On January 28,2020, I will have the honor of attending and blogging about about an event put on by Future Horizon’s, which was just two months after attending their conference in Syracuse New York. This time though, FH will feature an “Evening with Dr. Temple Grandin,” which will be in Morrow, GA which is just south of the airport. The doors will open at 5:30 with registration and the book store open. Moreover, Grandin will be happy to sign books and answer any questions her fans may have. Directly following at 6:30, Grandin will begin speaking until 7:45 where she will spend the rest of the evening signing books and continuing to sign books and connect with her fans. Like with the last conference in Syracuse, I look forward to attending and keeping people updated.
Three weeks ago, I had the chance to attend the Future Horizon’s Autism Conference in Nashville, TN or music city. This one-day conference began early on the morning on the 30th of November and ended in the early evening. Attendees ranged from educators to professions and family members to adults on the spectrum. Speakers included Dr. Temple Grandin, Anita Lesko and Jim Ball. Prior to the first presentation, attendees checked in while others gathered around the table while others got their books signed by Dr. Grandin herself. All the while you could grab yourself a cup of coffee and a small continental breakfast.
Directly following her book signing and morning photos, Temple was the first speaker of the day. During her talk, she touched on everything from growing up as an autistic to sharing her main of autism becoming the main focus in a person’s life. Following her presentation, Grandin held a second book signing where fans could also get their pictures taken with her while asking her more questions related to autism. In my case, I had Temple sign my copy of “The Stories I Tell My Friends” in which you can find on wordpress.
Next up was Anita Lesko who made marched around the ballroom to the theme song from Rocky, “You’re Gonna Fly Now” while donned in white LED Christmas lights. Throughout her march, Lesko carried a basket with little cards that held her autograph and a quote by Bon Jovi. For the time being, Lesko also talked about growing up feeling that she was awkward and quirky while waiting until the age of 50 to be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Prior to that diagnosis, Lesko explained what her life was like growing up while describing each job in detail. Say, working for a stable where individuals could jump horses. In exchange, she learned to ride and jump as well. Lesko also says that she learned how to braid horse manes which made a lot of money. Later, Anita also posed for photos and signed books including my book.
At the same time as Lesko’s talk, Grandin spent time talking with fans about everything on from tips related to employment, to teaching social skills to individuals on the spectrum.
Finally, Dr Jim Ball, a BCBA specialist spoke on everything related to the true definition of behavior to the way an autistic sees the world. While sharing each topic, he often placed lots of emphasis on Temple Grandin’s models next to sharing humorous stories of clients who he worked with. He also explained why so many autistic adults face unemployment and under-employment. Two of those reasons are because they can’t take criticism and because they are too honest for their own good.
In addition, the conference had resources for the greater Tennesee area from medical needs to special needs attorneys. Finally, there was a vendor that was run by a 10-year-old boy on the spectrum and his mother where they sold fidgets. for people who were on the spectrum. At the Future Horizon’s resource table, there were mountains of information from information related to meltdowns to medical advice. Other items were fidgets and magnets that read “Autism Awareness.” Still, the table sold just about every book by Temple Grandin from her most popular to her most current such as “Calling All Minds.”
Overall, the conference was able to provide its attendees with lots of very helpful and inspiring ideas for parents, educators, professionals, and those who are on the spectrum. For example, parents can take Temple’s models and examples and apply them to the lives of their children. Moreover, all the speakers were very approachable and friendly. For example, while signing books, Temple was not shy from recommending certain books for each scenario. By the same token, not one attendee seemed to complain or wear a frown. Rather, they were impressed with the information that was widely available. Likewise, I was bedazzled by each talk. In Anita’s talk, for instance, I admired the way she introduced herself for her talk with the music, the Christmas lights, and Rocky theme song. For this reason, I have a friend who is the spectrum who likes to do eccentric things when he does his presentations. Finally, I would also agree that each talk provided a good deal of meat along with feeling they were able to meet audience members who had come from very different backgrounds from one another. Say, one set of parents who brought there autistic son who does not use formal language but learned to speaks through writing and typing.
On the other hand, one thing that each conference seems to be currently missing is a sensory friendly room where autistics could take a break from the all the excitement. Being that FH provides lots of books that hold evidence-based studies related to sensory, I feel that it would be appropriate to have such a room that is readily available. Otherwise, the great conference that I found to be very successful.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
When going through the process of purchasing my condo six and a half years ago, I found love in a beautiful red and white four-legged feline named Yeller. Not only was it because he was ginger feline alone with being half Siamese, but this little soul was able to capture my own heart. It was during the last seven years that Old Yeller became similar to a child. Be that as it may, my days with Yeller suddenly ceased when I reached on April 22, 2016, in attempting to ask a neighbor who I gave him to was doing the post giving Yeller to her one year prior. Sadly, she returned my comments by mentioning that Yeller was gone and had been put to sleep a few weeks earlier. This was in due part to some sort of illness from facing years as a homeless cat before taking him in two years ago that the vet had guessed was hemorrhaging and increasing blood in the stool. While one would normally break down in floods of tears after dealing with a significant loss, rather I seemed to relate to more to Mr. Spock where there are no emotions and only logic as to why my neighbor put him to sleep. On the contrary, if ignores me or if one is ugly to me then I will sob uncontrollably. Yet, my response losing Yeller was again very similar to the response of a Vulcan where logic and reasoning filled the gaps. After learning how I respond to the bereavement of Yeller, I elected to do weeks of research on the effects of the autistic brain and lack of emotional response.
While hearing the news of a great loss did not trigger a deep emotional response, I had attempted two other actions that I thought might help. The first being that I had gone to visit Yeller’s burial site and even set some cat toys there. Yet no such emotive response arose. My second attempt included watching two different videos on YouTube about two discrepant felines who spent the last moments with their owners at the vet before facing euthanasia. Once again I experienced no emotional regulation but rather had more interest in the effects of the drug and each feline’s response during those last few minutes on planet earth alive. What I discovered firsthand is that the little mousers appeared to be in a state of constant relaxation rather than inert. Whilst I realize that some people might be quite disturbed they may not realize that the autistic brain processes emotions adversely than those of a neurotypical. Further on researchers also learned that two types of codes were discovered in both visual as well as OFC; Anderson et al. (2014).
Just located about the eyes, the orbitofrontal cortex is responsible for processing executive function in such areas as rewards, such areas include controlling impulses and processing rewards. Other areas include recognizing emotions in others and displaying adapted behaviors during the period one’s youth. Finally, the orbitofrontal cortex is responsible for picking up vocal and social cues.Many investigations have been done regarding autism and the orbitofrontal cortex and what they have found were similarities in the emotional malfunction in the brain of both individuals with autism and the nonhuman primates; Coleman et al (2005).
Two years ago, Anderson and a team of neuroscience postgrad students conducted a study on the effects of emotion and sensory processing in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). This area is responsible for the deeper perception of olfactory processing and the visual frontal cortical lobe; E Rolls (2004). During the study, Anderson asked 16 participants to look at 128 pictures along with smell various distinct scents. What they found was that the OFC contained very small grains that held a specific code of patterns in both pleasant and unpleasant situations based on what was seen. Furthermore, they learned that these grains could lean in opposite directions depending on the emotions; Anderson (2014).
In 2012, MedPage Today published an article based on the work that Ecker and a team of researchers who conducted a neurological study. “Autopsy and neuroimaging studies have demonstrated multiple differences in brain anatomy of individuals with ASD compared with the general population,” Bankhead, Ecker; (2012). What Ecker and her team detected was that the cortical volume was greater on the left side of the orbitofrontal cortex rather than on the right in those with autism. Furthermore, Ecker observed a correlation between reduced cortical mass and the severity of autism. Finally, they learned that the cortical mass held a greater level of decrease in the right orbitofrontal cortex versus the left; Bankhead.
In her article Ecker interpreted:
These two factors are likely to be the result of distinct developmental pathways that are modulated by different neurobiological mechanisms. Both cortical thickness and surface area would thus benefit from being explored in isolation to elucidate the etiology and neurobiology of ASD, they added.
In late 2014, Lori D, covered a story in her blog series “A Quiet Week in the House” when breaking the news to her then adolescent son Thomas. “Oh. So, then we’ll get a new kitty,” he returned with a lack of emotion as if he was referring to a damaged rug that had so many stains that one could easily replace it. Furthermore, Lori also went on to mention that Thomas went over exact calculations in hid head about the life span expectancy of their cat. This included the date when she would be expected to die. Other ways he coped with her death was by giving a deep reasoning as to why he wanted her to be cremated versus buried due to fears of a potential change in routine. Furthermore, he had lots of intelligent inquiry on the day of Pearl’s departure at the veterinarian upon telephoning Lori while she was at the vet. In her blog, she explained that he asked “I know about Pearl. Are you going to cremate her or bring her home? Is she dead? Are you going to bring her home? Is she dead? Will I see her dead body? Will you burn her on the charcoal grill? Is she dead?” She also discussed that Thomas would have rather seen his cat cremated verses being put into the ground because burial meant full departure. Finally, Lori discussed that her son wrote a poem to show his acknowledgment of her death D, L. (2014, October 3).
In the biographical film “Temple Grandin” starring Claire Danes, three scenes were shown where Grandin encountered death. Rather than responding by breaking down into floods of tears, she questioned life after death. She often asked, “Where do they go?” Amid her high school years, one scene showed a favorite horse of Temple’s lying dead in the stable. While she a inquired on Chestnut’s life after death to her favorite teacher and mentor Dr. Carlock, she explained that she saw millions of pictures of horses in her mind who resembled Chestnut. This was after Carlock provided a suggestion not remember Chestnut in the current state of death , Jackson, M. (Director). (2010).
Though very little emphasis has been put into conducting research on the grief and the effects of the autistic brain, there have been countless studies on autism, emotion, and the brain. In the website “Grief and Growth” studied have proven that in the brain of a neurotypical brain that:
Deep within our brains, lie structures that help translate signals from broader parts of our brain. The main structure is the limbic system, which contains the hypothalamus, amygdala, and hippocampus. The limbic system is the center of our emotions, learning ability, and memory. The amygdala, in particular, is responsible for our fear response and other emotional reactions, whereas the hippocampus is responsible for memory. The hypothalamus regulates our emotions and secretion of hormones. Signals are sent from the hypothalamus to signal the secretion of hormones to our body, allowing us to respond to certain situations, Bartel (2013).
On a web page of the site “Autism and the Human Brain” it is said that:
Research has shown that in some individuals diagnosed with autism, there are structural abnormalities in the Hippocampus. Dr. Bauman and Dr. Kemper of Harvard Medical School and Boston University School of Medicine have completed extensive research on autism and neurological damage to the Limbic System. They have examined post-mortal brains of individuals with autism and have found the Amygdala and the Hippocampus to be underdeveloped. In particular, they have reported finding densely packed, unusually small neurons in the Amygdala and Hippocampus of autistic individuals. The exact implications of the findings are still unknown, and more research must be completed in order to definitively connect autism to abnormalities in the Limbic System.
While I spent many hours and weeks attempting to find information in putting together first scholarly research blog, I expected more emphases to put into grief and the autistic brain which was rather frustrating. Especially since there seem to be no current studies or findings on the bereavement and the effects on the autistic brain regarding the emotion. What I did find that I was able to come up with my own question which appears to be answered. Is the lack of cortical mass in the right hemisphere of the orbitofrontal areas connected to the lack of emotion? Either way, we know that information is processed in the right hemisphere of the brain and that is why I ask the main question above. Though I have never done any neuroimaging while viewing a series of videos of cats undergoing euthanasia while monitoring facial expressions, this is a study that I would participate in as I learn more about myself and how my brain functions.