I Got To Meet A Unicorn Named Ibby

Celebrities and important people populate New York City in the same way Starbucks does, in other words, look hard enough and you’ll find one on every street corner.  But Sunday I had an encounter that was more impressive than running into a dozen A list celebs.  Sunday I met Ibby Grace.

Ibby, also known by her professional name, Dr. Elizabeth J. Grace,  Assistant Professor at National Louis University, is a terrific public speaker, wonderfully sarcastic, understands irony and rhetoric, has a sense of humor and is an extremely kind and compassionate human being, in a long standing relationship, a new mom to twins, and is Autistic.   If you believe the common assumptions about Autistics, Ibby is an anomaly.  According to the current “statistics” citing 1 in 4 Autistics diagnosed are girls, Ibby is even more unusual.  That she also displays qualities thought to be nonexistent in all Autists makes her, as she suggested with a certain degree of sarcasm, “a unicorn” or as a participant volunteered, “pegasus.”

Ibby spoke Sunday at the 12th Annual International Conference on Disability Studies in Education on Autistic and Female:  They say that’s rare, and so many other things.  She proceeded to dispel the many myths surrounding the little known and misunderstood segment of the human population – The Autistic Female.  In her talk she mentioned various theories including Simon Baron-Cohen, the creator of possibly the single most destructive theories regarding autism, The Theory of Mind and Mindblindness, which postulates that Autists are unable to empathize and his latest theory – The Extreme Male Brain.  I will not do Ibby’s talk justice by trying to represent it here.  Suffice it to say, you should have been there.

After the talk I stayed and chatted with a number of people.  As  Ibby and I walked together I told her how thrilled I was to meet her and other Autistic women who were beating a path, a path my own daughter may choose to one day walk down.  “You’ve found her people,” Ibby laughed.  I have and a formidable group of women it is.  Then she put her hand out and said, “Welcome to the tribe.”  The gloom and doom and horror I have grown used to feeling whenever I have attended any group discussion regarding anything to do with autism was in stark contrast to the joy I felt attending Ibby’s talk.  I think I may even try to go to other Autism conferences as long as most of the speakers are Autistic.

Ibby makes me happy.  She is interesting, smart, articulate, funny, doing what she loves and is one of those people who lights up the room.  It’s just the way she is.  Were it not for deeply ingrained societal restraints I would have physically jumped up and down upon meeting her I was so excited.  I think I did bounce a little on my toes when I went up to her after the talk had ended.

But I don’t think anyone noticed.

*An addendum to Sleepovers, Staycations, Sixteen Hours and Other Words Beginning With the Letter S – it turns out Oliver and Trouble are the names of Angelica and Joe’s two cats.  Mystery solved!  I should never question Emma.  She is always right.  I have to learn how to listen to what she’s saying better.

My latest piece My Fear Toolkit published in the Huffington Post

16 responses to “I Got To Meet A Unicorn Named Ibby

  1. what a great Mom you are! Emma is fortunate to have someone who is willing to meet her on her terms and even learn to celebrate who she is!!

    • What a nice thing to say. Thank you so much! I feel so fortunate to have such an awesome daughter as well as being the lucky mother to a Unicorn. I LOVE Unicorns, they are beautiful!

  2. You make me happy! I did notice your little bounce because it looked like a perfect amplification of your beautifully sincere smile. Thank you so much for this kind article. ❤ PS Maybe you and Emma would like a trip to The Cloisters where it is quiet and lovely and you can look at the Unicorn Tapestries. Our family used to go there when I was little still and lived in NYC, and it will forever be a favorite place.

  3. I love the Cloisters, we used to take the children there when they were much younger, and yes, this is the perfect time of year to go. It’s a wonderful suggestion! I’m going to email you privately to continue our conversation that was begun at the conference. (Little happy bounces.)

  4. This is beautiful. I took my son to a talk and booksigning by Temple Grandin a few years ago because I wanted him to meet adults with autism. It was fascinating watching them not look at one another yet be so aware of each other. I need to find more adults with autism for him to meet.

  5. He needs to find his people! Great that you’re supportive of that. I think it’s key. I can’t wait for Emma to begin meeting some older Autistics. They are the ones blazing a trail that she may one day want to follow.
    Thanks for reaching out.

  6. I took my daughter to the dr. the other day and wore an autism awareness shirt. It was a dr. we had never seen before. The nurse commented on my shirt and so I told her that I had a son that has autism. She started to tell me that her boyfriend’s son also was diagnosed and began to ask me questions about Brett. We discovered the two boys are about the same age, both non-verbal and both enjoy the same things. We were both just so excited to meet each other and have kids that had so much in common. We look forward to speaking again and maybe…just maybe we will begin a life connection of sorts. Being from such a remote area, that is rare that such a connection is made. I could tell she was so happy to have met us. I guess that whole dr. appt was meant to happen like that and I was meant to wear that particular shirt! Everything happens for a reason I say! 🙂

  7. Such a great story, Becky!

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  11. I don’t know how I missed this one. The joy and bounce in both of you shines right through. Awesomeness!

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