  She wanted to almost take control of the situation by asking to pull up slides, but he did a good job of balancing the slides and getting her to answer questions.  She wanted to pull slides up so she didn't have to describe things off hand, but could refer to her slides.  


It's almost as if she was on the Autism Spectrum and had memorized how she wanted to say something instead of coming up with answers off of the top of her head.

That isn't meant to be degrading, and maybe it sounds that way, but I'm not on the spectrum, and having a conversation comes very natural to me.  I can pretty much talk to anyone.  When you're on the spectrum, I'm finding conversation can be difficult and having visual aids, or slides, can make it easier to get your point across.

I loved it.

I learned so much from Dr. Grandin.  She has set such a high bar for overcoming obstacles and leaving her comfort zone to speak with others on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.  

That is a hero.

Just like my Dad.


Mom and I went to get dessert at Shyndigz after the show <3
John and I went out to dinner before the show and they sat us next to this wine rack that held 225 bottles.  I counted.







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