Not really sure who my audience is but if you are involved with someone with autism, you likely know who Temple Grandin is. For those of you who are not in the know, Temple, or should I say Dr. Grandin, is probably one of autism's most famous celebrities. An HBO movie about her life won 7 Emmy Awards. She is a sought after speaker, has written several books, and has a career as an animal scientist. She made it into Time Magazine's annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Diagnosed fairly young back in the 1950s, prior to anyone having much knowledge about autism, Temple is one of those success stories that a lot of us parents cling to. Not only did she gain speech late, she went on to college, and even completed a PhD. She is far from the most "high functioning" (uughh I hate this terminology - perhaps a later post?) person with autism you have met - but she is probably one of the most accomplished.
But I am not here to talk about her. I read the books, saw movies, watched videos, read commentary. You can do the same. I had a picture of who she was, and one painted by herself inher own words. What I never knew was what helped to create this very admirable person? Who was this person's parents?
I had the opportunity last Friday to find out for myself. Eustacia Cutler - the announcement came out that she was coming to the area to speak, Temple's mom. "Temple is now 63 " years old herself - one of the other mothers who I mentioned the conference said to me. "Her mother has to be about 90!" went on my friend. As if a person of that age might not be able to impart some wisdom. *sigh*
I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought about her age. And she knew it too - when I use the cliche sharp as a tac - I don't mean for an 84 year old. This woman had game. She knew we were all thinking about her age too - that's how I know how old she is - she said very early on in her presentation "let's just get this out of the way, I'm 84". This woman was articulate, bright, engaging. She did not paint a picture of sticky sweet scenarios. She told of the difficulties - then and even a few now. She did not complain, she just cited the hurdles. She still, regardless of all that she and her family achieved, stays on top of the most current research. She was incredibly real. She did not give false hope. But she did, in her own way, talk about the power of determination and persistence.
So many families I know whose children "lose their diagnosis" or become very high functioning turn their backs on the rest of the community. This is one group (the autism universe of those affected by ASD) that as happy you are to have them to help you through, a lot of people are more than happy to no longer need to be a part of. And that is a bit of a shame.
I am looking at purchasing Ms. Cutler's book to add into the ol' library. I do not expect it to give me answers, just add in some perspective. People are always looking for heroes to save them from lives woes, and I can include some families I have met on the ASD journey. They rely on the system; doctors, specialists, teachers, therapists to make the difference. Is it bad that I am trying to be my children's own hero? But like anyone who accomplishes anything knows - that needs to be with the help, and in this case with all those previously mentioned folks.
Take a look at Temple at last years TED: