Thursday, September 30, 2010

Meeting Temple

The USAAA conference begins tomorrow and the panel session I am on is only two days away! I still can't believe I am on the same panel as Temple Grandin and I probably won't believe it until I am actually there. How did this all happen though? If someone would have told me a year ago that I would be where I am today I probably would have laughed out loud.

I have a hard time believing this because I never envisioned myself as a speaker. In fact, I hated to speak and communicate to any group that had two or more people in it. I can remember, in school, the only time I gave a presentation in front of the class that was halfway decent was when it was about auto racing and even then it wasn't all that good.

Temple Grandin and myself in 2006
Things are different now. I love the stage, I love being in front of a group, and I really love making a lasting impression of the autism spectrum. If I were to tell you that this just happened without inspiration I would be telling a lie. My inspiration came back in 2006.

I was just finishing up my book and someone had told my dad that Temple Grandin was coming to town to give a presentation in conjunction with the Saint Louis Science Center. At this point in time I knew who she was because the doctor that wrote the endorsement on the back of the book was a really big follower of her. I knew about her books, but was unaware that she gave presentations.

Back in 2006 I still had a narrow view of autism. I believed I was limited and defined by it (see my take of "Defining It" now at I believed that since I have an autism spectrum disorder I am unable to give a presentation. Yes, I know that logic was flawed, but I had nothing to prove it otherwise. That is, until I met Temple.

The event was moved from the Science Center to Saint Louis University Highschool due to the amount of people that were going to show up. I was confused to this because, at the time, I didn't realize the size or scope of her message and the fact that so many people are effected by the autism spectrum.

My dad made it a point for me to meet her and this, at the time, annoyed me. "What am I going to learn from meeting her?" I asked him. This question was just a false front because I simply don't like arranged meetings as it is just so awkward. What am I supposed to say? I kept telling my dad, "No!" yet I followed him towards her. As we got close I lowered my voice, but was saying rather quickly, "no no no no no no..." And then we met.

The conversation was somewhat short, but she drove home the message that people on the spectrum must be in a job that is in their area of interest. These words were depressing for me at the time because I just wanted to race cars. It is amazing though just how almost prophetic these words were because I fully understood this importance once I started working at TouchPoint.

As I said, the conversation was brief and then it was time for her presentation to begin. Once again I was amazed at the size of the audience and the fact that, as a collective whole, once she got on stage the whole room became eerily quiet.

Her presentation that night was primarily about animals, but in her Q & A segment at the end she answered a lot of questions about autism. As impactful as her words were the fact that she was up there, on a stage in front of so many people, was highly influential in my life. I didn't know it or understand it at the time, but a seed was planted in my mind that giving presentations are a possibility and that I shouldn't let autism define me.

I think about this and just how much things can change. Four years ago I didn't believe the potential each person has. Four years ago I strongly protested my dad making me meet her. Now I understand the potential and, while I hate to admit my dad was right, meeting her was one of the turning points in my life.

Four years have passed since that and in just 48 hours from when I write this I will be on the same panel as her.

If you aren't attending the conference you still can watch it live! All you have to do is click on the USAAA logo on the upper right to be taken to their ustream page. Times of each panel and keynoter are listed there, but I can tell you the panel I am on is on October 2nd at 10:30AM Central Time.


  1. I was at that same event back in 2006! Good luck with your panel presentation!

  2. Temple Grandin is an amazing person and so are you! Good luck!