On November 21, 2019, I woke up at 5:00 am at the Syracuse/Liverpool,New York Super 8 motel. After a quick continental breakfast at the Super 8 of instant oatmeal, my Lyft driver picked me up roughly at 6:30 am. As I entered the vehicle, I stated the famous catch-phrase, “I love New York,” being that it was my first time traveling to New York state for the conference. During my short ride with Lyft, I was taken downtown beautiful Syracuse to the On Center at the Nicholas J. Pirro Convention Center. Upon my arrival, I networked with a few conference volunteers before saving a seat right in front of the podium. After, I headed back up stairs, I briefly helped with on-site registration where I handed out pamphlets related to several of their products. Post, I went back downstairs where a large continental breakfast was offered. While breakfast was being served, a resource table which sold various books and other autism related merchandise such as fidget spinners were offered.
Amid my breakfast and networking, I spotted Dr. Grandin being escorted to the resource table where she signed books and posed for photos before her talk. Meanwhile, snapped a few photos and purchased “Temple Grandin: How the Girl who loved Cows, Embraced Autism, and Changed the World,” which was written by Sy Montgomery. At the same time, I picked by “Do or Do Not Outlook,” by Nick Maley and “The Complete Guide to Autism and Healthcare,” Grandin’s friend Anita Lesko. All in all, I look forward to reading and reviewing all three respectively. For now though, I will stick with my reviews of the conference.
In any case, the morning kicked off with a brief book signing and photo session with Temple before prior to giving her talk entitled “Connecting Animal Science and Autism.” Beforehand though, one of Future Horizon’s personnel opened the conference by giving a back story about history of Future Horizon’s, which was started by Wayne Gilpin in response to his son who lived with autism. Moreover, information about CEUs provided in which attendees could pick them up after lunchtime and get them signed.
Shortly thereafter, Grandin’s talk began in which she talked about the importance of “Kids on the spectrum” getting good jobs. She also put lots of emphasis on other historical figures such as Albert Einstein and Jane Goodall and where they would have been today. She stated that they most likely would not have gotten very far due to the over emphasis on the autistic label. Rather, they would have been coddled by their parents today and probably would have been stuck living with their parents while playing video games instead of exploring the world. She also mentioned that adults on the spectrum often go into two directions. “Go out into the world, get a job and live a productive life,” or “Get stuck addicted to video games.” She emphasized that because individuals with autism are being disabled, there continues to be a big shortage of personnel who work in skilled trades. In addition, she said there was a huge need for coders but it meant that individuals would need to move across the country. Additionally, she talked about Stephen Hawking since he could not write and got bored, he often thought about an advanced type of geometry known as “Penrose tiling,” which she said can be offered to elementary students who become bored with “Baby math.” For this reason, she stated that certain individuals think in patterns which is highly mathematically based. Finally, Grandin provided her audience with a 15 minute Q&A. During this part of the talk, I asked Temple about crying at work when I grew frustrated and especially during things like meetings. Her response was that it’okay for me to take a break and find somewhere like an electrical room where no one would find me. She also explained to me that scientists at NASA happen to cry all the time and particularly when I project gets shut down. She also answered a question with a young adult seeking to be a spoke’s person for the autism community. Yet, she encouraged him to put that on hold and work at least two jobs and build up a portfolio before persuing a speaking career.
Post Temple’s talk, she returned to the lobby to sign books prior to her flight home.
Promptly following Temple’s talk and Q&A, she walked a parent out of the auditorium who she shared her advice with before signing books and posing for photos.
In the meantime, Nick Maley , or “The Yoda Guy” took center stage and shared his story and various notes from his book “Do or Do Not Do,” which had lots of helpful hints on how a person on the autism spectrum can life a productive life. During his presentation, Maley shared that he had followed certain film makers around until they gave him a job while he worked out in Hollywood. He also shared some of his work outside of the original Star Wars Trilogy. His included make-up and prosthetics on films such as The Shining, The Hunch Back of Notre Dame, and Krull. Finally, Maley’s talk was followed by a Q&A where various fans got up to ask him questions. In my case, I asked him more about his work with Yoda. At first, I thought that he had been a part of his design which I learned was not correct. Rather, I learned that he worked on getting Yoda to operate correctly as a puppet .
Following his talk, Maley and I had the chance to pose for a photo and get better acquainted. During our short session, I had asked Maley a few questions. The first was how long he had known Dr Grandin. As it turned out, he did not. Rather, he was set to meet her and have breakfast for the first time. Yet, he was stuck in an airport due to delays. I also asked him how he got connected to Future Horizon’s . He had explained to me that he lives in Saint Martin , in the Caribbean and happens to own a Star Wars Museum which is also located. Of all the people who had gone through, was CEO of Future Horizon’s who had fallen in love with Maley’s work and wanted to get him connected to Future Horizon’s. It was from this meeting that I was very impressed with the way Maley carried himself and how he was able to reach the younger generations in the autism community with Star Wars remaining so popular.
After my meet with Nick and a much needed lunch break, I attended Paula Aquila’s session, which took up the rest of the afternoon during the one-day conference. Unlike Grandin and Maley, she was not on the spectrum. Rather, she is an occupational therapist from the greater Toronto Canada area who works with individuals on the spectrum through sensory integrative therapy. During her talk she touched on the way the brain worked and other solutions that can help individuals. She also talked about how she helped different individuals. In one case, she talked about a client who liked to play with door knobs and how she worked with her team to build an obstacle course that led to a door knob in order to expand the young girl’s mind. Finally, Aquilla set examples by having members of the audience participate in activities to demonstrate that they can be challenging at first but with practice, activities can get better.
Following Aquilla’s long session, the conference ended at 4:30 in whih a long line of professionals lined up to get CEU’s for attending talks by Temple Grandin and Paula Aquilla. All the while, I took a Lyft back to my hotel by the airport ad called it a night after a very exhausting day.
In my reviews over all, all three talks provided a lot of meat that many professionals, educators, caregivers and autistics need to hear but do not. In fact, many of them today miss the mark on what could be done versus what can’t be done. I also feel that while most people know about Temple, Future Horizon’s could be featuring more promotions on other writers who are on the spectrum like Nick Maley and Anita Lesko. For this reason, both of them provide a lot of insightful information that parents and autistics alike could benefit from. In Nick’s case, his book provides some very realistic insight about autism and employment while Lesko, who was not at the conference talks about learning and neuroplasticity. Moreover, I feel that Temple could speak later in the afternoon due to her busy schedule. Otherwise, she is always full of good advice. Finally, I feel that Future Horizon’s could reach out local communities where they hold their conferences and find out which individuals are holding onto jobs and leading meaningful lives. That way, they could host a panel during the last part of each conference. Finally, I feel that FH could call for individuals who have a business or a portfolio to promote them at the each conference. Otherwise, the conference was very good over all and brought out a good crowd. Like always, I learned a lot of new things not only from Temple Nick as well. Even more so, I am looking to open his new book “Do or Not Outlook.,” and write a review.