Sunday, November 13, 2011

Free is Good

Debbie and I were given free tickets to the 1st annual Peek Awards. This award, named for famous Utah native Kim Peek, who inspired the title character from the movie Rainman, is awarded to a person who positively portrays disabilities in the media. This was the inaugural year of the award.

Because the award was named after the late Kim Peek, his father was on hand with the Oscar the film won. Salt Lake City mayor, Ralph Becker, proclaimed November 3rd, "Kim Peek Day". Finally, after two introductions, the key note speaker took the stage. Tenured professor, author, patent holder and noted autism rights activist was given the 1st Annual Peek award for writing and inspiring the movie, "Temple Grandin".

As arguably the most famous person with autism (Kim Peek did not have autism) she has been sought out for insights into the mind of a person with autism. She explained the differences between neurotypical, Aspergian, and autistic brains work. She also explained how her brain processes information, even showing personal fMRIs to illustrate the point. According to her, when an NT (Neurotypical) person reads a book while in an fMRI the areas of the brain that focus on syntax and general ideas light up. When a person with autism reads the area of the brain that focuses on details lights up. Finally, when a person with Asperger's reads both details and syntax light up.

Ms. Grandin asked everyone to imagine a steeple. Ok, do it. Do you see a steeple? She said she was shocked to learn that when people are asked to do this they picture a generic steeple. When she is asked to picture a steeple she pictures specific steeples. Her mind is like a "Google search", she can see steeples in the rain, snow, night, etc. She said this is true of any thing she thinks of.

She also said that though people with autism have difficulty imagining things, she can see blueprints or schematics and picture exactly how it will function in reality. "Maybe I'm not smart enough to design a nuclear power plant, but maybe a person with autism could help. I look at the blueprint of the Fukushima Power Plant and I can just see the water pouring through the doors. I can what would happen if it all came in at once or if it all just keeps coming."

She wasn't given much time to address the crowd, but as she finished up she said something I won't forget. "I would never give up my autism. I like the way I think logically. I don't understand how other people think."

I wish she was given more time, but maybe next time.


Valerie said...

Glad you guys got to go. Too bad she didn't have more time because it sounds fascinating.

Heather and Thomas Mann said...

Glad you got to go. She sounds like a remarkable woman... with lots to share with the world. wish you could have heard more from her!

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