When tracing the lines and currents of autism’s effect on culture and our efforts to better understand something seemingly incomprehensible through art, it’s easy for one to find him or herself heading in multiple different directions at once.
For instance, while there is no obvious throughline drawing together this week’s three stories, each one speaks to the ever-evolving negotiation between one’s diagnosis and who one wants to be. In an interview that she gave with “St. Louis on the Air” this past week, famed autism activist and professor of animal studies at Colorado State University, Grandin recounted her early encounters with employment and how they helped her to develop beyond her diagnosis with autism.
When she was merely thirteen, Grandin was employed by a freelance seamstress before moving onto cleaning eight horse stalls per day when she was fifteen. And once she was done with college, she already had experience with carpentry work, sign painting, and farm management.
Thus, it becomes easier to understand why she would be of the opinion that today’s children with autism do not have enough early opportunities at employment. “Today, you have some of these kids getting through college having never had a job,” Grandin told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh. “That hurts the kids who are kind of different. There’s other people on the autism spectrum who have PhDs. Quite a few in fact. But where I’m seeing the problem is getting and keeping jobs.”
Now it makes sense that Grandin—who was the subject of a 2010 autobiographical HBO movie in which she was played by Claire Danes called Temple Grandin—would describe herself as “a child of the 50s” as that was a period when children did start working at a much younger age and autism was barely recognized as a condition. However, Grandin still emphasizes that her early employment experiences helped her to develop discipline, something that she feels today’s children, whom she believes to spend too much time playing video game, tend to lack.
Meanwhile, a new ad joint partnership between Autism Speaks and the Ad Council have launched a new public service campaign designed to encourage and inform parents to identify and monitor the early signs of autism. The sixty-second 3D and stop-motion animated video was inspired by the story of a child named Jacob and his own personal experience living with autism. Though he did not speak until the age of four, the ad is an attempt to take the viewer into Jacob’s own personal world.
Finally, coming a few months after our piece on autism and football, a female runner is making history in the marathon-running world. Kiley Lyall, who is a 24-year-old half-marathon runner with autism, will become the first runner with autism to be on the cover of a major fitness magazine. As part of her cover story she gave an inspiring interview that gives us our closing quote for the week: “My autism doesn’t take over my days anymore…when I run, it relieves so much stress on my brain, allowing me to function much better through most days!” Truly, an inspiring story of a person not letting her diagnosis become her destiny.