Last week, I had one of the best 1 hour and 21 minutes of a life time. I got to listen to a lecture and discussion from Dr. Temple Grandin. It was an intimate venue instead of one of her bigger conferences and felt at times questioning myself how did I get so lucky? Tickets sold out very quickly and was very impressed with UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center for hosting such an organized event. They had a book signing before and after she spoke and a friend and I were able to have a brief discussion about our children’s equine therapy with Dr. Grandin. I left texting Brad already wanting to go listen to her again the next time she came to Texas.
BUCKET LIST (Check!)
I was able to experience this day with my Mom, Godmother and their best childhood friend all of which is part of my extended family who are all very near and dear to me. After the lecture, my Godmother hosted a beautiful spring brunch where we all were able to reflect and share our takeaways. What I found most intriguing after reading and watching so much about her history is how more she impressed me when I listened to her live. You do not capture her pure awesomeness, loving, weird, comical and quirky ways until you meet her in person. Her sense of humor captured me and she had the audience laughing a big part of her lecture.
I could tell everyone’s journey in the audience was so different and quickly learned over a mimosa at brunch that everyone’s takeaways and notes would be so different. The audience consisted of mostly doctors and educators sprinkled with a few lucky parents of children with autism and of course a few of Cody’s fans too.
What hit home is when she said, “As a parent, think about life outside of school when they are 3-4 years of age. Don’t wait.” This is when my brain started racing and I could not write fast enough and I started questioning myself if I am in this mind-set and already thinking this way. I then found myself taking notes to capture some of her ideas that I knew would work with Cody.
I loved when she said, “Take a hobby and put in a different environment.” She shared a small story about a young boy she met at the airport who enjoyed digital design. She gently pushed him and said, contact your church and ask if you can do their monthly marketing brochure. A few months passed, the young boy contacted her with excitement that he had completed the brochure. She then stretched him and asked him to now produce another brochure but I want you to complete this in the offices at the church and not at home.
Loved this! Taking something that Cody loves and stretching it to new opportunities. I immediately thought about his riding lessons.
Dr. Grandin was kicked out of high school for throwing a World Geography book at her teacher. Her parents soon placed her into a boarding school on a working ranch where she believes was one of the best things that could have happened to her development. She calls it, “The School of Horse Barn Management.” She not only learned to ride but all the responsibility and care that comes with riding and look at later in life where she ended up? She obtained her B.A. at Franklin Pierce College and her M.S. in Animal Science at Arizona State University. Later on, Dr. Grandin received her Ph.D in Animal Science from the University of Illinois in 1989. Her parents and mentors gently pushed and stretched her out of her comfort zone at a young age and great things happened.
As a parent with a child with autism, you know what your child’s likes are and you soon learn their behaviors and triggers when enough is enough. But exposing them to new things is very important. I recently read a post from a friend last week about her daughter exploring a new interest in ice skating. She thought there was no way this would happen and before she knew it her youngest daughter was pointing to the skates and she was on the rink with her older sister! This story literally made me tear up because, this was a Mom who gently followed her daughters lead with a gentle nudge after observing a desire to try out skating. What a beautiful thing.
I won’t expand further on my other takeaways but I want to be sure to include them in my writing to refer to later.
- Receptive Labeling – share real examples not just pictures
- Children with autism need expectations. They need the rules before starting a task
- As a young adult with autism, sell yourself. Make a portfolio that includes your work, any work certifications you earn and start a Linked In profile
- Sensory issues can be paralyzing. To help them desensitize, she mentioned give them control. Don’t assume they need head phones on if the volume increases but place them around their neck for them to make that choice. Give your child the control.
- Teach not what only is in front of them but allow them to explore. Proloquo2Go had allowed us to expand Cody’s vocabulary by giving him so many more choices. Schools often fixate just on a set amount of goals but stretch these.
My next steps for myself after this experience:
- Find out when Dr. Grandin will be back to Texas.
- Read, The Loving Push by Temple Grandin
- Read, the sequel to The Reason I Jump, The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy by Naoki Higashida called Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8: A Young Man’s Voice from the Silence of Autism. If you have not read this first one I highly encourage! Great read.
There were times were I could not write quick enough during her lecture so I captured a few of her power points to share. click here.