Review: An Evening with Temple Grandin: In Atlanta

By Miyah

Temple Grandin speaking in Atlanta

On January 28, 2020, I had the joy of hearing “An Evening with Dr. Temple Grandin in Atlanta,” at the Morrow Center, which is south of urban Atlanta and the airport. Because I live on the contrary side of town, I elected to stay in an inn up the highway from the locale. At any rate, I entered just after 5:00 PM. Once inside, pleasant team at a top counter and a splendid standing black-and-white sketch of Temple were displayed. Just down the hall was a lobby which held a short registration table and another which held the works and other resources by Grandin herself. Standing in right in front line of the table was Dr. Grandin herself, who was chatting one-on-one with one of her fans. Being that I was soon, I took a spot at the head of a small auditorium with round tables versus seating for a wider crowd. From what I gathered, this would be a smaller event unlike most events in which the auditorium is crowded, this ballroom was small. . Anyway, I grabbed a rapid dinner to go from a local mall in the city and came back to dine. Meanwhile, a short line was then developing, and Temple came to become more pre-occupied signing books and chatting with her fans. Meanwhile, Brad Masala, and his attendant were helping to check people in and making purchases.

 

All the while, I had the pleasure of meeting a mother of an autistic son after admiring her outfit. Here, she wore blue puzzle pieces on her tennis shoes. As we started chatting, I got in line and agreed to take a picture of her and Temple and do a group photo of the three of us.

Temple posing with a mother of an autistic son and I
My copy of Animals in Translation.

Shortly thereafter, I purchased a copy of “Animals make Us Human” and was hesitant to get my book signed. Instead, I elected to return to my seat and have her sign at the end of the talk.

 

 

Temple telling an amazing story

Shortly thereafter, Brad Masala stepped up to the podium to give a brief backstory about Future Horizons and how it became established as a publisher. Moreover he gave important announcements CEU’s being available to professionals at the event. Finally, he gave a biography about Temple which was followed by the trailer to the HBO film.

Following, the audience welcome Dr Grandin with an applause as she stepped up to the podium to give her presentation. “Well it’s great to be here,” she stated, prior to introducing herself . She also touched on historical figures, who had have been on the autism spectrum and how they began their great careers vs today. Of these, included Michelangelo and Jane Goodall and both were able to land in the back door of their careers. For example, she expressed that Goodall had gotten into the back door by using her associate’s degree in administration into a college and ended up with a degree. She also stated her arguments that because autism is looked at from a medical approach, too many people are being taught to focus way too much on the label. As a result of this, many individuals are ending up in the wrong situation. Say, adults today are ending up with overly protective parents who are getting on social security and playing video games versus getting out there and leading overly productive lives. However, said that it makes her happy when she hears about people with autism and other disabilities living productive lives and getting out into the world. For instance, she had shared a story seeing a man at an airport who had no arms picking up his shoes with his feet while going through security and put them on the conveyor belt. Earlier, that evening, I overheard her telling this story to another one of her fans. Nevertheless, I originally thought that she was talking about a man on the spectrum who had gone through an airport rehearsal tour, my bad. So, I found it helpful that she was able to tell her same story with the audience. What I also loved that she demonstrated that you can do anything you set your mind to.

In other areas, she forwardly touched about employment and how it is important for one to sell their work. “When you’re weird you sell your work, not yourself,” which the audience rolled in laughter at. In addition, she expressed her concerns about the growing number of needs in the skilled trade industry. She also advised her audience not to turn our noses up such occupation due to feeling their roles are important. Further, she explained that skilled trade types of jobs often come with hands on tasks and paying attention to details which people on the spectrum tend to do very well in. She set an example by talking about a recent visit to the Kennedy Space Center where she observed a structure in which a raccoon had climbed out of one of the hole. She also explained that she was able to visualize what types of things the animal might have been chewing on. “I thought, what have you been chewing on?” She also noted that visual thinking is common sense. She demonstrated this later by showing the audience a slide of a cow backing away from a beam of light from the sun. As the result the cow was backing away. She asked the audience how many people were able to recognize that beam of light. Out of the entire audience, I was the only one who raised my hand which she was able to pick up.

Following her talk, there was a short Q&A session and I was the first to ask her about developing an early portfolio based on some work I do back at the Center for Leadership in Disability. Yet, I was not able to let her know what I was doing because she had a hard time understanding my question. Thinking back later, I did not directly communicate some of the work that I do and how I can turn it into a portfolio. Instead, we ended up talking about me doing statistics for research, which is a field I am looking at for graduate school. She was able to tell me to be careful with the research industry with money drying up compared to the 70’s. Yet, she talked about a recent model in a paper with too many variables and how peer review was able to call the statisticians out. Still, she said that people need plenty of people who can do statistics such as in the teaching industry. She also went on to answer other questions including from a young adult who was on the spectrum who wondered whether or not she had the eidetic memory. She answered,” No” and gave him lots of other answers about her sensory. She said that for her, anxiety was her biggest sensory issue.

Post her talk, Grandin returned to to get sign books and chat with her fans. As I waited in line to talk get my book signed, I chatted with the same women, who I took pictures with earlier that evening. I found out that she was a parent of a son on the spectrum. Off topic, she showed me pictures of her adult son who loved his Barney and anything related to Barney. Upon seeing that and hearing that, I heard her talk about Barney, I burst into laughter and recalling that I had liked Barney for a few years at age 10 and how it drove my parents nuts. Otherwise, this wonderful mother had given Temple a small gift which was a hand made bracelet and beads and stitching which I thought I was precious.

Finally, Temple signed my copy of “Animals make Us Human,” and chatted with me about the the talk. We also posed for a few photos including this one below.

Temple Grandin and I posing for a photo after her talk

In review, the event itself was held in a beautiful venue which was a nice small room. In addition to that, I liked how there were round tables and chairs versus the traditional settings. Still, the event would have probably benefited more had there been several rows of seats. The event also lacked an audience of individuals who are on the spectrum, rather there were more non-autistics. Finally, depending on budgeting and availability, the event probably would have benefited had it not been so out of the Atlanta area. Rather, a location in a area like Decatur or Tucker, where I live has lots of churches for options with big auditoriums where she would have been more accessible for people who do wish to hear her speak. Other options would be been the Studio Movie Grill in Duluth being that a support group known as “SPECTRUM” would have brought out a lot of people. Otherwise, everything else was great.

Still, I really liked the event

One other thing to mention, when attending her talks, Future Horizon’s has done a great job with accessibility. For instance, they provide a microphone so Temple doesn’t have to repeat the question twice. They also provide better access to the slides via a QR code which are some similar things we are working on at The Center for Leadership in Disability, where I am employed. Another area they touched on prior to Temple’s talk were some of her sensory issues. In this case, Brad advised against flash photography during her talk and no video recording. That said, I had sat in the front of the room and had gotten up to use to rest room twice during her talk. She told me that one of her sensory issues was having people walk in front of her while she does a talk and how it disrupts her thoughts. I feel that Future Horizon’s could announce to their audiences to either sit further back or not get up in the middle of her talk, instead use the bathroom before or afterwards.

On a final note, I would like to thank Future Horizon’s and Temple Grandin for the opportunity to go out and blog about this exciting event.

Miyah R. Sundermeyer

Odds and Ends to Consider for Passengers on the Spectrum

Despite everything from my blogs related to products and other events through Future Horizon’s,   I have to once again realize the origins of these blogs.  That is to write about topics are of scholarly value while others in practical application.  Here, I would like to once again write about autism and traveling through an airport.   Yes, it has been a while since I have put my peddle to medal and really talk about more things that I feel anyone could benefit from.    Without further delay, here are more things I have considered.

Me in the cockpit during a Saturday tour.

Foremost, about a handful of airports, including Hartsfield-Jackson International airport have opened sensory friendly.  To name a few others, Cork International Airport in Shannon Ireland, Heathrow International Airport, and Myrtle Beach International.  Beyond that, officials from Pittsburg International came to visit Hartsfield with the purpose of designing a third sensory room in the US.   Looking at their website, they stated that they have spoken with the public of how a sensory room should look like.   A few suggestions were

Neutral smell

Soundproof

Calming activities for children

As someone who have spent lots of time with the “Wings for Autism/All” events and the “Taking Flight: Autism Worldport Rehearsal Tours,” I support all of the above, being that autism can affect one’s sensory issues.   That Hartsfield-Jackson being so big, I warmly welcome closing down the smoking lounges and converting them into other sensory rooms.   Right now the option is to go all the way to concourse F, they locate which just inside the international terminal. Otherwise, finding the quietest spot at another concourse at an empty gate, discovering nooks inside each gate, and even walking downstairs with the tunnels and the electric train are.  Even more so, since there are only a handful of sensory friendly rooms in international airports, out of 40,000, other options have to select.

Filtered florescent light at Hartsfield-Jackson sensory
Bubble Machine at Hartsfield Jackson

On another note, families have the option of investing in noise canceling headphones which are wireless.  After doing thorough research of trying out and looking into price options, I found that Sony really has the best quality for families who have loved ones with sensory processing disorders and other factors that trigger their anxiety.  Yes, Sony and Bose offer a more peaceful experience for an autistic, this is a very costly investment.   The average price of good quality noise-canceling headphones comes in at the price of $300-$400. In that case, a family night needs financial aid to help their child. Yes, there are cheaper options out there.  For instance, Sony offers a pair of $50.00 noise-canceling headphones that required being plugged into a phone.  Others only work when paired with a phone or plugged in. Unlike the Sony or Bose, listen to music.  Still, they are thick enough to muffle loud, surprising and overwhelming noises.   That said, if noise cancelling headphones are not an option, one can invest in getting a pair of headsets or old-fashioned foam earplugs.

I for one and a sensory seeker, which means that I enjoy the feeling of the foam when applying the ear plugs in a noisy environment.

Flight attendant

Just as importantly, airport personnel needs to know that a passenger has an invisible disability like autism spectrum disorders.   Just recently, airports in the UK have adopted the Sunflower lanyard program.   This enables autistics to wear special lanyards with Sunflower which tells a worker that the passenger has an invisible disability and may need help.  Why just today, while I was at the Wings for All, event, I received a gift bag.  Inside contained a bracelet with the Delta logo that lights up in two directions. One one end, the light remains steady, whereas the other, the light will flash.  This gave me another idea I think airports like Hartsfield-Jackson will find to be helpful.  Like with the sunflower project, autistics would wear similar bracelets that light up while they are at an airport.   All the while, they would train all airport personnel to in being able to recognize the illuminated bracelets.  Whenever an autistic is about to have a meltdown, their parents and themselves can then switch the bracelet to flashing mode which would notify an airport official they need help.  Believe me, I could think about all of this in one afternoon after seeing the bracelet post at the big event. 

As I bring this to a close, I really hope that the public has time to read this blog and that these words taken seriously and put into action.  Even more so, that families and individuals on the spectrum will feel more comfortable by traveling through an airport. 

References

Dyson, M. (2019). Cork airport rolls out scheme for passengers with hidden disabilities. [Web article]. URL:
https://buyingbusinesstravel.com/news/2030046-cork-airport-rolls-out-scheme-passengers-hidden-disabilities

Sensory Room(2018). [Webpage] Pittsburg Intrrnational Airport. URL http://www.flypittsburgh.com/programs- services/services/sensory-room

Worth-It for You to Learn about the origins of “Hello World with Miyah”


It’s April, meaning that this is Autism Awareness Month to most of the world while others refer to this as Autism Acceptance Month. Since the opportunity is at grabs, I would like to share a little more about myself and how I got started as a blogger.    

First and foremost, I would like to mention that I wear 7 hats in society

I am employed at the Center for Leadership in Disability which is housed in the School of Public Health at Georgia State University . The second hat that I wear is that I am an undergraduate student in my last year with a major in psychology before going onto persue a master’s in public health with a concentration in statistics

The second hat that I wear is that I am an undergraduate student in my last year with a major in psychology before going onto pursue a master’s in public health with a concentration in statistics

I am the entrenuer to the blogging Brand “Hello World with Miyah”

I received a press pass to blog about a Future Horizon’s Autism Conference in November 2018. Temple Grandin and Anita Lesko were two of the speakers

  • I started blogging on youtube in late 2013
  • I expanded my blogs to writing on wordpress in 2016
  • Recently, I began blogging for Future Horizon’s books, which sells products related to autism resources.
    I am a homeowner in the greater Atlanta area which I have been for nearly a decade and recently just got a red-headed roommate named AJ who says “Meow.” homeowner in the greater Atlanta area which I have been for nearly a decade and recently just got a red-headed roommate named AJ who says “Meow.
Me at an autism airport rehearsal tour

I sit on the ADA at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport along with being involved with their monthly Autism Airport Rehearsal Tours. “Taking Flight: Autism Worldport Tours

  • Our team won an award from Delta Airlines

The 7th and final hat that I wear is that I am autistic and was diagnosed at age 11 in 1993 with Pervasive Developmental Delay- Non-Other Specified. Post, diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at age 22 in late 2003, which was renamed as an autism spectrum disorder.  

My best friend Brad Clark and at I at 2008 Candlight Ball, since I don’t have ones for 2007. No we are not dating but we have talked about it.


It all began in 2007 when I could attend a special black-tie affair called CADF: Candlelight Ball, they held annually which raise money for autistic adults to receive services. Back in the day, I was a client for the Emory Autism Center, which had a program for adults. Based upon learning that a close a friend telling me of this exciting opportunity, I was persistent in contacting my behavior specialist. At first, the opportunities were slim pickings as the slots were almost full. Apart from the odds, I could get into the event. Prior, it required me to take etiquette lessons with other clients, which included two friends of mine. In the course of the lessons, the center hired a videographer named Damon Wood. While he recorded the lessons, he looked for clients who will do an interview As he was asking around, my late aunt and I was among those who he inquired. As a result, I said, “Yes.”

My Late Aunt Lois

As he was asking around, my late aunt and I were among those who he inquired. Following, Lois had had Damon and his assistant, Chris over for dinner. Next, I stayed in the dining room with Damon and Chris while Lois left the room. At such a time, I spent the next hour sharing my story in which I shed tears while I shared my desires. Though I wanted something to show those desires, Damon fell in love with some outspoken and straightforward things I came up with.  

When the big night came on March 8, 2007, I fell in love with the event which was something I saw out of a favorite TV show, “The OC,” which was big in the early 2000s. During, they treated my friends and me to a top of the line dinner and a lovely jazz band. Therapists and mentors who had worked with I also greeted me. Most of them approached me and said that my interviews in the video were fantastic. Then the big moment came when they showed the video, A Lifetime of Service, which was about all the things individuals could achieve at the center. Though I was expecting a Barbara Walters’s style interview, it surprised me. Rather, there were snippets of myself practicing dinner etiquette with my peers, cooking, studying and saying outspoken things. One of those things were, “Sometimes neurotypicals can be a pain in the butt, but I have learned to live with them. I moved the audience to laughter and tears. In fact, you can view the video down here. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAjywO1VMA4

Six year later, Wood had gotten in touch with me after looking over my archived videos. In consequence of, I agreed to meet him at a frozen yogurt shop in late June of 2013. During this time, we discussed doing a series of vlogs with me. He said that these should really be on you tube. At that date, I was in love with shows like Good Morning America and The Today Show. At the moment, he wanted me to a day in the life of an autistic type vlog. In the meanwhile, I desired to create a vlog that would look more like a news show by autistics for the nerd word, where we would cover everything from NASA to conventions like Dragon Con. All the same, Damon attempted to do a few sessions with me which I looked forward to. Prior to this, I began writing out scripts and constantly thought about old broadcasts in the 50’s ere combined with the first two words in the opening theme from the Partridge Family. In which, these words were, “Hello World.” That being said, those opportunities would not last being that he had a family to take care of and bills to pay. Therefore, I took over project on the 25th of October 2013, the day after my 32nd birthday. Link can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVr6z2U0eNE =qVr6z2U0eNE

Since that date, something has determined me to build an audience for myself. In the beginning, I relied on a webcam, a Kodak digital camera and iPod Touch. There were no fancy titles or music to speak of. As I researched vlogging, I found free editing apps on my iPod which had music and titles.   

Since that date, I have been determined to build an audience for myself. In the beginning, I relied on a webcam, a kodak digital camera and ipod touch. There were no fancy titles or music to speak of. As I began to research vlogging, I found free editing apps on my ipod which had music and titles.

During this time, I attended talks by Temple Grandin next to reading her books. Among this information was excellent information regarding autistics developing talents and skills which could turn into a portfolio. Being I loved to write, I elected to put my writing skills to use so I too could sell my work. I had elected that unlike my YouTube videos, these would be scholarly and practical application types that would be autism specific. 

I also stumbled upon a well-known vlogger named Casey Neistat who showed the meaning of “Day in the Life” type vlogs. Though I didn’t jump onto that bandwagon at first, I watched plenty of Neistat’s videos and listened to his music repeatedly. In 2018, I could download my first serious editing software along with getting a hold of the few of the same songs found in his videos. In January, my first works got published,

The first book I wrote about for Future Horizons
Temple and I at Matthew Reardon Autism Conference

At the same point, I elected to expand my written blogs by electing to find events where I could get a press pass and write blogs. One thing I wanted to blog about were events related to talks given by Temple Grandin. Luckily, my first opportunity was around the corner as a friend had invited me to an event in the Chicago area. I soon acted upon this opportunity by putting myself out there and making myself known. During the interval, a representative of Future Horizon informed me’s blogged about their books at conferences. Ecstatic as I was, I signed up and wrote my first blogs in mid-2018. These titles  includedhttps://helloworld240.wordpress.com/2018/07/23/reviews-its-just-a-what-little-sensory-issues-with-big-reactions/https://helloworld240.wordpress.com/2018/07/24/my-reviews-the-stories-i-tell-my-friends/https://helloworld240.wordpress.com/2018/07/25/reviews-on-manners-matters-temple-talks-to-kids-series/https://helloworld240.wordpress.com/2018/08/14/reviews-video-modeling-visual-based-strategies-demonstrated-to-help-people-on-the-autism-spectrum/https://helloworld240.wordpress.com/2019/03/28/review-dogs-and-autism/

and more…

Future Horizon’s trademark for bloggers

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Having said that, I hope you have a chance to check out my youtube channel as well as my written information.https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvee5Vz_h9bsFTwXbU3_GdA?view_as=subscriber

Note that if you like what I am doing, please hit those subscribe buttons and give me thumbs up. Also share this with anyone in the autism community. Happy Autism Awareness Month and Autism Acceptance Month

Until next time, I’m Miyah Ryan

Will My Traveling Experiences Ever Rule the World

This month, I am traveling to Nashville out of Atlanta as I had been blogging for Future Horizon’s, a publishing company that has products related to autism.20181129_135804[1] Likewise, they include conferences related to autism where they not only promote their books and similar products but also their authors of a well.   One of these people includes Temple Grandin in which I will see her tomorrow.    The nice thing is that it will hold this conference in a hotel near Nashville International Airport(BNA).    As long as Southwest offered a great deal on an airfare, I elected to book a flight I set which for this afternoon.

20181129_134751[1]

The main reason I am writing this is that of my passion and work with the “Taking Flight Autism Worldport Rehearsal Tours.”   Pursuing a year and a half of volunteering on the first Saturday of the month hearing Captain Eric Ries give the same information to distinctive families.    I should also talk about my experiences of the time I flew to Chicago over the summer but that story is another world on its own that I still had not written about yet.  For now, I will only focus on my experiences of going to Nashville with the help of Ries and the rest of the Taking Flight Tour.   Further, I should mention I post this “Business trip”  there is an airport tour scheduled in which I will be in another hotel near the airport tomorrow night. Either way, onto my experiences now.

This morning, I left the house around 8:00 AM so I could get onto the bus at 8:30 and be on the train station at 9:00 AM.  So what if I would be at the airport before the date of the flight. Three days earlier, I contacted TSA cares 72 hours which a fellow TSA member often advises families to use at the start of each tour.   At the time of the call, they assured me I would get an email and a phone call.    It so happened that I received neither regarding my travel plans out of Atlanta. I preferred to locate a TSA supervisor hoping they would already put into their system.  To my dismay, there was no TSA supervisor looking out for me.   Rather, I was sent to the special accommodation line in which most used wheelchairs while others used strollers. 20181129_131354[1]   At all events, I found that despite the name, while I did not need to wait for a significant amount of time, there was nothing special in this line and there was no real accessibility.  Because TSA did not follow through for me, I had to tell a few officers about my sensory processing disorder that very much ties into my autism.  To add to the chaos, a personnel member of American Airlines, who battles with mental health issues explained he has had TSA cares never followed through with him.  He said there were many times where the supervisor at Hartsfield Jackson did not bother to follow-up.   Following the time in line,  I went through the check-point itself which was mostly smooth other than my laptop bag being searched and having to be put through the metal detector twice.  Fortunately,  I had gotten to the airport in plenty of time in case there was a problem.    Here, my computer bag covered my laptop which entitled security to check my bag.  I did not face the problem of being patted down since I wore no metal.

December 1,2018

As a woman living on the spectrum, I face mild sensory processing issues.   In that event, there are three parts on my body where touch is an issue.   Foremost, I have learned that it hurts whenever anyone else touches my collarbone.  Second, would my stomach which is ticklish which will leave me giggling like a little six-year-old.  Third, I dislike it when someone touches my shoulder as I am often surprised.   I was lucky along with explaining to the officers what my situation was and they were very understanding and cordial.   Most of all, I got everything back with no problems.

Following, I took the escalator downstairs to a level where the electric train, Dr. Grandin called it when I emailed her about a successful airport tour.  Instead, I attempted to avoid the train and walk to concourse C being there are signs at Hartsfield stating that each concourse is 5 minutes walking distances.  Since there are four concourses beforehand, I felt that 20 minutes was good.  I found the atmosphere to be warm along with having a dislike of the smell of tire particles floating in the air.  So I boarded the train at concourse B and rode it to C where I took the escalator to sit up at my gate.    Since I noted not only where my gate would be, I sat in a favorite spot at which is in front of a big window where one can catch glimpses on planes taking off and landing.  I enjoyed lunch.20181129_131104[1]

Flashing forward, two hours later,  after a 5-minute delay in boarding and departure time, I could line up in the pre-boarding session with no trouble.   What is more is that none of the personnel who worked for Southwest bothered to question whether I am autistic. I was one of the first people to board and since Southwest allows one to pick their own seats, and I selected to sit in a window seat in the second row behind the bulkhead section.   After that, my short flight to Nashville was smooth sailing, and I could get off earlier than other passengers after waiting for a few passengers who were trying to meet their connecting flight to Phoenix.

In the meantime, I stepped into the delightful and easy to navigate, “Barry Nashville Airport” while shutting the airplane mode off on my mobile device.   All the while attempting to get pictures of an aircraft sitting at one gate.    Yet, I discovered that I had a voicemail and went to retrieve it.   It turned out to be the supervisor from the TSA a BNA who was looking to get me set up for my flight on the following.    Since she didn’t leave me a phone number, she elected to call me later that day.  Following, I got a phone call from the same woman on Thursday night while I was waiting for the hotel’s reception to get started where I would get free food and drinks before dinner.  At the moment, I could explain my situation to the TSA officer who I found to be very helpful in which she could not only provide me the name of the officer who would meet me the following night.   I explained to them what I would wear, my height and my purple bag.  20181129_135051[1]

Nearly twenty-four hours later, after a long and exhausting day at the conference, I sat outside of the hotel in which they had held the conference while waiting for the shuttle. For the duration of the time, I had been talking to a network who was interested in getting to know me.  During the interval, I received a text from the supervisor who would meet me in front of the security checkpoint after making sure I was once again accommodated to get pre-boarding accommodations. When the shuttle arrived, I said goodbye to my new friend and informed the TSA supervisor I was on my way back to the airport.  Upon my arrival, I once again walked up to the ticketing counter with Southwest and requested that I get pre-boarding. Once again, there were no complications.   All the while, I didn’t walk far when the young woman in a traditional uniform approached me.  “Are you Miyah?” She asked. I said yes.  It was shortly that she brought me through a checkpoint where they worked with me one-on-one.  This was instead of a line which I found to be very helpful and less strenuous. Though I had done lines for TSA checkpoints for years which was old had.  Regardless, I was very impressed with the accommodations that an airport can provide and individuals and their families.  Finally, I flew back to Atlanta last night and arrived late while sitting in the bulkhead and enjoying the scenery of flying at night one of my favorite times to fly.

Because of my last 31 hours of travels,  I have a few tips for families they can use.

  1. Families and individuals should call the TSA cares as many times as possible to make sure they set your accommodations in place.
  2. If they do not follow through, then I would report your city’s TSA to the airport for not following through because if you or your child has special needs, it entitles you to service
  3.  If you fly southwest,  you can request a pre-boarding when you book your flight
  4. Make sure you contact your airline and let know your situation and that you need pre-boarding, special meals, etc.
  5. Finally, you can check out my other written blogs about autism airport tours.

 

 

Blogging for Future Horizons

Blog networkSince late 2013, I have been running a blog series called “Hello World with Miyah,” which originally began on Youtube after being encouraged by a cameraman who interviewed me in 2007 for a charity benefit.  He felt that I was so outspoken, extremely straightforward, and that my voice needed to be said to other people in the autism community. During the first year of vlogging I faced unemployment and attempted to take a real estate course, which I had a great distaste for. Still, I pushed myself to build the brand “Hello World with Miyah Sundermeyer”  by recording myself using an iPod touch. Topics contained everything from daily life as an autistic person to relevant information on autism for the general public.  Other topics included things that I am passionate about, like Dragon Con and the classic and very popular animated series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. At this point, I had no desire to write any blogs.

Future Horizon's
Grandin and I at the Asperger’s Conference in Atlanta, November 12, 2014

It was only in 2014, after meeting Dr. Temple Grandin, that I learned about creating a portfolio and selling my work to get a job that could turn into a career involving writing. I knew that I was a skilled writer and wanted to sell my skills by writing blogs related to autism. In 2016, I officially opened an account with WordPress.  I had no clue what I was going to write about but I did know that I was on my way to writing my introduction to my blogs.  However, when I have invited a special event entitled  “Wings for Autism,”  known as airport rehearsal tours, I perked up. Based on what I had seen, I elected to write my first official blog on what I felt needed to be done and how I would like to be involved in the airport tours.  I also decided that I wanted my blogs to offer scholarly advice which held some practical applications that families, professionals, and other advocates could use to take seriously. So far, most of these blogs have lots of cited information and other resources in addition to my own writing that I felt my reader could find helpful.

However, how where does Future Horizons come in, and what does that have to do with blogging?   It all began in November 2014, when I had two opportunities to meet and hear Dr. Grandin, and I gave her my business card. It was at this time that I first met Teresa Corey, the liaison of FH, and her assistant, Brad Masala.  Like with Grandin, I managed to give business cards to  both. I had started at the Center for Leadership in Disability (CLD) and was doing things related to autism resources for individuals on the spectrum and their families in order for them to get better access to services,  while sitting on a planning committee for the first statewide autism conference in Georgia. These experiences gave me an opportunity to bring many ideas to the table.  One of those included having FH attend out conference a vendor and sell their books and other resources that could be essential to families, professionals, and individuals with autism.  However, I would only have to wait for our 4th annual autism conference for that dream to actually come true, which finally took place back in May.

 

When that day did finally arrive, I had a chance to purchase The Stories I Tell My Friends, Temple Talks, and a few magnets while networking with Amy from Future Horizons.  I told her that I was a blogger and had just gotten a press pass to blog about Temple Grandin in Chicago.  Amy recommended that since I am a blogger, I should consider blogging for them by doing two things:

  1. Read and review books which have been published by Future Horizons prior to being released in the market.
  2. Attend their conference and blog about them.

Though I would like to keep blogging about scholarly and practical applications related to autism, I realize that this opportunity will not only help me build up my portfolio but also sell my work and learn how to build my skills in lots of ways, especially in writing.

How to Create a Game Plan during the “Taking Flight” Airport Rehearsal Tours.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, now one of the business in the world, had its third annual, “Wings for Autism” airport rehearsal tour. event on April 11, 2018.  Since volunteering my time with the “Taking Flight: Autism Airport Rehearsal Tours” on a monthly basis, I was able to provide a lot of information to families.   Not only did I provide my monthly tips and advice by speaking over a PA inside the aircraft but I educated patrons who walked up to the registration table in the atrium at the domestic terminal as well. Though these rehearsal tours continue to move forward and open lots of new doors, much work still needs to be done.  In the meantime, families can take advantage of these tips when attending the airport for the tours and when they are traveling. Likewise, airport rehearsal tours are only offered once a month but a rehearsal goes beyond just meeting with airline team members and participating volunteers.  Rather, here are some helpful pointers that families can consider during their visits to an airport with their autistic loved ones.

Me at wings for autism sign
Me at the third Wings for Autism Event

First and foremost, since families receive special passes for each airport tour, not only can they attend the session but take time to exploring the airport.  In the midst of their exploration, I encourage families to take their loved one to a gate where passengers are boarding an aircraft.  When making observations, make sure you check out a few different airlines to compare and contrast the way airlines are boarded so an autistic has an idea of what to expect.  For example, Delta airlines boards by assigned seating and rows whereas Southwest boards by a random first come first serve.

 

A second tip is that autistics cannot have any surprises when learning about a new setting.  Otherwise, the environment would become a threat where they are expecting certain stimuli to set them off due to higher levels of fear and anxiety. Say the door alarm at a concourse gate and the buzzer at a baggage claim carousel.   In correspondence with Temple Grandin, she suggested that having headsets and earplug ready and worn at the gate and baggage claim.  I highly recommend doing so during time exploring each airport so that individuals get a better idea of what to expect.  To add to the surprise sensory list would be inside the bathrooms at the airport where toilets and automatic hand dryers could contribute to the stress of the airport.  Finally, families can take this time to walk through the airport while your loved one wears their headsets.

A third recommendation entails families stopping at a favorite restaurant outside of the airport and purchasing a bag full of their loved one’s choice.  From there, families can take their orders to a rehearsal tour and bring them while boarding an aircraft and have their loved one eat on a carrier.   Yet, if families didn’t bring food through security, I recommend finding an eatery such as McDonald’s or Chick-Fil-A and form a habit of taking that food to a nearby gate where an autistic can observe how each boarding process works.

Delta Flight Crews
Team Delta members at the end of a Taking Flight Rehearsal Tour at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport.

 

Fourth, while at each gate, families can get a better idea of what special accommodations may be offered at each airline and airport.  Following the tour,  I recommend that caregivers and other supports speak to a customer service agent who can assist them in coming up with a game plan when it comes to boarding a plane and selecting the best seats in advance.  Families may also need to know which accommodations are offered at each airline.

Fifth,  while making observations of the boarding process, families can look up a flight beforehand  online or on overhead monitors and make note to practice traveling to that gate with their loved ones while rehearse paying attention to the time that passengers begin the boarding process, which is often 30 minutes prior.  Though not required but highly recommended, bring along laptops, mobile devices and other things that may keep a family busy watching movies.  To set examples, caregivers can get their own work done on their laptops, make phone calls while each autistic finds something that interests them.  Such examples include logging into wi-fi and watching a movie on google play, playing a game or even reading a book.  If there is a flight delay, families can practice letting the customer service agents know they are going to a quieter area but be finding someone to accommodate their needs until it’s boarding time.  At Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, located in Atlanta,  a sensory-friendly room is located at Concourse F, which is just outside the international terminal.  For those who live in Atlanta and participate in the “Taking Flight” rehearsal, which includes a visit to the sensory room can practice contacting a CSA so they can practice using the room for respite from the large jostling crowds and overwhelming stimuli.   Notwithstanding, only 2 out of 22,429 airports have sensory rooms which are only 8.29% of the airport population in the US.   At this point, finding a backup plan in a quiet area with fidgets, play-do, and items that block out major sensory issues can help decrease stress levels.  For example, Hartsfield Jackson has a transportation mall which not only provides an electric train but tunnels with art and moving walkways.   After each tour, I often prefer to walk through this area versus taking the train is that most can get crowded along with enjoying the art which is mounted in each well-lit tunnel.

Plane taking off

Sixth, while at the airport, families should find a gate where they can help their child observe a carrier being taxied, taking off and landing.  That way,  individuals will know what to expect when they fly for the first time.   Meanwhile, have lunch or a snack available all the while encouraging the individual to watch the process of a plane becoming airborne and showing them pictures of possible destinations such as Walt Disney World or pictures of Characters and landmarks related to Disney World.

A seventh and final recommendation, which was also suggested to me by Dr. Grandin which includes a video that shows passengers being patted down by TSA officers which can be shared with autistics. Once these videos are seen, families can practice patting down their loved ones.   One way to do that is to find an area inside the airport, past a checkpoint where caregivers can take content of officers patting down a few passengers and put them on their computers and televisions to show their loved ones and show it to them to a few times so each autistic will know they will be touched.  From there, families can practice patting the individual down so they know what to expect upon arrival at the airport.

In closing, I hope that you will find this blog helpful for families planning on attending an airport rehearsal tour. To do so, one can contact their local autism program providers or local airport and find out through the airport’s customer service or ADA coordinators to find out more information.

 

 

 

Current Autism Airport Rehearsals at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport

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.

Erich on board
Enter a caPictured: Captain Erich Ries aboard an aircraft as second annual “Wings for Autism” event April, 2017 ption

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Miyah in Cock-pit
Me in the cockpit during one of the tours

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.