Three days ago, on the evening of Tuesday, May 24th, I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Temple Grandin at the annual Benefit for the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP), Inc. in New York City. For those blog viewers who do not know who she is…Dr. Grandin is the most famous individual with autism in the entire world!
It was disappointing to meet Dr. Grandin only because I expected too much. Dr. Grandin was neither rude or gregarious when she spoke with me and a few others. My soul split in two when she did not remember reading my book and calling up my editor to rave about my writing. She did not remember how much her endorsement of, “Brilliant creative writing. His next book should be a novel” meant to me during the early stages of my writing career. It is easy to go into the experience and forget that Dr. Grandin is still burdened by the realities of autism. Social situations will always be cumbersome and perhaps this was a difficult night. I was able to give her a break and not take it personally, however. Like the rest of the world, I judged her on accomplishments and intentions as opposed to whether she chose to be the life of the party that particular night.
We walked around the William Bennett Gallery admiring the beautiful artwork and struggling to mingle. It felt great to meet at least a few people who have found their place in the world as individuals on the autism spectrum. They were at least employed and not miserable like I have been in the past. Dr. Grandin’s caliber and the joyous atmosphere did not reflect on the common, sad realities faced by so many of my peers.
It is important to keep in mind that most individuals on the autism spectrum do not have HBO movies and/or books on their resume. Like Dr. Grandin, people have been judging me on my accomplishments as opposed to the benign weirdness that has provoked society to crucify me in the past. Most individuals on the autism spectrum fail to receive the “break” they deserve. It is not fair and is not part of life. It is a living nightmare.
Hard work and perseverance definitely make a huge difference. But success will never transpire unless society takes the time to recognize those talents that have allowed Dr. Grandin to have a chance and eventually achieve the celebrity status only reserved for a minute percentage of the population. I am trying to build on the celebrity status that has been created by Atypical: Life with Asperger’s in 20 1/3 Chapters. My next accomplishment will hopefully be to date Jennifer Love Hewitt in the precious span of time she is single. I will happily be a pioneer to show the world that beautiful women do exist who will take a romantic interest in men who will always be square pegs grinding their way into a round hole. On that note, Dr. Temple Grandin was presented with the “Distinguished Spectrumite Award.” Her award was a round peg drilled inside a square hole. We must sometimes revise the way we look at things and judge how individuals fit into society. There is nothing more pathetic than talent that is squandered because of a few personality quirks like the ones Dr. Grandin exhibited all night long.
It was easy to take it personally when Dr. Grandin did not seem interested in conversing with me and looked straight ahead. This was not the public orator I saw at Ulster Community College who was forcing herself to perform in front of many hundreds of people. But this is autism and it will continue to shine even throughout the most phenomenal successes. She was gracious, however, when I requested a photograph with her and gave me her contact information. So many public figures would not have done this and those who care about individuals on the autism spectrum will recognize these redeeming qualities. Anything less will result in doomed first impressions and stillborn chances for these unique individuals…