I was so happy to attend the Future Horizons Portland Autism Conference last Friday- here are the humorous highlights!
Dr. Temple Grandin: The Way I See It
1. Dr. Grandin’s sensory nemesis is… “slimy egg whites. Just thinking of that, I start to gag!” I’m with her on that.
2. On emotions in the workplace: “crybabies keep jobs, angry people don’t.” Better to cry than hit- solid advice!
3. “The Internet is like a big green lawn- yeah, there are a few poops out there…” Typing directly into the url bar with what you *think* is the logical web address leads to some pretty gross places. She suggests using the search bar to avoid most of the crap.
4. After showing a slide with the tiny DNA snippets that code human hard drives, Dr. Grandin stated that manipulating DNA would be the ultimate hack. So, some cautionary advice for all you brainiacs out there: “don’t work for the NSA and troll through people’s Facebook pages- that’s boring.”
5. I dialed up my courage to ask Dr. Temple Grandin a question after her talk. With my heart jumping out of my chest, here’s what I asked when she called on the lady in black in the back of the room (me!): “In one of your books, you mention that you have a file folder of images in your brain that are funny to you. I’m curious- what’s in there?” Here’s what flashed into her Google Images brain.
a. A welding ad that we weren’t given any more deets on because- after she chuckled to herself thinking about it- she deemed it sadly improper. Apparently, they weld most anything…
c. A mental snapshot of policeman she had seen recently at an airport who had a mohawk
Jennifer McIlwee Myers: Growing Up With Sensory Issues
6. On growing up on the spectrum in the 70’s: “my parents didn’t understand Aspergers, ‘cause it hadn’t been invented yet.”
7. If there was a kill switch for Aspergers, Jennifer Myers wouldn’t flip it. “But if there were a dimmer switch…” (I laughed inappropriately loudly on this one.)
8. On why it took her parents a little too long to have her younger brother diagnosed on the spectrum: “I was their baseline.” That explains a lot. Just kidding, Quinn and Lucca (Roman’s older siblings)!
9. A-ha moment: “Comicon is where we meet and get together and breed more Autistics.”
James Ball: Behavioral Intervention For Young Learners
I was laughing pretty much the entire time that James Ball was presenting. If you ever get the chance to hear him give a talk, you will not regret it. He’s a super talented educator and storyteller, who relates lovingly curated and very funny tales from a couple of decades of working with kids on the spectrum.
10. He told a story about going to follow up with one of his ASD kids who had gotten a job making pizza at a local Papa John’s. James noticed that when an order came in, the boy scanned a huge banner above him, quickly identifying a big picture of the exact half-sausage, half-onion pizza he was to make, and then he laid it out perfectly. James was blown away by the thoughtful, proactive approach that Papa John’s had taken to adapt the work environment to the way his kid thought. So he went to thank the manager for providing these great picture supports for his kid, whereupon the manager informed him that they get those pictures from corporate for ALL the pizza makers. I guess a picture is worth a thousand pizzas!
I did learn a few things from James Ball’s talk as well- apparently, the two biggest predictors for kids with Autism of future quality of life (including the ability to keep a job) are:
a. the ability to follow a schedule
b. being toilet trained
As soon as we can nail the tricky pants-pull-down-AFTER-bathroom-arrival, I’d say Roman is closing in on the halfway mark!
PS I nervously asked Dr. Grandin if she might consider doing a phone interview with me for my upcoming podcast while she was signing my copy of Animals Make Us Human. She said “Oh, you want to interview me?,” which made me even more anxious, but I replied that I would love to. Then she penned her cell number right in the book along with her autograph, and told me to call her. I. Die!
PPS The picture is of me asking Dr. Grandin "so, do I just call you on that number?" Duh.