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Monthly Archives: December 2012

My wife and I had the opportunity to attend a screening for a new documentary titled, “Invisible Disabilities: The Problems of Perception,” produced by Jenny Mackenzie that features, among others. Dr. Temple Grandin.  I didn’t know much about the film so I was a little surprised to see a handful of law enforcement officers mingling with the guests who were down at center stage.  I’m glad we got their early since it was a standing room only event!  Great turnout!

Background: There was an incident in our city where two special needs individuals were with their caregiver and were going to a public restroom.  A police officer saw them, mistook it for criminal behavior, and a ‘use of force’ incident unfortunately happened.

What happened next truly shows you the character of these individuals and this city.  On hearing about the incident, the Chief of Police, Chief Burbank obviously met with the officer involved, but he also met with the individuals and families of the autistic individuals.  Instead of both ‘sides’ viewing themselves as being on opposing sides in the matter, they decided to fix the problem and put their emotions into a project that would, hopefully, help avoid future situations.

Image courtesy of Jenny Mackenzie Films - plz click image to visit her website

Image courtesy of Jenny Mackenzie Films – plz click image to visit her website

Thus, the idea and team for the documentary was formed.  The viewing was followed by a panel that included Dr. Temple Grandin and Chief Burbank.

I was very impressed with Chief Burbank.  He seemed like a very humble and intuitive individual, not what my first impression of a police chief would be (pictured a loud Type A personality) – my bad.  He discussed how this incident and documentary have led him to share the incident and training resources with not only his department, but 70 of the largest police forces in Canada / US.  That’s impressive!

This was my first experience seeing Dr. Grandin and I was very impressed by her resourcefulness and entire presence.  It was easy to understand how she is a great spokesperson and representative of the ASD Community.

Panel Members including Dr. Temple Grandin and Chief Burbank

Panel Members including Dr. Temple Grandin and Chief Burbank

I think the documentary will be a good training tool for groups (law enforcement, educators, public servants, etc) that deal frequently with a wide range of people.  However, I was surprised by  a few things.  First, I’ve watched a number of autistic videos and honestly, have felt more connection and emotion in most of those videos versus this documentary.  While I do feel that this documentary will serve a great purpose, I was surprised, especially since our emotions are close to the surface when it comes to autism, that my wife and I had no emotional response to the documentary.

Second, maybe it’s just because I have daily encounters with people on the spectrum, but I think that if you spent a minute with all three individuals featured in the movie, most people would be able to tell that they have a special need.  I think when I see people like Clay Marzo or some of the ASD adults who speak on autism panels that I’ve been too, these individuals could almost get by with nobody knowing they are on the spectrum. . . . it would’ve been interesting to have an interview from someone who, on most days, nobody would consider has special needs.  While Dr. Grandin fits that description she was introduced as an expert in the documentary.

I’m not devaluing the documentary with that last remark but more, sharing my alarm that the police officer in this incident couldn’t recognize that these people with arms flapping or other physical challenges, were not criminals but individuals that, more than anything, needed The Law’s help and protection.  That shocked me . . . . but then again, my wife and I have been dealing with this for years and I need to realize that others haven’t had the experience we had . . . including the office in the incident.

My Goal: Help them live the life they were meant to live!  Love my three kiddos

Check out my wife and kids in a local news feature on autism. Click the picture!

Chief Burbank mentioned a number of times that law enforcement needs to provide ‘equal protection’ to ALL individuals and how this instance helped him realize that there was further training and resources needed to help police deal with special needs individuals.  It’s imperative to help others understand that physical contact or stress situations cause more of these ‘symptoms’ to come out and they should never mistake those for an aggressive individual.  If an individual needs more time to process something and someone is yelling at them, it’s just a vicious cycle that escalates into a situation like the one these individuals encountered.

Glad I got to see the documentary and hope that it does well and serves it’s intended purpose.  Great to see how a group of individuals turned a very high stress and emotional confrontation into an avenue of change . . . . . remarkable!  Check out our claim to fame – my wife and kids on a local news broadcast on autism.

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I’m typing this as I listen to my wife play through the Les Miserables playlist (so looking forward to that movie).  We both play piano (actually, our first few dates were at the piano labs during our college years) and we both teach piano now.  She usually plays at night as the kids are going to bed.  There are some nights I’ll lie down with my boys and listen to her play . . . . . . . makes for a great evening.  She’s pretty excited for the new Les Miserables movie . . . . I think Hugh Jackman might be a small part of the reason. . . . .

While we are both excited for the movie, my wife may have some secondary motives to seeing it! Image from google.com

One of our most recent escapades was to see Jon Schmidt and The Piano Guys at an outdoor concert at Thanksgiving Point DURING A LIGHTNING STORM!  I was actually really hoping they’d cancel the concert before we left the house.  We came prepared though, we wore layers and sat under a tarp as the rain and lightning would break off and on during the concert.

Gorgeous and I at the Piano Guys Concert. Awesome night!

I don’t think anyone left the concert and when all was said and done, it was an AWESOME concert and the weather added to the experience.  A lot of families were in attendance and the kids left looking like they had left the best ride at Disneyland~ it’ll be one of those family experiences they talk about for years.  Seriously, how many people are going to be able to say they sat in a spectacular venue watching a great group in a lightning storm?

They were featured on the Today show a little while back.  This link, as well as the picture below, will take you to their most popular video . . . .pretty creative.  I personally LOVE their rendition of Over the Rainbow since it was filmed in HI at placed my wife and I both know.

Piano Guys

Check out this video ~ they are awesome! (photo from Piano Guys Website)

Now, how to really share our love for music with the kids?  Well, a music concert for special needs individuals can get tricky since you’ve got sensory issues to work with + the fact that if your kids are like mine, a two hour concert may get a little long for them.  That is why the Utah Symphony Concert is such a great opportunity.

Utah Symphony and Orchestra - picture courtesy of their webpage

The Utah Symphony Orchestra puts on a Special Needs Concert once a year for families like ours and this will be our third year in attendance.  It is fantastic ~ the concert usually last an hour and we don’t need to worry about our kids ‘distracting’ from the experience of others.  In fact, one year Twin A was so tuned into the concert that he was imitating the conductor and having the time of his life.  Meanwhile, Twin B looks over at me and says “Daddy, I’m bored” then starts to fake snore through the piece.  He had our half of our section laughing.

At the Utah Symphony Concert at Capital City Theater

I posted about our experience last year and honestly, can’t tell you how appreciative I am of this opportunity.  My wife and I love music. . . .it’s a big part of our life. . . . . and we are so grateful that there is a venue and program specifically made for us to share that with our children.  In fact, after our experience two years ago, we bought tickets to Peter Pan and the kids LOVED it.  I don’t think we would’ve taken that chance had it not been for this concert.

They take turns playing for Family Night.

If you are in Utah, please see the main page and RSVP for the event!  Looking forward to seeing you there!

Who would’ve thought my wife watched something on ESPN before I did and who would’ve thought she’d be in tears after watching it?  This is a fantastic story about Anthony Starego ~ an autistic high school student who is the kicker on his football team.  Check it out by clicking the picture below or clicking here.  

Anthony Starego ~ Autistic place kicker

Anthony Starego ~ Place Kicker & Autistic Athlete! screenclip from espn.com

USA TODAY also did an interview with Anthony that you can read here.  What a great story!  His favorite college team even had him on field to kick some field goals during a practice and honored him with a custom jersey.  Classy . . .  and very very cool.  I bet this is something that Anthony will never forget!

Anthony Starego, Autism, Rutgers

Getting his own Rutgers Jersey. Screenshot from espn.com

 

I mentioned we’ve had our boys in a soccer league.  We are on hiatus for the winter and it’s been a fun, and challenging experience.  There are some things we picked up throughout the year but their coach has been fantastic and hey, maybe they’ll be star athletes like Anthony!  🙂

Autism + Soccer

Striking a pose – this is their first practice where they got their uniforms

If you want to see another awesome story ~ check out anything on Clay Marzo.  I mentioned him a few blogposts, ESPN did an article on him, and there’s even a special from ABC NEWS.  I’ll be mentioning him in a few upcoming posts, found out about more surfing groups and autism!  Stay tuned!