“Temple Grandin” Premiere in Los Angeles
Many parents viewed Temple as a model of inspiration, the independent adult we all hoped our children would become. We listened rapturously as she recalled her childhood, not speaking until she was four, and how vividly she could talk about certain subjects. I remember her saying that when something as simple as a ship was mentioned she had to visualize a specific ship that she had heard about in order for it to become concrete. Then pictures of many ships passed through her mind. She also talked about how the concept of love was difficult. Although she read about it and understood what it was intellectually, emotionally it was foreign to her.
I have not read her books but I was excited to attend a preview screening of the “Temple Grandin” movie premiering on HBO this weekend. It was beautiful for many reasons, and not always easy to watch. Claire Danes was incredible in capturing Temple’s mannerisms, fears, frustrations and ultimate optimism. Director Mick Jackson managed the wonderful feat of vividly bringing the audience inside Temple’s mind. When she was over-stimulated by light or sound, it seemed as though we were having the same experience. When the film was over many people remarked how much they enjoyed it and how moved they were. Definitely have tissues nearby.
Just as impressive for what Temple has done and represents, it may be more phenomenal when the time period is factored in. This year, Temple will be 63. We talk about the continued need to raise awareness now, but consider for a moment the immense challenges, obstacles and prejudices both she and her mother had to endure over 55 years ago. In the film Temple’s mother (an excellent job by Julia Ormond) is told to put her in an institution and essentially forget about her. The teasing Temple endured at boarding school and how she was misunderstood in college were painful to observe on the screen. And even after earning her degree she faced immense sexism in the overwhelmingly male-dominated cattle industry of the 1970’s.
We have it so much easier with more people knowing about autism now, but it’s still not enough.
A few months ago I was at a fundraising and community event for another autism organization. I was at our booth telling people what Autism Speaks does when a young man who was a volunteer for the day walked up and asked, “What is autism?” He was probably in his late teens, helping out at an event about autism and didn’t know what it was. I point this out not to castigate him, but it was a pivotal moment for me.
For the progress we’ve made, we still need to keep moving forward. I work with and constantly meet parents whose children are at various points along the autism spectrum. They are stressed. They can’t do it alone – and they shouldn’t have to. With the numbers constantly rising, it’s obvious that autism is not the domain of just parents and the devoted professionals who work with them.
I hope that people not directly affected by autism who watch “Temple Grandin” take away multiple messages, with one of the key ones being how serious an issue it is. Please don’t be just an observer. Take action. And for those of us who are directly affected, keep letting others know.
This guest post is written by Phillip Hain, Executive Director of Autism Speaks’ Los Angeles Chapter.
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