Taking Middle Grounds

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.  

My on National Autism Awareness Day

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. 

You can make a donation here.

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. 

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

Autistic and Grieving: Robot or Human?

Back story: January 7,2019

On December 26,2018, I had rolled out of bed after sleeping in late being that I was on holiday break for two weeks. That late morning, I made a late breakfast before jumping into the shower prior to heading out for a little day after Christmas R&R in the Midtown Atlanta area. The weather was a balmy 57 degree and I was not only going to hit the after Christmas sales but also grab lunch and shoot a few videos of people using the time skating rink for my vlogs. The day was going to be perfect and my evening would be just as relaxing. As I got off three in the early afternoon though, my phone was ringing and I answered. It was a call from my Aunt Lois’ neighbor.

Mark explained to me that the police and several of her friends were outside of her house trying to find a way in after not being able to get ahold of her for three days and finding her car tucked away into her garage turned carport. Not long after, the fire department arrived and climbed through her windows and took off a few of the locks. Once inside, there lay Lois barely alive and helpless several days alone after suffering a massive stroke and damage from fluids in her brain or so the MRI read. According to Mark, the paramedics said that she was septic, which means that she had massive amounts of poison in her blood. He also said that she was found with one eye open and the other closed while having drool in her mouth. Once in the hospital, Lois was kept alive on a ventilator or so I read on Facebook. She remained in the hospital for 10 days in a coma in hospice care post being taken off life support. Yet, she briefly came out of her coma on January 3rd where she had attempted to sip water. As a result, Lois was released from the hospital while we all believed that she would receive around the clock care in her home. In the meantime, her brother, Uncle Dennis, her brother began their trek down to Atlanta yesterday so he could help settle her new living arrangements. Sadly, Lois Ann Ryan slipped back into a coma in her home where she did this morning.

10 days, before her death and after Lois entered hospice care, a friend encouraged me to go see her and say goodbye to her despite a falling out that happened in late 2017. Upon entering her room, I signed in and grabbed my visitor badge before spending a half an hour with Lois she slept in a stable condition. At that point, they had already taken her off the ventilator and any other life supports. All the while, she barely looked recognizable. This was other her beautifully styled strawberry blond short hair and her hospital gown that very much resembled several t-shirts with little designs on that. Meanwhile, she slept in an elevated position with her head tilted down at an angle while I smelled the hint of urine and noting it in an evacuation bag. At this time, I asked for her forgiveness and told her why I cut her from my life for a while telling her I’d miss her. All the while, I saw her eyebrows rise next to seeing rapid eye movement or REM. Next, I recited Hebrew blessings and prayers from the Mourners Kaddish and the Aaronic blessings all before kissing her on the forehead and walking out backward. Though I cried at my friend’s house on the day that I received the news, I could not while visiting her one last time. Rather, seeing her in this state made me feel nauseated and I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible, though I knew I had to say goodbye. As sad as it was to see her in this that, I knew this wasn’t what she wanted. In fact, she had told me years earlier that if anything like this were to happen, she had a power of attorney on hand who she had long since instructed to take her off life support.

Aunt Lois: December 2005 at Disney World

However, the real question that I am asking and answering here is “Can an autistic grieve?” My answer to that question is “Yes absolutely.” Like the rest of society, autistics are human beings like a neurotypical or an allistic, we have feelings just like everyone else. As one who is on the spectrum myself, I have faced many different types of grieve from bereavement to the loss of friendships. What I have learned from my own experiences is that each is very different.

Examples

In the case of losing a friend, who decided we were not compatible, I found that I had gone through 4 of the 5 stages of grief. At the moment, I am on the tail end of being angry that the relationship ended after attempting to bargain with my friend. In this particular case, I had attempted to meet with my former friend in not only getting closer but also with the hope of rekindling the flame of our relationship. It was only when she said some very mean and hurtful things by attempting to pin her deep dislike towards me on her husband and admit that our friendship was a lie, then the anger set in. What I have found is that the anger has last for nearly 4 years. When she first cut me from her life, I went through a time of shock where I barely noticed that she was gone by keeping busy trying to enjoy my life without her. In the middle of this state, I felt that I had room to be myself and that I didn’t have her problems to weigh me down anymore. I also played the song, “Let it go” over and over again. As time progressed, though, I began to see people, certain objects and dates, my depression was triggered. One such instance was a month later when attending a convention where two situations brought in the depression. In the first, I met a friend at the train station who sent my former friend a private message on social media because he wanted to know why. He also showed me what she had written him back. The second situation was running into another former friend of hers who I had a crush on for many years. Not only was it hard to see him but he snubbed me as well. In fact, I was so depressed that I ended up having to take a break from the convention by going into the pool area and cover myself with a bunch of towels. There I cried while remembering a common lie, “I love you like a sister,” which she often put into cards she gave me. Thereafter, I spent most of 2014 crying about my ex-friend and feeling lonely.

In 2001, my grandfather died of a heart attack and though I cried during the wake and on the ride home post the funeral, I only remember facing one stage. In this case, I only recall spending the entire summer experiencing lots of anger when working at an amusement park. Most people thought it was because I got too stressed out easily but I do believe that it probably stemmed from losing Grandpa John. This came along with the frustration of not being able to get a boyfriend like most of me co-workers next to my co-workers connecting and doing things together but usually leaving me out. This being said, I don’t ever recall facing the 5 stages of grief. Rather, I was too focused on starting my own life and learning how to overcome the societal barriers.

All the same, I have learned that despite the mass amount of resources for autism, from self-feeding to solutions on meltdowns, there are no books or other resources on how an autistic can learn about grieving. Considerably, most resources focus on how a parent should focus on grieving because they have learned their child is autistic which I find disgusting. In any case, I believe there should be countless books written and created for autistics. While some are good at reading, others would benefit from a narrative with lots of visuals that would show that what grief looks like. Other materials should have information on resources on what they can do in regarding grief. Rather, I see more materials talking about what to expect in terms of the death process and what happens when an autistic loses a loved. Thus, we need to change that. In any case, they should not be told how and where to grief because no one ever expects this from a neurotypical. Ever!

One examples

On the other side of things, autistics today are not taken seriously due to the large amounts of misinformation regarding autism. Most who are not properly educated hold small minds. So when a person in the life of an autistic dies, those who don’t understand often get the idea that individual will not be able to understand the concept of a loss or grief. Therefore they will steer them away from the topic of their loved one’s death and focus on things like their favorite movies. Though most would agree they are helping, they are actually doing more harm than good.

All the same, an autistic should be allowed to communicate about the loss of their loved ones and how they are feeling. This should especially be true for those who do not use formal language but rather use letter boards, communication devices and sigh language to talk. Because, it is even harder for an autistic who cannot communicate to let someone know without the use of such devices. Lacking these devices that prevent the communication can bring on more challenging behaviors. I recently learned that having a weaker immune system and tiredness come follow just after the a death. For an autistic, they need to be able to communicate how they are feeling following a loss.

Yet, since grief is not the same for everyone, I would expect that each autistic grieves differently. For example, some might understand the concept of anger, sadness, and acceptance while the other two stages may not make sense to these. Others may look at grief from the form of logic by talking about why their loved ones died and how it happened. Since Lois died last week, I had been doing lots of research on how and why a stroke can be fatal. If I even had a chance, I would like to see what a computer model replicating what her strokes looked like from the inside. Why just before her death and just hearing what she looked like when she was found, I was able to gather the evidence and recognize that she had a stroke. All the same, others will experience grieve by having higher levels of sensory input and anxiety which will prevent them from functioning.

Whatever an autistic grieves, one still have to recognize that one it is grief and even if it does not come in the same way as an NT or an allistic.

Visiting Nashville TN for the Future Horizon’s Autism Conference

Temple and I at a FH conference in 2014 held in Atlanta

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. 

https://www.fhautism.com/about-our-autism-conferences/autism-conference-with-temple-grandin-in-nashville-tn-november-30-2018/

Autism Conference with Dr. Grandin, Anita Lesko and Jim Ball in Nashville

On Friday, November 30,2019,   Future Horizon’s, will host an autism conference at the Nashville Marriott Airport.  Featured speakers will be Dr. Temple Grandin, her friend Anita Lesko and Jim Dr.  Ball.  The event will also feature lots of additional resources related to autism that one can purchase which are designed to provide some meaty resources that the reader can apply to their own life.  Examples include “The Stories I tell My Friends”,  “Manners Matter,” as well as a few others in which Temple and Anita will be able to sign during the event.

The first speaker will be , Dr. Grandin who will talk about her latest book, “Calling All Minds” which is a book which is all about sharing her favorite crafts for children on the spectrum versus playing video games.  Thought I was able to pick up a copy, I am yet to sit down and review Temple’s latest book and write a review.

Brunch with Temple
Grandin and I in Chicago earlier this year signing “Calling All Minds.” .

 

 

 

Following Anita Lesko, who is also on the spectrum and a good friend of Temple’s, will take center stage and talk about her life as a woman who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in her 50’s.   In the same manner, Lesko will most likely touch on topics of her her marriage to Abraham in 2015 in which the entire wedding party and guests were on the spectrum.   Apart from this, Lesko will share her experiences of personal interests to earning a career in the medical profession as a anesthesiologist who often shares her struggles on holding a high demand career with high levels of stress to colleagues who have misunderstood Lesko’s situation.  Sooner or later, Anita will also share her experiences of writing “The Stories I Tell My Friends” which is exclusively about Temple and the people who have gotten to know her down through the years.

Anita Lesko
Pictured: Anita Lesko

 

Finally, the conference will feature Dr. Jim Ball, who is a licensed specialist in Applied Behavioral Analysis or ABA. During he talk about the work he has done for 25 years in serving children and adults with Autism.  He will share valuable information on programs related to ABA and specific curriculum which he believes to be the most effective in treating students and other patients with autism.   Post Ball’s presentation, the conference will come to a close with the hopes that families, professionals and attendees who are on the spectrum will come away with different mind-sets that one with autism can have a self-fufilling life despite the challenges.

If you are in the area and would like to attend,  information can be found below

https://www.fhautism.com/about-our-autism-conferences/autism-conference-with-temple-grandin-in-nashville-tn-november-30-2018/

 

                                                      References

 

Autism interview number 13: Anita Lesko on healthcare and her all autism     

     wedding.  [Photograph].  Learn from autistics: Connecting parents and caregivers with       autistic voices. https://learnfromautistics.com/voices-from-the-spectrum-13-anita-    lesko/

 

 

 

A Brunch with Dr. Temple Grandin in Chicago

 

 A thank you note

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.

20180622_090026[1]
Temple and I before her talk
Sincerely,

-Miyah Sundermeyer

 

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.

20180621_170507[1]
Me in Chicago at the L
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

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My friend and Dr. Grandin at the book signing
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.

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Temple networking during brunvh
  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.

Miyah brunch
My friend and I had brunch with Temple Grandin- courtesy of Moshe Weitzberg 2018

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.

 

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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.

Matt, Temple and I
Temple Grandin, My Friend and Myself pose for a picture at the Temple’s book signing

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.

 

 

 

 References

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.

 

 

 

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.