Friday, February 12, 2010

Temple Grandin and Parenting

I watched the most amazing show on HBO, the biography of Temple Grandin. She is an animal science professor and an autism advocate. And she is autistic. If you know someone or love someone with autism, you probably know her name. She has written books and done studies about animal care and how it relates to her autism.
As she describes herself, "I'm not like other people. I think in pictures. And I connect them."
You can google "Temple Grandin" and get a review of the HBO bio or read about her. Claire Danes plays Temple in the bio. It's a very interesting biography.
I have a great niece with autism. I knew her before diagnosis and after. It is such a hard to understand diagnosis. The bio shed some light on how people with autism think and feel.
I had actually read one of her books about the animal studies and found it to be interesting, but didn't really understand her lack of emotion. The book was full of information and her views, but her lack of feeling about the animals was strange to me. She developed a way for cattle to be slaughtered in a more humane manner. Even if you love to eat beef, you don't really want to know about the hoof to table details.
I don't know if the bio was true to her life, I assume it was, but it opened my eyes a little.
The interesting thing was that learning about her life made me think about raising a child. You find out early in the bio that in the 1960's, children with autism were not thought to improve. But Temple's mother refused to believe that her daughter could not learn, she taught her at home, pushing, yet accepting who Temple was. Like she only ate jello and pudding! Now what mother would let her child get away with only eating jello and pudding. And Temple went to college. What mother would make a child go to college and live in a dorm, when that was obviously so painful for her.
I don't see myself letting my kids only eat jello and pudding. But then again, they loved food, so it was never an issue. But could I have really made them do something that they didn't want to do.
Well, NO!
I had a kid that was not autistic, but who was different that I was, actually, all three of my kids were different from me. And I couldn't force my way of doing things on them.
And I am glad I couldn't.
I could encourage them, but ultimately they had to make a choice.
Now, they did have to go to school, brush their teeth, go to bed, do their homework, go to church and behave in a socially acceptable manner. But in the end, they had to decide what to do in life and how they did it.
So, we encouraged, we provided the means, we made them try almost everything; music, dance, sports, reading, writing, art. We had a piano, flute, baseball, softball, batting tee, batting cage.....
I took them to lessons. I played baseball and softball, when it was obvious that I did not know how to throw a ball. Or run or even understand the game. We went to pro ball games, the opera and even the ballet. Brad doesn't believe me when I say he watched the ballet, turned to me and told me he wanted to do that. We took them to church, prayed with them, prayed for them.
All those activities took so much of our time! And money and energy! But I can't imagine how overwhelming it was for Temple's mother got her just to talk! The simple skills most kids learn without effort, walking, talking, enjoying activities, was a major ordeal for Temple and her mother. And she didn't just learn how to talk, she excelled in her field!
Somehow we parents have to learn to encourage our children to learn skills, grow, achieve and become functioning adults at whatever level they are capable of. Even when they are grown, they have gone to school, played sports, sang, danced or whatever their passion became, as parents, we still question, "Did we do it right? Did we push just enough? Did we praise enough? Are they happy? Did they reach their potential?"
I am so proud of my children for the adults they have become! I think they experienced life in positive manner. They are happy, pretty well adjusted adults, so I guess we didn't fail them.
But through all this, maybe the most important is "Did they learn to love the Lord? Do they serve God?" From the bio of Temple, you don't really know if she knew about God, when an animal died, then later her teacher, she said, "where did they go"? Good question.
Our reward for the investment in our children is to observe them parent their children, and work and have relationships! And what a glorious reward it it! And see if they can answer, "Where did they go?'


Kay said...

I have trouble hearing the TV too, so today I looked at Radio Shack for headhones. Does yours work if you wear them into another part of the house?

Kay said...

Sorry, my comment was meant for the other "TV Sound" post.