Friday, February 18, 2011

Temple Grandin

Recently it was Catholic Schools Week and one of the days was Day of the Student. The kids got to wear free dress, and Rojo’s teacher showed a movie, something she never does. Rojo was excited and mentioned this to me several times beforehand, “Mom, instead of PE and geography and Spanish, we are going over to the Parish Center and watching a movie on the big screen TV!”

Now, to my knowledge, Rojo has never sat through an entire movie, he watches a ridiculous amount of TV, but they are half hour sitcoms (think: iCarly and Hannah Montana), and he watches those in bursts and takes frequent Go Bug Your Mother breaks. I wondered how that was all going to work, and hoped that at least they picked a movie that would appeal to, and be appropriate, for a bunch of squirrely thirteen and fourteen-year-olds.

When he got home from school that day, I asked, “ Rojo, how was the movie?”


“What did you see?”

“Temple Grandin.”

My heart and stomach did a little flip.

“She has autism, and she would not shut up!”

I knew that was my Mary moment and the perfect opportunity to talk to Rojo about his own autism (and the fact that he will not  shut up), but I wasn’t quite ready.

He brought up the movie again later that evening. “Temple Grandin is like me,” he said, “she didn’t want to go to college.” I knew I had to seize the moment.

“There is another way that Temple is like you,” I said, “she has one type of autism, and did you know that you have a different type of autism?”

“Does everyone?” he asked, turning the knife just a hair to the right.

“No, not everyone, but lots of people. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t smart, it means that your brain works differently.”

“Some people have Asperger’s,” he said.

“Yes, that is another type of autism. There are different types and it affects different people differently.”

“Does Woohoo have autism?”

“No, “ I answered, “but lots of people you know, do.”

“Like who?”

I then proceeded to tell him about all the kids in his school/life that have one form or another of autism. He seemed to be taking it all in. “How do you feel about that?” I asked.

“I couldn’t care less,” he said, “let’s play basketball.”

I think he does care, and I think he doesn’t care. I think for the last two years (at least) he’s been grieving in his own way, and coming to his own understanding of his differences, his challenges, and I pray to God, his gifts.


  1. "I knew that was my Mary moment" Like that phrase! Very nice telling of a poignant day in your and your child's life.

  2. “She has autism, and she would not shut up!”
    This is why self contained classes aren't such a great idea. Kids with autism often trigger each other with behaviors they can't help.

  3. I am grateful that you have a parochial school that is willing to accept your son as part of the fold. Our parochial schools and CCD programs are not as accepting at all.
    My son likes to watch some of the video posts by John Elder Robison. I'm not sure why, but John's voice seems to speak to him in a way other's do not.
    Have a great weekend!

  4. You and Rojo are amazing. Simple.

  5. And the grieving continues for you all, as does the revelation of the gifts that come only through the fire.

  6. I just watched the "Parenthood" episode where they hired the BugMan for Max's party and Max 'got' him like nobody else. I think it's so powerful for children to see adults moving through the world successfully that mirror their own challenges and triumphs. Thank God for Temple Grandin and parents like you who are willing to have these conversations with their kids.

  7. The Temple Grandin movie was a catalyst for us as well. I'm glad that you seized the moment, hard as I know that is. *hugs*

  8. I, too, am struck by the inclusivity (is that a word?) of your parochial school and wish that ours had been more that way. This is a beautiful story -- I am certain, though, that Rojo will know his gifts as he is your son and you've brought him to this point so capably and with so much sensitivity.

  9. You know, my daughter LOVES Temple Grandin. LOVES that movie. She sees herself, recognizes a kindred spirit, and most importantly, learns from Temple's "behaviors" exhibited in the film. We use those as teachable moments.
    Love that teacher for showing the film.