Yes, I really did get to go see Ms. Temple Grandin speak live last night, here in the Orange County area. She spoke to a packed gymnasium about a variety of topics related to autism and aspergers. For those who may be a bit fuzzy on who Ms. Grandin is, she is one of the “more famous people on the spectrum” right now thanks to a movie that was made a few years ago about her life that starred the immensely talented Claire Danes. (Ms. Danes even won a Golden Globe for her performance.) But, as Ms. Grandin so eloquently reminded us all last night – she is not autism only, she is a college professor at Colorado State University and a respected authority in her field of industrial design.
I found it interesting to see the marked difference in the audience members watching her speak. There were those of us who “live” with someone on the spectrum everyday and were soaking in as much knowledge and advice as we could from Ms. Grandin. And, there were those who seemed to be expecting her to entertain them or do tricks, or maybe they were even expecting Claire Danes to come? I’m not sure, exactly. For those of us who were looking for insight into the autistic mind, we certainly had our cups filled to overflowing last night.
Ms. Grandin, although she has clearly worked hard to improve this, has a lot of marked autistic mannerisms. I’m sure that for the uninitiated, she would come off as “abrasive” or “eccentric” perhaps. She was wearing her trademark fancy Western-style shirt that one would expect a cowgirl to be wearing, complete with silk tie. But, she was clearly comfortable in her own skin and so excited to share her insight with us, it was impossible not to enjoy her speech. She also has a very dry wit and cracked us all up many times.
I was also chosen to get my book signed by Ms. Grandin, so that made the night even more special. I had the opportunity to quickly thank her personally for all that she has done and is doing for the autism community. She did not make eye contact and very uncomfortably thanked me; just as my son, who is on the spectrum, probably would. I was not offended in the least.
If you ever have the opportunity to hear Ms. Grandin speak live, I highly recommend it. It was a wonderful evening and I’m so glad that I was able to go.