On Wednesday November 20, 2019, I will take a flight out of Atlanta which I will be bound for Syracuse New York. The following day, I will attend a Future Horizon’s autism conference at the Nicholas J. Pirro Convention Center which will feature Dr. Temple Grandin. In the morning, Grandin will sign books, pose for pictures and answer any questions that each person will have,after, she will give her presentation, “Creating a learning environment for those who think differently.” Though I am not certain if this is based on a new book that has come out, I would be most happy to add it to my collection of books to read and review.
Moreover, this conference will feature Nick Maley, who fans often refer to as “The Yoda Guy,” as he had worked with Lucas films on the Yoda puppet. Not only will he talk about working for George Lucas but he will also share his own perspective of living on the autism spectrum. As someone who grew up watching Star Wars and favoring Yoda, I elected not to let this opportunity slip by and especially since he is someone on the spectrum like myself. His presentation is called, “The Yoda Guy shares his path to success.” In addition, Maley will also promote his book “Do or not outlook,” To learn more about Nick Malley, you can find out more by checking out this youtube video.
Last but not least, the conference will feature Paula Aquila, an occupational therapist from Toronto, Ontario. She will provide a presentation based on her journey in providing services for children on the spectrum. One of the books will talk about is “Building bridges through sensory” integration. Other topics will revolve around her work as an executive director for “Giant steps in Toronto.”
Though the conference is still four days away, I can barely contain the excitement as I always have so much fun at a Future Horizon’s conference. Not only because I enjoy Grandin’s wisdom with splashes of random humor but because I can take away a lot of new ideas to perhaps apply to my own presentations, which I have given at other conferences.
On Thursday, November the 29th, I will be boarding a flight that is bound for Nashville, Tennesee. During my stay, I will spend much of the afternoon and evening studying, dining and sleeping in my hotel. The following morning, I will grab myself a large breakfast before hopping on the hotel’s shuttle which will drop me off at the Nashville Airport Marriott. It is at this site that Future horizons will hold it’s autism conference where I will blog about the event and the speakers.
I am particularly looking forward to attending this event is that two out of three speakers are women next to being on the spectrum like myself. What is more is that one of them happens to be Temple Grandin, who I have been acquainted with for quite some time. One of the main reasons is because her latest talks included information about how an adult with autism can learn to drive. Being that I am 37 and have never learned, I feel it’s never too late. So I am hoping to inquire with her second reason I catch up with Temple is that I have a friend who is currently unemployed and is facing some levels of discouragement at the moment. I would like to put her on the phone with him because she is very encouraging and I believing she would give him some helpful advice. Say, getting a work portfolio work samples that my friend can present when seeking a new job. All the while hoping to provide tips when he gets discouraged. Ultimately, Temple and I are both very quirky women on the spectrum who believe in getting things done. I look forward to seeing another go-getter like myself who believes in others on the spectrum.
Not only that, I look forward to meeting Anita Lesko, who the second woman on the spectrum who will be presenting. At the present, Lesko and I have not only had the chance to hear her speak live in an interview on World Autism Awareness Day. I also had a chance to read her book “The Stories I Tell My Friends,” which is exclusively about Temple herself. I am also inspired by her own amazing adventures including her all autistic wedding and her adventures flying on a fighter jet next to sharing some of the same struggles that I face daily. As those of you who are my followers recall, I read and reviewed that book. So am I excited to finally be able to meet Anita.
Following both of their talks, I look to get my copy of “The Stories I Tell My Friends” and hopefully at the same time. Apart from getting the book signed, I hope to pose in a photo together with Temple and Anita. Particularly as a way of saying “Thank you” for allowing me to read and review their book.
At long last, I will have the chance to meet Dr. Jim Ball, who is specialized in ABA. One of the reasons to listen to him is because of the some of the work that I am currently becoming more familiar with all this. As I don’t know much about Applied Behavior Analysis, one would argue that it would sensible to get my feet wet. This is especially since so many adults with autism are protesting the use of ABA versus other therapies such as floor time.
While I impassioned about the conference, there are two more days. During that time, I have to remind myself that things need to be done now and then. Between work, finals to study for and a flight to catch, there is a lot to be done.
At this time, you may wish to look at the link which contains information on the conference.
Recently, I had a chance to read Hartley Steiner’s new children’s book, It’s Just a What? Little Sensory Issues with Big Reactions, which had many vibrant watercolor paintings of distinctive children on the spectrum with some sort of sensory processing disorder. Sensory processing disorder, or SPD, can cause frustration and stress. Steiner uses the “a picture says a thousand words” strategy by arranging each painting with as few words as possible, only using the dialogue by each character while the paintings tell the story. She shows that every child has a creative imagination about what sensory processing disorder is like for them, all the while showing the extremely creative and often humorous imagination of a child through the images. The book demonstrates a solution to solving problems and reduce sensory issues to the adults interacting with the children. Take, for instance, the first little boy who describes his discomfort of a tag on his t-shirt as feeling like he’s being hugged by a porcupine. During the interval, his mother steps in and cuts the tag out of the shirt to relieve the boy of discomfort.
In many ways, I enjoyed this book for its awareness of sensory issues, artistic structure, and talent. Moreover, it gave me a broader idea of how everyday ordinary items, such as a tag on a shirt, can cause can cause misery to the point of torture to some people. I really applaud that they showed each adult taking the time to listen to each child while they described what their situations were, and appeared to respond to their needs rather than ignore them.
On the contrary, while finding this book will be beneficial, I feel that she could expand on different types of issues related to sensory processing disorders and autism. For example, this book talks about sensory processing disorder only coming in the form of objects that touch the child’s skin, while failing to show illustrations related to getting a hug or touching their shoulders. I really feel that this would have been helpful for the eyes of young readers who are just learning about autism and sensory processing disorders. Steiner also left out other sensory issues, such as sound or visual. For example, I don’t like the sound of a fire alarm system. Though some would argue that “it’s just a fire alarm,” to me the sound is so grating that it hurts my body, like sandpaper scratching on a scab.
In spite of those missing elements from Steiner’s work, I am attached to this children’s book because of the education and creativity that it brings. I feel that it needs to be in the home of every family, whether their child has autism and sensory processing disorders or not. Furthermore, it should be in every library, place of worship, and public school in order for a child’s peers to know exactly what to expect. Teachers, parents, adults, and professional adults should also take to reading this book. Why? I found that this book will help lay the groundwork for people to understand how some on the spectrum think and learn: visually, by drawing pictures and diagrams. Being that I am somewhat of a visual thinker, this book was able to give me the message of what sensory processing disorder entails.
Semisirdyzhyda, A. (2018, 8). [book cover] It’s Just a What?: Little Sensory Issues with Big Reactions. Arlington, TX. Future Horizons Incorporated.
Steiner, H. (2018, 08). It’s Just A What?: Little Sensory Issues with Big Reactions. Arlinton, TX. Future Horizon’s Books. Future Horizons Incorporated.
Since April of 2016, I had longed to be involved with the developing autism airport rehearsal tours. During my second “Wings for Autism Tour” where I volunteered and worked in my blogs for youtube, I managed to seek out the right connections who would allow me to get involved with the tours. Upon my research, I connected with the director, who is an airline pilot named Captain Erich Ries who also have a young boy on the spectrum himself. Early on, Ries and I swapped a few emails led to being involved with his autism airport tours which are held every first Saturday of the month unless there is a holiday, the tour is held on the second Saturday.
At present, Captain Ries and other members of Team Delta and myself lead a tour of the airport. Each tour entails lots of information by a TSA member who often talks about accommodations through a program called “TSA Cares” which requires a family to call a toll free hotline at least 72 hours in advance in order to notify security of the child or adult’s special needs before helping the each attendee get through a security checkpoint.
By the same token, Ries leads a guided tour from the checkpoint, to the first state of the art sensory room, a concourse and a gate with an aircraft sitting at the gate. At this point, Ries, three other Delta employees and I give our input on what families can do. For instance, Erich says that a family should always mark the calendar ahead of time with lots of stars and while sharing as many pictures as possible that are related to the destination. Meanwhile, my guidance has suggested that families skip taking the plane train and use the tunnels being that they are quieter and less crowded.
After sitting at the gate, the members of Delta use special security clearance in order to open the boarding ramp and let families and their children get a taste of an aircraft. Once on board, Ries has each family sit in the Delta Comfort class as the seats are not only bigger but quieter as well due to some sensory overload. He has also often talked about setting up a living room like an airplane setting in order for each individual to get accustomed to an airplane type of setting. While Rise gives tips on air travels, other members of Delta hand out snacks and gifts for each child such as a narrative that provides visual support on the whole experience of traveling through an airport.
After Ries provides the information, each family gets a tour of first class and has the privilege of sitting in one pilot’s seat, holding the steering wheel while families can get pictures.
After each aircraft tour, families are them asked to meet back at the gate where group photos are taken after each session.
While I hold such zest for these monthly autism airport tours, I feel that much work to improve the rehearsals needs to be set into motion. For one thing, the monthly tours need to be more organized differently.
For one thing, Ries could attach a document into the emails of every single family member who has made plans to attend the tours rather than spend lots of time talking about these procedures. Rather, his same tips and advice could turn into rehearsals at home. For example, parents could use the tour date as if it were an actual day of flying, mark the calendar and use it as a pretend trip with all kinds of stars. All the while, taking pictures of Atlanta in and showing them to their children, teens, and adults who are on the spectrum. That way the experience would be made awarding. During the interval, families set up chairs in their living room as if they are on an airplane and practice boarding. For the moment, individuals sit in chairs while another member of the family plays the sounds of an airplane while another pretends to be a flight attendant offering things to eat and drink which I believe can be rehearsed as many times possible.
As the date gets closer, families should be encouraged to contact TSA Cares 72 hours in advance in order to practice letting the security so that each member is well prepared to handle an individual with autism. Thereafter, each family would show up at the airport and practice checking in by walking to the ticketing counter where an agent would be well aware of each family member in order to receive a special boarding pass with the gate number and concourse location. From there, they would meet rehearsal guides who would then lead through to a TSA Cares member not only get them through security but also demonstrate by patting down parent or sibling in order to let each individual know that they will be touched. From there, the tour guide would show each family how to use two options in order to get to the gate.
The plane train- which is the faster option
The using the tunnel with the moving walkways in order to avoid lots of people and noises that would cause over-stimulation.
Regardless, a tour guide would be on either choice of getting from point A to point B. In option 2, the individual can learn to use sunglasses and headsets in the tunnels and the moving walk-ways depending on the types of sensory issues. For example, the sound of wheels hitting the grooves on a moving walkway might be squeaky.
Upon arriving at the gate, families sit at the gate and engage at the gate with other families and tour guides before listening to board time, which is 30 minutes on prior to departure. Like on a real flight, passengers board rows according to their seating by walking through the sky bridge or boarding ramp while the pilot turns the plane on (Depending on funding) As the plane is boarding, flight crews would demonstrate and talk about emergency procedures as the pilot maybe able to pull away from the gate and taxi around the run-way in order for individuals get used to the feeling of the plane in motion along with getting to know the sounds of the engines(Depending if there is funding). All the while, a flight attendant offers drink and snacks while another walks to a lavatory and demonstrates the sound of a toilet, while some families have their headsets ready and other gets accustomed to the sound. However, Ries pointed out that families can have their loved one use a lavatory and sit down during mid-flight while a parent or sibling flushes the toilet. Anyway, flight attendants would feel the need do a fake welcome to Atlanta and give baggage claim information and the carousel.
Yet, families can check out first class, get pictures in the cockpit with pilot while receiving gifts which includes an improved narrative which entails how to get from the gate to aircraft and how families can get to baggage claim and ground transportation.
Once done, families are encouraged to follow tour guides back to the plane train towards baggage claim and ground transportation where they exit the airport and visit the baggage claim areas to see where luggage is picked up.
On the 24th of September, I had the pleasure of being interviewed for a podcast called “Converge Autism Radio,” by Stephanie Holmes. It was here that I shared my long road in education. In this podcast, talk about living on the spectrum and dealing with road blocks and the opinion of others.