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 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.
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 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.”
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.
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.”
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,
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
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.
As a network of Temple’s and an emerging writer, it was an honor to get my first press pass to an event where I would see a woman who I greatly look up to. Thank you, Brenda and the Aspiritech Team, thank you to my friend who considered inviting me to “Brunch with Temple Grandin.” Most importantly, thank you, Temple. Your hard work is very inspiring and I have learned a lot from you between your talks, books, and emails.
In June, I had the privilege of traveling from Atlanta to Chicago, IL., after being invited to a special brunch which held a talk by Dr. Temple Grandin.
The event was held to raise money for a non-profit organization known as Aspiritech which is housed in the greater Chicago area.
This program was founded by Brenda Weitzberg and her husband Moshe after observing their son, who was diagnosed with autism, being placed in three non-challenging positions which he struggled to keep post attending a 4-year institution of higher learning. After doing research and finding out about an organization in Europe that hired autistics who are skilled and qualified in technology, Weizberg elected to do something similar in Chicago. Unlike most supported employment programs, which offer menial types of work where an autistic is kept down, Aspiritech helps their clients push the envelope by developing work skills in testing important software. Such positions include QA analysts and test engineers. Each employee has an ASD diagnosis and is entitled to a job coach and other similar support systems such as mentors. All the while supervisors and other leaders hold events for clients at Aspiritech which provide events that not provide social interaction but learn important social skills as well. What is more is that Aspiritech just celebrated their 10-year anniversary of being in operation which served as a great opportunity for Grandin to have brunch and speak next to paying a visit to Aspiritech.
As someone who had been aching to get out of Atlanta as well as expand my blog brand, and grab ideas for autism airport rehearsal tours, what better way to start than starting with this event? Once things were squared away, off I went to Chicago after a grueling 24 hours of flight delays and one cancellation, less than 48 prior to attending the event. Still, I had time to settle into Chicago and do some sightseeing the day before by visiting the Adler Planetarium and seeing the Windy Kitty Cat’s Cafe with my friend.
The event began on the 2nd full day of summer on June 22,2018 with an unusual cold front bringing in several deluges of rain that felt like ice. Regardless, I was able to take the L-from my hostel in the Lincoln Park area to Linden, IL where I caught the bus the Glen Club which once was used as an old military bunker that was converted into a country club with a golf course. Once inside, introduced myself to Brenda Weitzberg who I had exchanged emails with a few times about attending the event in order to take notes and write about it. When Brenda first met me, and I told her who I was, “Miyah,” she replied excitedly. All the while, I had a chance to get set up, network with other attendees and get settled in for the exciting adventure.
Still, I had been waiting on meeting my friend, who is connections with Weitzberg and Aspiritech, and had sent me a Facebook invitation to the event ” A Special Brunch with Temple Grandin” one month and a half earlier. Yet, eating brunch with Temple was a more of a figure of speech but I ended up nearly behind her in line at the brunch buffet had it not been for my friend who stood between the two of us. How did that happen? I had encouraged my friend to get pictures of her as well as meeting Grandin prior to getting into the buffet line.
Be that as it may, the staff of Aspiritech pulled Temple away making sure that had to chance to grab her food prior to having a chance to network with the management of Aspiritech.
So politely, she excused her fans by announcing, “Pardon but they are making me get something to eat,” which was then followed by being in the same line. However, you are still reading the introductory part of this blog.
As brunch began to wind down, Temple began her talk which began with a pun about how she was not going to use the mouse on the computer available to use for her power point. “I am not going to use the mouse because I don’t like rodents because they bite,” which was responded by a crowd roaring in laughter. She proceeded to talk about her adventures at Kennedy Space Center, located in Port Canaveral Florida, which I had visited 12 years before prior to seeing a Saturn V satellite being launched into space.
While talking about this, she shared her story about getting the opportunity to see the Space X rocket launch and using the camera of the iPhone 6 which she took multiple photos. “Click, click, click,” she said before mentioning how wonderful the camera is. From that, she broke away to talk about Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple and the inventor of the iPhone and how was not a scientist but a calligrapher or rather an artist and how he was saved career-wise. Further on, she brought up other great examples such as one of my favorite film directors, Steven Spielberg. While he had poor grades in school due to dyslexia, he had a camera that saved him.
Other things Grandin covered were her career life and how she did not let her autism be primary. Rather, her career came first and how she often brought copies of her drawings to different plans and feedlots so she could get herself into the back door. All the while she talked about her early years of employment which started out working as a seamstress at a dress shop, internships and other interests that drew out her passion to work in the cattle industry. In addition, Grandin stated not to mock careers related to skilled trades and how there is a shortage of people in those fields right now and how this is critical to autistics today who are being babied because too many parents have been taught to rely on the medical model. She stated that too many autistics are eligible for such jobs but are being coddled by their parents instead. “I am seeing too many smart geeky kids being coddled by their parents who are stuck in the basement collecting social security playing video games,” she forwardly declared. To back up her argument, she mentioned that new studies are not suggesting that video games have the same effects of addiction like with drugs. “I am sure that makes the video game industry really happy.”
Together with her talks about getting young adults into careers, she briefly shared the way visual thinkers and learner see things which are by paying close attention to details. She did this by showing a picture of cow backing away from a reflection of the sun and seeing how many people in the audience could understand why the cow was not moving forward. “How many of you think it’s the light?” Surprisingly, most people in the room did not raise their hands unlike me, who is a visual thinker who had seen the complete opposite at two other talks where the entire room raised their hands in two separate parts of Georgia which were often followed by a “Good job,” and a crowd finding themselves amused. This time though she said the lack of responses to understanding was”Terrible,” while going to onto explain that most audience members have failed that test before. Diversely, she talked about poor planning these days in buildings. Say, a few hotels that she stayed at where one had no hot water and the other you had to use portapotties outside. ” I don’t think people would appreciate luxury apartments with no electricity.” Lastly, she talked about issues with CRJ aircraft carriers (I flew on one from Atlanta to Chicago and find they are poorly designed in that they are too short) in which the engineering on the doors is so poorly designed that it has to be closed the right way or the flight is canceled. As a result, she forenamed that she had three flights canceled on her because the crew could not close the door properly.
Among other things, she mentioned there was a time in her life where she was afraid to fly which is something that she briefly mentioned to me last November while she was in Atlanta. Though she didn’t touch on everything and I was able to discover what she did in “The Stories I Tell My Friends,” she was able to briefly talk about a traumatic experience during her talk. At the time of talk, she touched on overcoming her fear by making the situation interesting what I later learned more about and now use in our autism airport rehearsal tours.
Finally, Q&A time brought in several members of the audience who participated and myself included. One of the things that she put emphasis on that there are two places that she does not want to see autistics. “In jail or dead,” which she stated right before I had a chance to ask her my questions. Since there were no microphones, she gently directed me to “Speak up,” to which I responded a little louder. “How’s this?” I asked. Grandin came back with, “So the members of the audience can hear you.” At that point, I shared my concern about parents and guardians relying too closely on work programs which seem to keep autistics down. She replied by telling me that these programs seem to be finding positions for high school age students and placing smart adults in jobs that continuously bag groceries. Next, we talked about issues related to getting on social securities. “Do you know they now have classes on how to get onto social security?” which I agreed was ridiculous for many different reasons along with acknowledging that parents need to stop holding their child’s hand for every little thing including shopping and cooking. Conclusively, she answered questions of a client who is currently employed at Aspiritech who was recording the entire presentation and wanted a few tips on how to edit the video. To my, surprise, Temple had great knowledge and experience on editing videos which I was greatly impressed by being that I edit videos for my vlog series all the time. So that made me happy because I would have been willing to help him as well.
Post Temple’s talk, attendees lined up to purchase one of two books, “The Autistic Brain” and Grandin’s latest book, “Calling All Minds,” while others brought their own books to the brunch. Prior to Grandin’s talk and book signing, I bought her latest book. Post the talk I lined up to get my book signed, get a few pictures and a word in edge-wise. When purchasing the book, the sellers were putting names into each book while Temple just signed. Being that I had seen her so many times, I am used to having her ask me who the book was too in which she had always put “To Miyah, ” in each book before to signing her name. In my mind, no one writes my name my copy of her books except for Temple herself which might seem rigid to some.
At any rate, my friend and I walked up to the table where she signed a copy of my book. It was there that I had a chance to tell her that I had gone to the Adler Planetarium before asking her how her flight from Denver was. Yet, she was quick to tell me that he flew out of New Orleans on Southwest Airlines and that the pilot was terrific. In between that time, my friend, Temple and I posed for a photo in which the entire group was clad in back and red. Believe me, I had no idea that either one Temple or my friend would also show up and in black and red. No, his was something that I didn’t even plan on doing because I didn’t know who would wear what. Rather, I picked outfit because I felt it looked professional being, minus my pink hair that stuck out.
Following my friend and I sat down because he wanted one more picture standing with Temple once she signed her last book. Ahead, I watched her sign books while giving some great advice to a mother and her adolescent son about getting beyond video games and moving out into the world. She asked him what he liked besides video games and the answer were dogs. She told him that the rest of the summer, he was going to spend volunteering at a shelter and walking dogs. As they walked out together several people mentioned that what she gave them were “Teachable moments” and it would really help him grow. Thereafter, my friend was able to grab Grandin as she was getting ready to head with Weitzberg to their office which was brief prior to heading back to the bus with my friend. After that adventure, it was time for me to think about getting ready for my early morning flight back to Atlanta.
It was while I was at this event, not only did I learn a great deal from Temple but I had a chance to learn more about Aspiritech and the amazing people both in leaders and clients. Among other things, I made some new friends in addition to networks while getting rich notes from Temple’s talk.
Grandin .T. (2018, June). Temple Grandin Talk. Presented at Brunch with Temple Grandin Aspiritech Fundraiser. Glenview, IL.
Weitzberg, M. (Photographer). (2018, June). Brunchtime. [Photograph]. Glenview, IL. Aspiritech.
When I first began reading and reviewing books for Future Horizons, I had a chance to skim through all the current choices available to read and review. One of those selections was a new book called Manners Matter: Temple Talks to Children, which is a part of the Temple Talks series for children by Veronica Zysk. Being that I have enjoyed works by Temple herself, I was intrigued. I was captured by the colorful animated cover with the children and the wonderful title in big red letters. I got the idea that the little girl on the top of title perhaps represents Temple as a little girl.
Upon reading, I was captured by the cleverness and inspiration that went into making this book. One such example includes the animated versions of Temple Grandin during two different stages of her life, she can be either been seen as a little girl or a young adult. While most of the animated illustrations mainly show children learning examples from their parents, others have drawings of Grandin as a little girl learning manners. There are drawings of Temple participating in hobbies during her childhood and talking about it afterward. Other parts show examples of stories she has shared during her talks regarding bad manners while she gives notes in between. One such case has a drawing of young Temple licking chocolate ice cream out of a bowl like a dog in order to show kids that bad manners can cause other kids to get the wrong impression and not want to be friends. If anyone has ever heard Temple speak, she talks about eating chocolate ice cream out of a bowl with her mouth and having her teacher take the bowl away, telling her to use her spoon and that she’s not a dog (this is one of my favorite stories and I laugh every time she tells it). The young adult version of Temple introduces herself in a friendly manner that children can understand by describing her features: that she likes to wear western attire and struggles with autism. Manners Matter shares a brief introduction to who Dr. Grandin is by talking about where she grew up and how she had lived a self-fulfilling life. She is willing to help children learn the same basics that she did.
Other parts of the book emphasize children understanding certain boundaries such as one little boy who is learning to be considerate by not insulting someone’s appearances at a grocery store. It also shows that he has learned to develop empathy for other people, which is a common stereotype among people with autism. In this case, it shows that someone with ASD can learn anything.
The book offers a second part which is specifically for family members, educators, and community members. While the first part is dedicated to children, this is directed towards adults who help their children grow. This part provides essential information from Zysk and Dr. Grandin that gives better insight into how one can teach social skills to the young individuals on the autism spectrum. One such example includes an understanding that manners are rules and that they can be taught in baby steps, one at a time.
There are things about the book that I would have loved to be seen differently. The first is that the introduction to where Grandin grew up was inaccurate. The reason why I bring that up is that people on the spectrum pay very close attention to detail and like to know every realistic fact possible. I feel that having accurate information about Temple will help people learn about the area where she is really from. The other part that I would have loved to have seen is how Grandin always emphasizes to be direct but gentle when correcting behavior. Finally, it would be nice if the book gave some input on body language for children and what’s considered appropriate versus not.
In conclusion, I found this book to be both helpful and humorous. Though this is a good book for ASD individuals, I feel that all children could benefit from the content published in this book whether they’re on the spectrum or not. I enjoyed seeing animated ideas of what Temple would have looked like and dressed like as a little girl. The creators of Manners Matter were able to capture young Temple, who is a real figure and teaches social skills. Further, I felt that the message for parents will be useful while reading this book to their children.
Zysyke, V. & Grandin, T. (2018). Manners Matter: Temple Grandin Talks to Kids.” Arlington, TX. Future Horizon’s Incorporated.
As a fan of Dr. Temple Grandin, I recently stumbled upon what I thought was yet another book written by Dr. Grandin herself, The Stories I Tell My Friends, about details she only tells those who she is closest to. It was only on “World Autism Awareness Day,” that I learned that this book was not written by Temple, but by a close friend named Anita Lesko. I first learned about Lesko when she and Grandin were interviewed on the YouTube channel “Autism Live.” During the interview, Grandin shared a few snippets of the book that she’d never publicly revealed before. For example, she talked about meeting the father of behaviorism, B.F. Skinner, and the surrounding experiences; she talks about his desire to touch her legs and her straightforwardness with him. “You may look, but you may not touch,” she said. She also explained how she had looked up to Skinner, that he was like a god to her, and how she was disappointed.
For those of you who have never heard of Anita Lesko, here is a little background:
Anita was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the age of fifty and married her husband Abraham in 2015, who is also on the spectrum. They married in 2015 at an all-autism-spectrum wedding at a convention specifically designed for autism, dating, and relationships. Among the attendees was Alex Plank, who is the founder of the forum Wrong Planet and was Abraham’s best man. Like her close friend Temple, Anita shares her passion for horses. As she grew, she found her way into areas of her life that she desired. One area in particular turned out to be the medical field, where she works as an anesthesiologist for some of the most intense surgical cases. Lesko has not only written The Stories I Tell My Friends, but also The Complete Guide to Autism and Healthcare; both of which were published by Future Horizons. Lesko has also proven to be a great voice of self-advocacy who offers tips for other adults on the spectrum on issues such as employment. Without further delay, here is my review for The Stories I Tell My Friends.
I picked up this book thinking that Anita would just hand the microphone over to Temple and let her share every story possible. Rather, I was greatly surprised that the stories were about others in Temple’s life, as well as Grandin herself. The book held moments where Lesko input her own stories based on each person she interviewed. Throughout, the book often transitions back and forth from interviews at Temple’s birthday party to telephone interviews with Grandin. All along, there is information Dr. Grandin has already shared next to new things that I had never heard before. Such examples include life as a college professor and the strong mentorship she offers her students. Being that I work in a university setting myself, I understand those bonds and have connected with doctoral students who have studied under my boss. I never thought I would hear Temple’s own students share their input on what she’s like as the role of a professor versus a public speaker and writer to the autistism community. As a reader, I found that to be very moving and nearly started crying, which made me wonder if wanting a be a professor had to do with being inspired by her own mentor during high school. Other interviews came from Mick Jackson, the director of the HBO film Temple Grandin, her colleagues both past and present, and her closest friends, all of whom talk about what Temple is like privately versus how others perceive her from the outside.
In other parts of the book I found myself laughing very hard, especially regarding her stories regarding her childhood and all the shenanigans that she and her sister would pull, which I could relate to. I laughed at my own shenanigans in addition to Temple’s childhood. Still, other stories offer a hint of practical advice. In one such example, Temple mentions being afraid of flying at one point in her life and talks about how she overcame it. As someone who is working with the autism airport rehearsal tours, I was greatly intrigued and felt her ideas would be helpful for families during our tours. While reading, I felt like I was sitting down talking to her over a cup of coffee or two. At one point, I was getting ready to head to Chicago for the first time in my life. One of the things she talked about was the way the tunnel at Chicago O’Hare airport looked like a scene in Star Trek. When I arrived at O’Hare at a later date, I felt a space theme but had a different perception that the setting looked like the movie WALL-E. Finally, the book also shares other interesting questions that I have wanted to ask based on her unique thinking and engineering skills. One such example would what she saw in her mind when the World Trade Centers collapsed and how I have always been fascinated by that, though I don’t have the mind of an engineer. The book had parts that were touching and I could easily cry.
In review, Lesko’s book shares the life of the world-famous Dr. Temple Grandin. She doesn’t live her life like a celebrity out in Beverly Hills, rather, she likes to lead a very modest life. She is seen as a local community mentor from a small town, who anyone can go to with problems, because she knows how to solve them. Grandin wants to show the world that that yes, she has autism, but that she is able to lead a regular life like anyone else and equality should always play a role in the life of any individual on the spectrum. Rather than focusing on the autism, Lesko and Grandin focus on things like Temple’s interests, her career, and her great sense of humor—which I always love to laugh at. This book puts emphasis on how Temple is fighting the current reliance on the medical model, labeling, and transitioning programs, and how too many young adults are being held back. She would like to see that changed.
The only thing that I would have liked is if Anita had interviewed Eustacia Cutler, who is the mother Dr. Grandin, as she was the one who had been the greatest impact on Temple’s life. Those two have a very strong bond that sets a great example for parents of ASD individuals both young and old. Overall, this book not only shares more of Temple’s life than the movie, but also has important information that will leave a legacy. When I finished the book, I didn’t want it to end because the content in this book is so rich, powerful, and profound that I nearly ended up in tears.
Lesko, M., Grandin G., Miller, C., Uhl, J. Jackson, Mick., et el. (2018). The Stories I Tell My Friends. Arlingon, TX. Future Horizons Incorporated.
Winward, R. (2018). (Photograph). The Stories I Tell My Friends. Retrieved from IRL.
Since 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.
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:
Read and review books which have been published by Future Horizons prior to being released in the market.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.