I've discovered a whole new world that I didn't even realize existed.
Until about a year ago, I knew nothing about autism. I was aware of it...I personally knew children with it...but I didn't have a clue how complex it could be until I became involved with Jobs4Autism, the nonprofit website my employers sponsor.
Since then I've read numerous articles, subscribed to newsletters and joined communities on Twitter and Facebook. I've met mothers and fathers of children with autism. I've met mothers and fathers who themselves are on the autism spectrum, along with numerous founders of organizations dedicated to helping and supporting the autism cause.
What I've learned is...there is a lot more to learn. Autism is broad, layered, connected by similarities but separated by differences. And it's a lot more common than most of us realize. I've enjoyed working on the website because I can see that one of the biggest problems is just lack of understanding about autism; I feel we are doing a little bit to erase that ignorance...to help close the gap between "neuro-typicals" and those on the spectrum.
No matter where I turn, one name keeps popping up: Temple Grandin. Over the past year, I've come to know enough about her to understand why her name is mentioned whenever people begin talking about autism. She is a barrier-breaker, although she didn't set out to break barriers - she just had a dream and refused to let anyone stop her from achieving it, whether it was because she was a woman or because she was on the autism spectrum. She is an inpiration to everyone that has ever had a dream and had to overcome obstacles to reach it.
On Saturday, February 6, a movie based on two of Grandin's books (Thinking in Pictures and Emergence, co-written with Margeret Sciarano) premiers on HBO, starring Claire Danes as Temple Grandin and directed by Mick Jackson. For those like me who haven't read Grandin's books, it's a great opportunity to see her story.
Last week on Jobs4Autism I blogged about an interview with Grandin by author Chantal Sicile-Kira published in the Huffington Post. Our website is focused on employment for those on the spectrum, and in the interview Grandin shared some great advice that applies to anyone trying to get a job...not just those on the spectrum.
Grandin also mentions the importance of mentors in her life - she credits them with giving her the guidance, support and confidence she needed to move forward and accomplish all that she has accomplished. Isn't that true for anyone? I've certainly had mentors help me along my way. I sure hope in my days as a librarian and volunteer I was able to have a positive influence on the kids that crossed my path.
(above photo credit: HBO/Van Redin)