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.
To those who are living with or closely know someone on the spectrum, Autism Awareness month is no stranger. Family members, professionals and business alike often strive to make a venue more autism or sensory-friends. Others strive to raise awareness in our major media sources. For example, on Netflix, one can find the popular show, Atypical about a teenage boy named Sam who is just transitioning into an adult and going onto college. Others raise awareness through the work of puppets such as Julia who is a character on Sesame Street, who’s played by Stacey Gordon, a puppeteer who has a son with autism. On the other side of the coin, are self-advocates, who are autistic that believe in autism acceptance. From their perspective, we should do away autism awareness. They believe that awareness often gives people the wrong impression of us. Alongside, they often boycott Autism Speaks the organization believed in curing autism. Along with a strong loathing of the organization, they also hate the puzzle piece for the symbol’s negative history that autism is a disease. Rather, they use the infinity symbol to represent neurodiversity. They also do not wear blue but red, as a color of “Love.” Whatever the case maybe, I take a very different stance in all of this which entails taking middle-grounds.
Yes, while I am an autistic and a self-advocate, I have developed a very different mindset than a lot of my peers on the spectrum. I am more willing to take middle grounds. What that means is that I prefer to take elements from both sides. Why? Well, it’s simple, really. Foremost we can’t have autism acceptance without autism awareness. Perhaps the most important of all is that those on the spectrum need to have a level of self-awareness and understanding of themselves. Once they have learned how to become more self-aware, then can become to accept themselves. For example, there was a time in my life I hated being autistic because I grew up in a world with people looked at me like I was broken and therefore underestimated what I could or could not do. In contrast, I was strong enough to want a normal life. I wanted to hold down a job beyond custodial work because I knew something had to exist. I only learned how to accept myself in 2004, based upon joining a support group for adults on the spectrum. At that, a mechanical engineer and a pilot named Robert Morris who also carried a diagnosis ran the group. Contrary to another support group, which felt more like a daycare for adults, this group focused more on gifts, talents, and careers. Here, they spoke out against closed minded views related to autism. They further celebrated Temple Grandin before her movie came out. While this group helped me begin my journey in self-discovery but also in self-acceptance. Despite that, I am don’t want to get too far down the beaten track. Once a person learns these things about themselves, they can learn how to better serve in their community.
With the Red Instead versus Autism speaks, this is where I feel it’s appropriate for a self-advocate to take middle grounds. When I mean here is yes, standing up for what’s right should be number 1. For example, learning to educate or sometimes re-educate people in the community on what autism is and what it is not. Some people believe that autism is an anti-social personality disorder and that we are all sadistic monsters who go off for no reason. Following the Sandy Hook Shooting, which took place on December 14, 2012, I was watching a live stream from my computer which contained a chat session. During the stream, the leader talked about this shooting which I was thrilled with. Sadly though, another member of the chat room jumped into the conversation and stated ignorant stereotypes about it. While this makes my blood boil, she blurted out that Adam Lanza had Asperger’s Syndrome and all that all people with Asperger’s syndrome have a lack of empathy who go off for no reason. Little did she know that an adult in her early 30s was closely watching her comments and could call her out on in her ignorance. When I responded, she boasted about how she was in autism research and knew better because she listened to experts. “That’s doesn’t make you an expert,” I came back. In a similar hasty manner, people with little education on autism lean towards the disabilities associated with autism while forgetting that a person with autism can be still a person. Therefore, one on the spectrum can raise autism awareness for the sake of educational purposes while explaining the reason behind Lanza’s shootings and perhaps explaining where the disability lies.
Third and finally, I have taken middle grounds because I have elected to support Autism Speaks. One of the main reasons is because I see them working hard to become more autism-friendly. Though not perfect, something like this never takes overnight. For example, I have seen then create a special blog designed for adults on the spectrum. In fact, I submitted a few articles. One of which included getting involved in airport rehearsal tours. I have also seen them feature more stories by the voices of autistics themselves and become more and more diversified. Otherwise, most self-advocates want to reach out to as many parents, guardians and other people in the community who support autism speaks. Most of the time, these parents or guardians often lost as what I should do with their children as there are so many voices giving them confusing answers. I feel that they need to hear from the real experts and that’s us. Our life experiences is what will raise awareness and acceptance. Not only that we know best what types of services an individual needs and how expensive something can be. Again, that where a self-advocate can come in and get involved with their local autism speaks chapter. They can also start a team or sign up to raise money and walk while learning to keep track of how Autism Speaks spends their money. Last but not least, they may consider getting on boards and advisory councils part of Autism Speaks because that’s ours. Someone will hear voices.
Therefore, I would highly like to recommend that self-advocate learn how your differences side aside with people who support autism speaks and take middle grounds. As a result, I am not lighting it up blue to walking in red. Rather, I am combining the two colors together to make purple. My campaign logos are “Taking Middle Ground” and “Walk in Purple.” In fact, will walk on the 28th of April in the greater Atlanta area and wearing a T-shirt that not only promotes my campaign but also my blogging brand.
On April 1st, two very distinct things occurred. The first is that it has been marked as the official start of Autism Awareness Month. The second is that author, autism activist, and self-advocate Anita Lesko had a book published by Future Horizons come out as a new release. This book, entitled Becoming an Autism Success Story, finally hit the shelves on April 1, 2019. As a fellow blogger for Future Horizons, I had the chance to read this book a week before it released on the market. What I found differed from I expected.
Foremost, the book not only talks about Lesko’s upbringing and her background, it also talks about different methods that can help individuals on the autism spectrum. One such example is visualization and neuroplasticity, which is where one can learn to do something by seeing others doing an activity and then visualizing themselves doing that activity. Lesko also talks about hippotherapy, where one with autism works with horses to improve areas such as balance and coordination.
In another part of the book, Lesko describes growing up living in a poor family and finding alternatives to doing the activities her to otherwise could not afford. One such instance is receiving horse lessons for working at the stables by mucking out stalls. She also talks about struggling with coordination and having trouble socializing with everyone but her mother, Rita. Prior to working with horses, she never really talked to anyone. Beyond her childhood years, Lesko talks about how she broke out into the world of nursing and anesthesiology. In her book, she shares how she learned, which is through visualization to become a successful grad student and nurse.
To boot, she talks about transitioning from having supportive parents for 53 years and living with them prior to dealing with the bereavement of losing them. She also discusses becoming a support group leader and meeting her husband, Abraham, who is also on the spectrum. She talks about how she and Abraham never wanted to part and married at an all-autistic “2015 Autism in Love Conference.”
Finally, she talks about making self-discoveries at 50 after being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in 2010. She spent much of this time doing lots of research on autism. Right in the middle, she stumbles upon the popular documentary The Woman Who Thinks like a Cow, which was about Temple Grandin. She also talks about how she met Temple at a conference in 2013 and how those two have been able to become friends.
In reviews, I highly recommend this book, whether you are a parent struggling to find answers for your child (despite if they are 10 or 21) or are a person with autism who is battling with depression and is ready to give up. Not only does Lesko share helpful tactics, but she also describes that she has intense training in life coaching. To show says she is open to others on the spectrum contacting her in sharing their success stories while talking about using 7 steps to using visualization.
In other areas, I found myself on the edge of tears when she described losing her whole immediate family right around the same time. I especially found this touching as I had just lost my aunt Lois three months ago, who could mentor me and change my life. That was one part that really hit home for me as I read the rest of the book on April 7, 2019, before turning the lights out.
Things I would have liked to have read about was about how long she had known Abraham before they fell in love and got married. I also would have liked to have heard her talk about her wedding in more detail. In other areas, I would like to have heard her talk more about how they selected Anita to speak at the United Nations in 2017. Finally, a little more about how she wrote The Stories I Tell My Friends. Otherwise, this book is worth the read.
[Photo] (2019) Becoming an Autism Success Story. Future Horizon’s
Books. Arlington, TX.
Lesko, A. Atwood, A, & Grandin T. (2019). Becoming an Autism
On April 3rd, 2019, Autism Live, a talk showed hosted over the internet, featured Dr. Temple Grandin as a part of World Autism Awareness Week which is hosted by Shannon Penrod. Unlike last year, when Grandin and her friend Anita Lesko, had called in, to promote “The Stories I Tell My Friends,” things were different this year. Comparatively, Penrod played three archived interviews with Grandin.
1. The first was a brief Q&A which displayed questions on a screen prior to Temple looking into a camera gradually answering each question.
2. The second was an interview was at a studio in Denver for a show entitled “The Future is Bright” with Stephanie Shaffer.
3. The third was a retro-interview between Shannon Pendrod and Temple Grandin shortly after
In the first’s course short Q&A clips, Temple talked about a wide variety of items. One of them entailed individuals often struggling with remained hyper-focused on a particular item or top. Over and above, how there is a general rule of thumb to bring up that interest with someone twice, otherwise move on and talk about something else. A second example described sensory enrichment therapy in which Temple gave a great description. In which, a therapist will use a different method involving distinct types of therapy compared to ABA. Here, the therapist will use two different senses of at. In the example she gave, Grandin said they may have a child smell cinnamon while instructing them to “Touch carpet.” She also said these sessions often interchange the senses regularly.
All the while, Grandin’s interview with Stephanie Schaffer appeared to be much more up to date because a few of the things she talked are available in Anita Lesko’s book, “The Stories I Tell My Friends.” One thing, that Temple was the best way that an individual on the spectrum can learn how to drive. Rather than going directly to driver’s education, she explained that it’s better for an autistic. Instead, she explained that it’s better for an autistic drive a car in an area where there are no cars around. In her case, her late aunt used taught her how to drive by going to pick up the mail, which was three miles from Anne’s ranch. She talked about work skills and the importance of autistic learning them when they are young. Say, learning how to walk other people’s dogs.
Finally, she answered several questions that fans which fans had written prior to the interview. One question that she answered was on her views regarding inclusion. Grandin responded by mentioning her childhood experiences where she could be in a regular classroom during her elementary year. She shared her opinion about the DSM-V manual reduced the number of autism diagnosis. Originally, the Asperger diagnosis was going be eliminated from the autism spectrum altogether. Rather, the new diagnosis was going to be changed to a social communication disorder. ” I think that’s rubbish,” she openly stated.
If you are a fan of Grandin, check out the interviews here