Something completely out of the world insane happened today!!!
We flew to Colorado to visit my brother and my nephew. Just like many parents we always have anxiety about flying with the kiddos. I meticulously pack the carry-on bags to include a variety of kid friendly activities. Each kiddo gets there own bag of activities and snacks. And, just for safe measure we plopped an iPad into each bag.
We flew out of “the easy airport”. So we parked, checked bags, and made it through security in a matter of 20 minutes. And then we began the artful mastery that is killing time without killing each other. We played in the kiddo area. We watched the airplanes. We ran laps around each other. We went to the store. We went to the restaurant (mommy may have engaged in an alcoholic beverage). And then finally it was time to board the plan. We entered the boarding area the way we enter most places; like a bat out of hell. As we divided and conquered to follow children something caught my eye. Rather, someone caught my eye. I saw a woman in a western shirt with short curly hair. She was familiar to me almost immediately. And then I heard her provide behavioral therapy guidance to someone over the phone and I thought to myself “OH, MY GOD! This is Dr. Temple Grandin.”
I quickly grabbed my phone to Google search. In my excitement I accidentally initiated the software update on my phone. Shoot. But also kind of typical. I asked my mom for her phone. A quick Google search confirmed that it was in fact Dr. Temple Grandin!! I called my mom over, I knew as a psychotherapist she would understand. We looked at each other in disbelief. How surreal?!?!
We boarded the plane. As luck would have it I was seated an aisle behind Dr. Grandin. She was 2 feet away from me. I prepared to approach. And then, as often is the case, the kiddos stirred. Gray announced to the plan that he was in the “red zone”. I quickly turned to look at Dr. Grandin and she smirked. Ahhhh!!! She heard my kiddo taking about the zones!!! Did she know? Did she wonder? Were we about to spend hours talking about our autism connection?
Just as I prepared to approach for the second time the pilot announced that our cargo load was light and that someone would need to move to the back. Dr. Grandin looked right at me. She saw the 6 of us all together with our kids and she selflessly said “I’ll head in back there.” My face smiled but my brain screamed NOOOOOO!
“That’s ok”, I thought. She’s behind me in the plane. One way or another I will introduce myself, and my amazing son, to this woman who has given her life to advancing the world’s understanding and acceptance of autism.
At the end of the flight we de-boarded the plane outside. We had to wait for the green tagged stroller that went under the plane. And I knew, this was our opportunity. She was the last person off the plane. She had her bags carried on with her and she looked ready to go. I quickly walked over to her. It was very loud on the tarmac, so I gently touched her arm and said “excuse me, Dr. Grandin. My son has ASD and it would mean the world to me if you would take a picture with my son and I.” She seemed hesitant but responsed “sure, ok”.
Gray was so obsessed with the airplanes that he could not focus on the amazing photo op. We quickly snapped a few photos. I told her “from the bottom of my heart I thank you for all you have done to pave the way for my son.” She looked at Gray and told him to “behave.” Then she looked at my mom, fancy and fabulous as always, and asked if we were in town for the livestock conference.” Nope. Not even a little. Lol.
Oh, what a wonderful experience. I think about having those pictures and what that will mean for us as we continue down this journey. I do not know where my autism advocacy path with lead. I do not know all of the ways Grayson’s Autism spectrum diagnosis will change and impact the course of our life. But, I do know that wherever we go we will carry this memory with us forever. I feel blessed. I feel empowered. I feel ready to take on whatever comes next.
Thank you Dr. Temple Grandin. Thank you!