. . . I've been told that I write novels for email messages. Perhaps this is the way to go. I'll try to make each entry, or Gemstone, a "precious" one. On mediocre days, all I might be able to produce is a "semi-precious" entry. In any case, an entry might be a "neat" Gemstone--something that is uniquely mine.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Albuquerque Conference, Part 1

I mentioned in my lat blog that I would be attending a conference in Albuquerque. It was presented by Future Horizons, Inc. and was titled, "A Very Important Super Conference on Autism/Asperger's Syndrome." Pretty lame title, but great speakers.  

The first speaker was Dr. Temple Grandin, a famous woman on the autism spectrum who has written many books such as, "Emergence: Labeled Autistic" and her newest book, "The Way I see it: A Personal Look at Autism & Asperger's" (also the title of her talk and a book I bought there). She talked about autism as being a variable spectrum and discussed many aspects of the disorder. She stressed how important it is to teach kids on the spectrum how to take turns and how to interact with them, but to be gently insistent because many of the kids have sensory issues related to sound and touch so might pull back. She talked about her 1950's upbringing and how manners and grooming were drilled into her and that today's families don't place such importance on them. She said that manners will help an autistic person get farther in life because people can overlook the oddities if they see that you are polite and present yourself well. She also said how important it is to teach the rules of society and courtesy by giving example after example of situations. She interjected many humorous comments, which were very clever.

"Fear is the main emotion in Autism"  --  Dr. Temple Grandin
Dr. Grandin talked about the underlying anxiety in autistc people and how to help them overcome it. She was very forthcoming about needing to take an anti-anxiety medication so that she could function in life. She talked about many of the medications used today but stressed how important it was to try to make changes in diet and exercise before trying to treat with medications. She said homeopathic methods can help, and studies are out that say that Omega 3's can improve the symptoms as well.

Dr. Grandin's talk was also about different kind of autistics: the visual thinker (thinking in pictures like she does), the math and music thinker (those computer geeks), and verbal thinkers (that think in words).  She said that it is important to identify what kind of thinker you have so that you can start to build on their talents and guide them on a career path. Of course, this was more geared for Asperger's and High Functioning Autistic kids. She states that by age 10, you should be able to identify thinking styles and can start to guide kids in the right direction. Getting a mentor involved is ideal.

Jobs for visual thinkers include: graphic artist, drafting, auto mechanic, photographer, animal trainer, architect, and handcrafts. Jobs for music and math thinkers include: math teacher, scientific researcher, music teacher, computer programmer, chemist, engineer, or electronics technician. Jobs for verbal thinkers include: journalist, translator, librarian, copy editor, accountant, special education teacher, speech therapist, or legal researcher. She wrote a book called, "Developing Talents: Careers for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism" with Kate Duffy.  I bought that book too because she told me that I had to have it. :-)

Yes, I did meet Dr. Grandin.  She was signing books at the book table and I introduced myself. She asked if I were a parent and I described my boys to her.  She told me how important it is to foster the excitement of computer programming in my 13-year-old and that it is great that he's already programming.  She also said that I should buy the "Developing Talents" book to help me to decide just what my 10-year-old's talents are and to get him on the track to success. She is an amazing woman and I'm honored that she signed my two books.

I'll write about the next speaker, Sean Barron in my next post.  He is a man who considers himself "healed" from autism, although not "recovered." He wrote a book with Dr. Grandin called, "The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships: Decoding Social Mysteries Through the Unique Perspectives of Autism" and one with his mother, Judy Barron, called "There's a Boy in Here: Emerging from the Bonds of Autism," which I bought.


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