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.
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.
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.
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