Monday, March 07, 2011

Things you didn't know about me. Probably.



It must have been at least five years ago since I first heard the name Temple Grandin. Probably around the time Animal Spirits came out. You might have heard of her from that Claire Danes movie.

I think at the time I became interested in her because we'd discovered that bunnies seemed to be soothed by pressure. Like cattle. It seemed counter intuitive. Their little bodies are so fragile, but in the middle of a freak out - they seemed to completely relax if you just supported them in a firmer way. They seemed to enjoy it in fact. It was perplexing to us. We thought this would invoke a fear reaction. Yet it didn't. Quite the opposite.

The other thing that captivated me was I'd never heard of a high functioning autistic before Temple. This was at the time that Jenny McCarthy was on the news every couple of days fomenting vaccination fear. It helped the news would always run a clips of despondent children banging their heads against a wall or staring out to space. I think all women everywhere feared having a nonfunctional affected child. It was a primal fear. Who could blame them?

To see someone like Temple was a complete fascination for me. I remember thinking - how great is that? She is like a bright light for all of these parents who have kids with autism in what seemed like a very bleak outlook. She was an interesting news snippet at that point.

As time went on though, I began to feel comfort in the way she described how her brain worked. Which was weird because I wasn't looking for comfort. In some ways it felt like she was talking about me.

I am not autistic - but I have commonalities to the way my brain works and the autistic brain. I am a very spatial/visual thinker. The world exists to me as a series of snapshots. Like time stops for a second and etches the image into my brain. It almost feels as though my brain is using flash. I'm easily over stimulated by light or movement. It doesn't help I have an extremely wide peripheral vision field. I feel discomfort in crowds. More stuff than I can really outline in this post.

Like ADD and being shy - these are things I actively compensate for. But also produce a lot of anxiety.

Anyway. That is some of the back story.

A few weeks ago I found out she was going to be speaking at Los Positas College. I had to go. I also wanted to see how closely Claire Danes represented her. Which was pretty good, actually.

As we sat waiting for everyone to be seated - I feverishly scanned the faces of the audience to see if I could see anything different about them. Nothing. It wasn't until the younger people spoke I could see how they were affected.

As I listened to her I couldn't help but wonder about my own family DNA. My Aunts' kid was very behaviourally affected before his passing. He was on Ritalin at seven years old. Decades before it was fashionable to have kids on it. He got into a lot of trouble.

For me though, I was lucky to not have these problems. The ADD I could focus into the technology world. And the shyness - I just have to try to pretend it doesn't exist.

As a girl I think it is just easier. The world is more forgiving. Boys wind up with all these socially unacceptable behaviours. I think it is just harder for them. They don't have as many acceptable outlets.

At any rate - I feel lucky to have seen her. There aren't too many people I can hang on every word they say. She is definitly one of these people.

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