My new hero

by statia on May 11, 2010

Me: Have you ever heard of Temple Grandin?

Sister: Dude, we had an entire conversation about her, the last time I was at your house.

Me: Yeah, I totally don’t remember that.

*sometime later in the day*

Me: Have you ever heard of Temple Grandin?

Hubs: Yeah, his developmental pediatrician mentioned her at our follow up to his eval.

Me: *facepalms.  Feeling completely idiotic.*

To be fair, that day was a blur of information, assaulting my emotions and my senses.  But when I think back, I do remember her mentioning her in passing.

Sometimes, I’m not very attentive.

So naturally, now I’m enthralled and amazed by this woman.  If you have a child on the spectrum, you know who she is.  Or perhaps you’ve seen her HBO movie starring Claire Danes.  If you’re unaware, she’s one of the most famous Autistic people in the world.  Not learning to speak until nearly the age of four, she beat the odds when the odds were heavily stacked against her.   She was Autistic in an age where most people normally put people like her in an institution.  Hell, her own father thought she should have been institutionalized.  But her mother clearly saw something in her that not many others did.  She received Early Intervention when there was no Early Intervention.   She had a lot of challenges growing up, but she’s now a successful business woman, who is considered an expert in her field.  She is what so many doctors still say is not possible in the realm of Austim:  recovered.

She gives so many of us hope.  She shed so much light on how my son’s brain works and in general what he experiences that’s so different from a neurotypical person.   It not only gives me a new respect for the Mini, but it makes me proud to be his mother.  As if I didn’t have enough reason to be proud of him.   He’s my son, of course I’m proud of him, no matter what.   But like anyone, I struggled and grieved over what I didn’t have.   I think that’s normal, and OK to do.   I wondered after all I went through with infertility, why was I going through this, on top of everything else I faced?   And people wonder why I’m Atheist.

But now.   It’s like the lightbulb finally went off. I don’t want to grieve anymore.  He has a purpose and we are the lucky ones.

This afternoon, he found the stool next to the light switches (which in our house, are ridiculously high, for whatever reason).  He discovered that he could just barely reach.  He was able to turn it on, but not off.  He got frustrated and cried for help.   Because abstract concepts aren’t his strong thing, I thought I’d see if he could figure out what I was alluding to when I asked him this question:

Me: So you were trying to reach the light switch with that little stool, and what happened?

Him: I turn the light on.

Me: But you couldn’t turn it off standing on that stool, so what do you think you should use instead (as the big stool sit behind him, though I made no inkling towards it)?

Him: *thinks for a second*  THE BIG STOOL!

And then I immediately regretted helping him figure out logic as I went into an epileptic fit from the lights being turned on an off repeatedly.


mrsgryphon May 11, 2010 at 10:04 pm

I’ve actually met Temple Grandin, and have heard her speak – she really is amazing. A very worthy hero!

Jillian May 11, 2010 at 10:05 pm

I’m reading Thinking In Pictures right now. Fascinating, and really shedding light on how autism is a fully different way of processing information. Not lesser, just unusual.

electriclady May 11, 2010 at 10:30 pm

I loved Animals in Translation. But, I would argue that the wonderful thing about Temple Grandin is that she is NOT “recovered.” She’s still autistic, but she has learned how to function within mainstream/typical/whatever you would call it society while taking full advantage of the unique perspective on the world that autism has given her. In other words, like you said, she found her purpose.

Jonathan May 12, 2010 at 1:38 am

You might have already seen this, but it’s a tremendous speech she gave at TED -

Stacia May 14, 2010 at 2:40 pm

I love this: “It’s like the lightbulb finally went off. I don’t want to grieve anymore. He has a purpose and we are the lucky ones.” What a difficult yet profound insight!

And the light switches, oh, how they drive me bonkers at my house, too. On off on off on off on off …

Shannon May 15, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Love Temple Grandin too. Recently also was inspired by Rupert Isaacson & Kristin Neff – their son Rowan is the subject of the book and movie The Horse Boy (Temple Grandin appears in both).

I recently had the good fortune to interview both parents – Kristin had a lot to say about autism parents and grief and self compassion and being kind to yourself:

Rupert had a lot to say about never giving up, and listening to your child and following their strengths:

I hope you continue to find inspiration when you need it.

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