Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 22, 2013

Grandin offers hope, inspiration for autism community


---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Heidi Mahler resorted to Plan B when she found out tickets for Monday's National Writers Series event featuring Temple Grandin were sold out.

Mahler, whose son Malcom is autistic, volunteered to be an usher so that she could see the woman who inspires her.

Grandin is well known for her autism advocacy and professional success after being diagnosed with the disorder in 1950, when the condition was still a rarity. Now she holds a doctorate and is the author of several books including "The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum."

"I've been reading her book. It's really a Cliffs Notes to autism, laying everything out there with awesome things to share," Mahler said.

Since her ground-breaking book "Emergence: Labeled Autistic" was published in 1986, Grandin has become a public face for the autism community. A 2010 HBO movie starring Claire Danes made Grandin a household name.

Grandin, who presently works as a Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, speaks around the world on both autism and cattle handling.

"As a parent, it is so inspiring to watch an adult who is so successful in their career and independent life," said Nicole Miller of Buckley, who has been trying to bring Grandin to Traverse City since hearing her speak in 2007.

"She is very motivating. It is beyond fantastic that the National Writer Series is able to bring her here," said Buckley, whose 8-year-old son, Scott, is autistic.

Andrea Hentschel, president of the Autism Resource Network of Northwest Michigan, says she jumped right on it when tickets became available for Grandin's talk. She purchased 20 that were given away during the group's open house in April. Currently there is a waiting list of 200 for the talk, said Jill Tewsley, NWS executive director.

"When you have a child that is diagnosed with autism you see the limitations before you see the possibilities. Grandin helps you see the possibilities," Hentschel said.

Local author Cari Noga, whose novel "Sparrow Migrations" tells the story of a 12-year-old boy with autism, said she feels privileged to be able to introduce Grandin to the audience on Monday evening. She is hoping Grandin will provide some insight into helping her set realistic goals for her own son, Owen.

"There is a grey area that is so difficult to navigate: to accept your child for who they are with limitations but not lower the bar either. You also don't want to set expectations that are at an unattainable level," she said.

Noga will share a portion of the proceeds from her book sales on Monday evening with The Temple Grandin-Eustacia Cutler Autism Fund.

"She is an inspiration to never stop believing, never stop hoping," Noga said.