Watch Emma Fly!

Years ago Richard and I went to hear Temple Grandin speak (this was before the documentary about her had been made).  She had slides and gave a terrific talk about what it was like growing up as an Autistic child in a not autistic friendly world.  After the talk she went into the front entrance of the auditorium where she sat near a table displaying her latest book.  I went over to tell her how much I enjoyed reading her two previous books and to ask her if she had any suggestions for me regarding Emma’s inability to stay seated when on an airplane  prior to take off and again once we landed.  (This was something Em had a terrible time dealing with and would get a look of abject panic, before launching into a high volumed scream that had all the passengers covering their ears.  We were pretty desperate to find some way to help her cope.)

Temple said she was pretty sure there were sensory issues at work and gave some suggestions of things we might do to mitigate those.  I remember thinking that Temple in no way resembled my daughter and then made the assumption that Temple must have been far more able when she was my daughter’s age than my daughter currently was.  Whether this is actually true or not is something I cannot know, but a version of this thought process on my part is one I’ve repeated over the years on more than a few occasions.  So desperate to quell my fears and worries I have sought to find my daughter’s adult replica.  I have made the mistake of comparing an adult, possibly an adult who is now even in their 30’s, 40’s or even 50’s, and then drawn conclusions about what I imagine they were like when they were my daughter’s age.

Comparing Em to any adult has proven to be unhelpful to me, to my daughter and, I imagine to the person I am comparing her to, if they were aware I was doing it.  In addition, comparing a child to an adult is never going to give an accurate view of anything, there are too many variables involved.  And this kind of thinking completely ignores the fact that all human beings progress, evolve and change.  This is an obvious statement when applied to a non autistic child, but somehow I came to believe that my Autistic child was different.  I worried she would not progress.  I worried she would not be able to learn.  I worried because, in part anyway, we were given information about our Autistic child that has been proven to be not true.  We were given information that was in direct contrast to presuming competence.  Just as Emma no longer suffers when traveling in an airplane, she also now reads and writes and has, as of three days ago, mastered the complicated skill of a “catch” at her trapeze school.

Excuse me while I jump up and down while wiping away my tears of joy.  Emma wasn’t able to do a catch upon her first try or second or even third.  Em has been going to trapeze school for more than two years.  She also goes to gymnastics once a week where she has been working hard for almost three years strengthening her core muscles.  In the last month she is now able to do a cartwheel.  Emma began learning to type two and a half years ago.  She practices every day.  She practices reading too.  She practices and works really hard.  None of this has come easily or automatically, there is no “magic” involved, unless magic means being given the opportunity to work toward her strengths, to learn and practice and the belief that she can and will succeed.  Watch that video again, because all her hard work is paying off.  Watch Emma fly!

Bungee jumping barefoot – December 2012


33 responses to “Watch Emma Fly!

  1. My heart was in my mouth the whole time! I’m such a wimp. Go Emma!

    • Me too, especially just before she catches the other person’s hands! 😀

      • Arian, this may or may not be appropriate but could you please help me let people who are on the spectrum or have spectrum kids that we are giving away our old ipad to someone who’s life it could change? We have a few days left to accept applications and so far we only have 28, with a few of those being businesses wanting it… which is not what I was trying to do.

        Guardian Transition Services, Inc. a local Billings Montana social entrepreneurship in conjunction with The Autism Society of America will be giving away one iPad, slightly used but still in amazing shape to one lucky person on the autism spectrum.

        Marcus Morris, and his wife Michelle and the members of their board; Dr. Jennifer Leonard of MSUB and Janine Kruiwyk of the Albany New York ASA have been working for over a year to revamp and re-launch Marcus’ Guardian concepts in a slightly modified format.

        Guardian Transition Services, Inc. is available to help anyone in Montana and the surrounding area through programs such as:

        1. Life coaching, and independent living skills training

        2. Virtual social skills and eventually vocational skills training that can be done from your own home.

        3. Community building, and peer to peer networking for adults on the autism spectrum

        4. School and Workplace advocacy

        5. Application development

        There are a few stipulations to being eligible for this iPad however. The recipient must be on the autism spectrum. The iPad must serve as a valuable adaptive and / or educational tool, and last but not least you can’t be able to afford to run out and get one on your own.

        If you are interested in applying for the iPad, you can do so by visiting and filling out the application on the main page. To contact Marcus Morris and his team, you can dial 406 698 1679 or you can reach them by email at

        • Marcus – if you’re on Facebook (I think you are) and have put the word out there, give me the link to your page and I’ll share it. I think that will get the information out to the most people.

          • I have had it out on facebook for about a month, but we have only had 28 applicants so far. I was trying to reach as many people as I could so that we could have the best chance to find that one person who’s life would be changed for the better with this iPad 🙂 I only have the one to give away at this time so I am trying to pick wisely

  2. Love! LOVE! This is absolutely, freaking spectacular!! That video is impossible to watch without tears… and without co-opting pride for beautiful Emma and your support of her journey… and development… and ability to fly!

    Oh – and the article is great too 🙂 Really great!


  3. Wheeeeeeeee! I love it!!! You rock Emma!!! 🙂

  4. az, i c u r getting it 2. love you both b

  5. My heart was soaring along with her as I watched. Same thing when I watched it again!

  6. Em is awesome in that video!!! (First: I really do not like to use the term ‘functioning’ in regards to people, but I have to in this instance to repeat scenarios I have encountered)… With that disclaimer 😉 I have to tell you, your comparisons of Em when she was younger to older autistic people is not uncommon. At presentations I’ve had adults say to me: “My 8yo with autism is not as high-functioning as you,” with regards to whatever I was presenting on at the time. I always answer with: “I hope your 8yo is not as high-functioning as me. I hope no 8yo is as high-functioning as me – considering I’ve had 33 more years experience at life.” It lightens the mood and gives people a moment to think on the idea that we get older, develop and mature. It’s a guessing game. We do the best we can with the information we have — none of us can see down the road to what lies ahead.
    ❤ to you as always,

  7. I sort of can’t stop watching this! 🙂

  8. Awesome! 🙂 🙂

  9. Paula McCutcheon

    Have watched Emma flying countless times now – my heart still thumps – congratulations, Em !!!! That really is a family first record. Love, Tookie.

  10. WOOOT.
    Former gymnast impressed here.

    Do you think if I’m ever in your area Emma would help me learn a bit of trapeze? That’s some impressive work she’s done.

  11. All right Em! I watched it many times. Great job supporting her and congrats to Em for her hard work and persistence!

  12. Fascinating. Her reaction at the end is too cute.

  13. I’m watching her trapeze catch now every morning, first thing. it makes my day and inspires me to strive ever onward and upward. What an amazing little girl! She has just signed on to be one of my angels….


  14. Holy crap did you guys just see that? That video is proof to everyone that hard work pays off, Way to go Emma I’ll remember this video every time i think I can’t do something.

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