For the Need to Chew™

My Day with Temple Grandin

November 14, 2013


Well, in actuality, it was a day on the calendar and she was there so I think this stretching of the truth is correct.

If you know anything about me at all, you know how much I admire and respect this woman and the attention she has brought to the cause of autism awareness and Asperger’s Syndrome.   I hold her at rock star esteem, and the days leading up to her speaking engagement reminded me of my college days and awaiting a great concert. She has claimed her legendary status because she has lived the life and has firsthand knowledge of the daily challenges faced by those with Asperger’s. She was an Aspie, when being an Aspie’s wasn’t cool.

Reading her books and watching her life story unfold in a movie let me know what I might expect during my day with Temple. And at 7:42 on Wednesday, November 13th I wasn’t disappointed when this tall, task focused woman came barreling into the room with her head down and headed straight to her awaiting public (I was kind of in awe that she came in on her own and without security because in my mind, rock stars always have security teams).  She wasn’t supposed to begin the book signing portion of her day until much later in the day. But, you see, she spends genuine time with each person there and she knew that getting ahead of the schedule would allow her that time. I quickly grabbed a book off of the book table (even though I have several at home) and proceeded into my spot. When my turn came, she got straight to the point, as she really isn’t one for idle chatter. Who was the book for? Was I a parent or teacher? What was my child’s name? Was my child verbal or non-verbal? What was his age? What were his interests? How was I meeting those interests? Did he give push back? She said “If so, push harder. You are doing the right things.” And again, “you are doing the right things!”. Really? Had Temple Grandin, my rock star, just validated me as a parent and my parenting style to a child that has been less than easy to parent?

This was the moment that will live with me forever. When you parent a child with Asperger’s, or any other additional need, you may find yourself often living in a lonely world. Friends and family eventually make their way out of your life, whether it is by their design or yours. There is not much time for girl’s night outs. Teaming up with your spouse to run man on man defense is sometimes the only form of adult contact you get.  Play dates with other children bring your child’s differences to the forefront and others may choose to not have their child play with your child anymore.  Unfounded, yet true, alienation of the other children in your home by others in your circle also happens. Sometimes the crumbling of friendships lie with you, as you simply don’t have the time in your day to nurture your child’s long list of needs, your other children’s needs, or existing friendships. Of course, your own needs generally get tossed aside too. Something must give, and, sadly, it is usually those remaining friendships and your own needs.

During her conversation with me, I was pulled into her world. I immediately saw her brain processing our conversation, her signing my book and posing for pictures all while intently interested in what I had to say. The ‘ah ha’ moment happened. I flashed back and forward simultaneously. At that moment, I better understood my own son and knew how he was capable of the mental acuity that he possessed. He was her, just many years earlier. At the same time, I saw him as her many years later. During our brief time together, I realized something that I had needed to know since that day 7 years ago when a clinical diagnosis was written on paper and presented to me….my child had an amazing future. His journey may be challenging, but he will be OK.

As a parent with a child that doesn’t fall within society’s definition of typical, you spend countless nights awake. Either because you are soothing a child that does not sleep or you are reading and studying ways to make life better for said child. Those are lonely times. It was during those times, that I was usually reading books from my new friend, Temple, and finding support and encouragement in her printed word.

As hard as it is for kids these days to live life on the spectrum, it was much harder for her as no one had gone before her to blaze the trail and educate society on the gifts these kids can bring to the world. She took those trials and turned them into rays of sunshine to share with the rest of us and other generations of parents to come.   Her success in her adult life gave parents hope that their child would also find their way through the maze of spectrum diagnoses and come out on the other end as a thriving member of our communities.

And to think that this much revelation only came in the first few minutes of my day with my new friend, Temple.   I still had an hour and a half to hear her speak about her life journey and views on learning to speak, working within the confines of a family unit, gaining employment at a young age (she is a huge proponent on this), medications, and getting the kids off of the couch and the video games and into the physical world. Her charm and candor exceeded my expectations. As only an Aspie could, she explained her life and beliefs in an unfiltered way that had us all engaged and hanging on her witty words. Like many on the spectrum, she had a tendency to have one point of focus and not stray from that point during her talk. Sitting directly in front of her, I felt like I was her point of focus and every word she said was only for my ears. In reality, I am certain she left the audience with many new friends that day.

So, to hear my new friend tell me that I was doing the right things as a parent was miraculous. I have been validated by the best. When I only wanted it from the ordinary people around me, I got it from the legend herself.   And of course good parenting skills are only worthy if they are taken by a worthy kid. And my kid, is beyond worthy.   He and I have our share of epic battles (when you have a strong willed child that will not back down and is pre-programmed to always have the last word, epic battles are nice descriptions of what occur), but we also share a bond of two souls that rescue each other when we seem to feel alone in the world. The bond I share with my Aspie son is beyond anything I have ever felt in this world. We have seen each other at our utmost worst, yet celebrated each other at our absolute best. It is because of him that I fight on when exhausted and push him to go further when he feels like he can’t. Just like my friend Temple, told me to do.


Thanks to the Oklahoma State Autism Conference for making this ‘new friendship’ possible.

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Due to the intended use of the product, wear and tear are expected and products should be checked routinely for damage and used with adult supervision. Discard and replace immediately once damaged. Necklaces are not intended to be worn for children under age 3 due to the concern of long cord strangulation. Clasps and ties contain small parts and may be a choking hazard and are not intended for chewing. This is not a toy.