Sunday, April 11, 2010

Different not Less

Those are the words that rang throughout the new Temple Grandin movie currently playing on HBO. It is On Demand, if you have it, until May I believe. I will watch it again and again. I will show it to my 10 year old. Maybe even to Daniel if I can get him to watch part of it. That would be interesting. I have had the pleasure of meeting Temple Grandin once and watching her speak twice. For those of you who read me who do not have children on the spectrum I'll briefly explain, but I recommend you somehow watch the movie. If you are near me, come over we'll watch it together. But only if you don't mind me crying at odd times. I don't think the movie is sad at all, but it continuously moved me in ways that surprised me.

Temple is a woman with autism, obviously. Not Aspergers, autism. She is in her 60's now which puts her at a time growing up when no one really knew about autism. This makes her story even more powerful. They show Temple's mother (who I have also seen speak) being told it was mom's fault that her 4 year old wasn't speaking and wasn't bonding to other children. She is a very strong and smart woman but the fact that they all rose above this still amazes me. Temple now tours the world talking about her autism and because of her autism can tell you things about her childhood and the way her mind works that is FASCINATING. I have always been interested in her because she is so similar to Daniel. There are certainly areas that are different, but through the movie there were times when Todd and I would both start chuckling at the smallest thing because it was DANIEL. Or I would say what Temple would do next because I knew what Daniel would do. I can't wait to watch it again and again.

Todd and I both met Temple years ago. I'll guess 6 or 7 years ago. She was speaking in Ann Arbor and we drove over to see Temple in the morning and her mother in the afternoon. It was an amazing combination. The child's perspective in the am, the mother in the pm. We were sitting at a large round table as you are at most of these events. We were in the front. After Temple finished it was lunch time and she sat at our table since there was room available. Besides Todd and I everyone else at our table were "professionals". They all immediately started asking her questions. All at once. I remember thinking, what is wrong with you people? You know she has autism right? I use the sentence "I have met her" loosely, because she was sitting next to Todd and when all of the questions started she turned toward him to block out the clutter bombarding her and said, "what do you do for a living?" He answered, "I'm an engineer." Then everyone else was gone for her at that lunch. She talked to Todd the whole time. While everyone else made the mistake of overwhelming her sensory system, Todd was a life line. He was an engineer, she could talk about that. And they did. It makes me smile just thinking about it. No one else was very happy, but really, it was there fault!

Back to the movie. I thought Claire Danes did a wonderful job portraying Temple. The few times I've seen her, her accent, her movements were all there. When Temple would come across something that was upsetting to her or would set her off (seemingly for "no reason" to an outsider), they would flash to the pictures she was seeing in her mind as a way of explanation. It was really well done.

Temple has her Ph.d in Animal Science. She has designed over half of the systems used for cattle in slaughter houses in North America. While this seems an unlikely topic for a movie, I found it very interesting. She loves animals and is completely in tune to them, which they show throughout the movie. It is partially that love that inspires her find a more humane way for them to be slaughtered. Her rationale is they are here, they will be food and we should respect them for it. She does yet she also has the disconnect of the cattles final outcome. Her respect of animals reminds me so much of Daniel. There is a scene where she walks into a horse stall, the horse is going crazy, rearing up and very dangerous. Temple walks up to it and calms it down. She walks into cattle and sees how they move. She lays in the middle of the cattle looking toward the sky like Daniel does laying on the trampoline or sidewalk staring at the sky. She brings calmness to the animals and they return the favor. I have seen Daniel do the same thing with animals. He has no fear, just calm understanding. Lucky for Temple she spent summers at her aunt's farm and this helped her tremendously. Watch the movie!

Most of all, when Temple speaks of the things her mother did for her that changed the course of her life, (not institutionalizing her as recommended, for one) my heart pulled. She knew that had her mom listened to the Dr's her world would have been totally different, but she had never expressed that to her mom. Instead she has a doctorate and helps people all over the world with her public speaking and her books. I had an experience last week talking to a mother for my job that showed me with a few changes in fate how different Daniel's life could be. I am working as an advocate and this woman's story tore me apart. I felt like her son and mine were so similar and yet the point he was at in comparison to Daniel's was very difficult for me to hear. I cried when I hung up the phone. I cried for the mom, who was at a loss of what to do, and frustrated with her school system. I cried for the son, who is being cheated from his potential. I cried for our systems that are still in place in 2010. Temple, born August 1947 (the same year as my parents) somehow overcame that, but we still have some of the same crap going on today. There are still some schools who don't know how to handle the children who are different. Different not less. The children aren't incapable. You just have to take the time to understand them. Figure out what makes them tick. People did that for Temple. Her mom, her aunt and a teacher and mentor. We have given Daniel these opportunities and he has many many people in the schools that know what he can do. It was hard for me to see the similarities and the differences. I guess that was why the movie was emotional for me. I could see the differences but also the similarities with Temple and Daniel. It gave me hope. It also tore me up. But the message that our kids are Different not less, is the most important thing to draw from it. Please watch it and give me your feedback.

1 comment:

Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

Great review, Michelle! Since I don't have HBO, I can't wait for this movie to come out on DVD. I, too, look to Temple a lot since Nigel has autism and not Asperger's, and did not start talking until he was 5. Temple's story (I've read two of her books) has always filled me with hope for Nigel, as it does for you with Daniel. I can totally relate to that. Can't wait to see the movie!