In November of 2016, GreaterGood gave me an incredible opportunity: the chance to attend an Autism Conference, put on by Future Horizons, in Lansing, Michigan. I was stoked—and not just because I’m an avid autism advocate who soaks up new information about the spectrum like a dry sponge! I was also promised a live speech by Temple Grandin—perhaps the biggest celebrity of the autism community.
The drive to Lansing was a bit lengthy and had to start pretty early if I wanted to get there around seven in the morning—the time the registration and continental breakfast were to take place. But I got there with minimal problems and lots of excitement!
Even walking through the parking lot and into the event was pretty great. I saw several cars with autism awareness stickers and magnets plastered to the bumpers. These are my people, I thought to myself. They were the ones who “got it” and cared about the autism community just as much as I did.
They were also the ones I could geek out with about seeing Temple Grandin live and in-person!
Her talk started around 8:30 in the morning. All the lights near the stage and podium were dimmed to accommodate her sensory sensitivities, and for that same reason, we were requested to keep all our pictures flash-free.
Temple Grandin was fantastic. Energetic, feisty, and passionate. She had a lot of things to say, but the main takeaway I got was this: Don’t shelter your child on the spectrum. Open them up to all sorts of experiences and get them out of their comfort zone. That’s what will best prepare them for the real world.
My favorite part of her speech, however, was the Question and Answers section at the end, because she delivered some fantastic advice that I’ll probably never forget.
A thirteen-year-old girl in the audience raised her hand and asked, “Do you have any tips for dealing with bullying?”
That was when Grandin’s energetic tone softened. Through asking some questions of her own, she discovered the girl enjoyed horseback riding and was talented at playing the cello. She then advised the girl to focus on those talents and likes, because people admire and respect ability. Not only that, but becoming more active in interests allows you to meet people with similar interests, and that can then build friendships.
I was floored. That was brilliant!