Posted: under disability issues, the book, the writing life.
Tags: advocacy, communication August 21st, 2009
I had a lovely visit to Clemson University earlier this week. The Speed of Dark had been chosen for the freshman summer reading, and I was invited to come speak to the freshman class (as well as meeting some faculty, trustees, administration, and more senior students.)
Two things in particular impressed me. One was finding out that Clemson has a student organization for autism awareness, founded by some remarkable students with innovative ideas. I met three of them–two were pre-med with hands-on experience with disabled kids. Wow! The other was hearing that the book opened a dialogue among faculty and administration members who had people on the spectrum in their families, but had previously felt isolated–unaware of the number of people in their community who were affected.
This is not the first “group reading” I’ve heard of that opened the topic among friends and colleagues, and it always moves me to that “blurry screen moment.” I think, in part, it’s because Lou is not a scary character–he’s someone people can talk about without wincing. At any rate, I’m grateful to have the book having such good effects, where it does.
So, many thanks to Clemson U. for choosing the book, and inviting me. I met fascinating people, saw a beautiful campus, and got to speak to over 3000 people…talking about how it was to discover our son was autistic and how rewarding, as well as challenging (probably because it was challenging), the experience has been. Some of these freshmen will have a child on the spectrum–if they can come to that experience without the fear so many have suffered with, if they can feel free to use their own intelligence and creativity to work with their child, then that’s a great benefit to them, their children, and society.
Posted: under communication, life on the spectrum, sensory processing, the book, the writing life.
Tags: autism, sensory processing March 31st, 2009
Today I gave a presentation on The Speed of Dark over the internet to a group at Howard Community College in Maryland–while sitting on a comfortable couch in Texas. Technology has advanced to this point, and I wanted to try it–besides, I knew I would not be able to travel to Maryland in person in the time-frame they wanted.
What fascinated me, besides playing with technology I didn’t know, was the degree to which this particular setup messes with sensory input. I had a light-bulb moment when I realized that the audio breakup (just enough of one) and the blurriness of the faces looking back at me–blurry enough that I could not see any of the usual cues of facial movement–and the delay between when I said something and when they saw/heard me say it–all made my experience more autistic than I’d expected. I was having to put way more energy and concentration into figuring out their reactions, and what they were saying than usual.
The organizer sent email telling me that discussion went on in the hall after I “left”, which is a good sign. I hope it was as valuable for them as it was for me.
Posted: under the book, the writing life.
Tags: news, writing March 7th, 2009
Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas invited me to come speak to them in September. No firm date yet.
Reminder that I’ll be doing a teleconference appearance at Howard Community College in Maryland because I couldn’t make that trip (and that turned out to be lucky, as the pneumonia I had upset everything and I’m even more in crunch mode now.) That’s March 31. I did the equipment compatibility test yesterday. I don’t have the right stuff at home, so Central Texas College is handling things on this end. They have a large telecommunications program and run the local PBS station from the campus.
There’s another probable appearance in August, but I have not heard back from the organizers that it’s “for sure” yet.
Posted: under the book.
Tags: news December 18th, 2008
My agent reported that The Speed of Dark sold 80-something copies in Austin last week. He wanted to know what I’d done (nothing–I was starting this blog.)
I suspect that one of the local colleges/universities is using it in a class. If I knew who chose it for his/her class, I’d offer to come speak to the class if they were interested.
Posted: under music, the book.
Tags: autism, music, sensory processing December 8th, 2008
Many people have commented on the amount–and kind–of music in the book. Lou (the protagonist) listens to music, hears/feels music in his mind even when not outwardly listening to music, and has distinct preferences for which pieces go with what tasks.
When our son was very young, it was clear that he responded emotionally to music, and I often used music to help him stabilize a good mood or manage a bad one. One particular Etude of Chopin’s could be counted on to calm him; several pieces brought delighted laughter.
Since my husband and I both like classical music, and have sung in church choirs for years, the musical environment was almost exclusively classical–a wide range of periods–with some additional vocal bits aimed at children.
Our son showed an early preference for complicated music as well as responding to the emotional tones. He wore out cassette tapes of favorites (including some Russian opera, a Bach cantata, a tape of Bach organ music) and now enjoys going to concerts if it’s music he likes. We knew he had good pitch sense, but did not realize until a friend was tuning her harp with one of those electonic tuning forks that he has absolute pitch…she turned it on and set a tone (without him seeing it) and he said “That’s a D!” in a surprised voice.
I thought of that tonight on the way home from the dress rehearsal for a MESSIAH performance…there’s no sing-along MESSIAH in our area this year, but I’m singing in the chorus for a symphony performance and he and my husband will come.
Is music important to all autistic persons? I have no idea. But I know it’s important to more than one because I’ve met several who use music to regulate and manage emotional state, to aid concentration, and so on…just as I do.