From Malva: Temple Grandin is probably the best-known person with autism in the world, and she speaks out tirelessly about her perspective on living with autism and also on issues of animal welfare (she has a doctorate in animal science and is a professor at Colorado State University).
Future Horizons autism publishers in Texas are sponsors of the annual Temple Grandin Award which recognizes the accomplishments of special individuals with autism making a difference in today’s world. http://fhautism.com/temple-grandin-award-nominations.html#.UysO8mBOViw Benjamin has won the award for 2013! Not only does he regularly give autism presentations, but Benjamin also stands out for his caring personality and for his desire to help others on a daily basis. This was highlighted in the Temple Grandin Award nomination:
Like Temple Grandin, Benjamin has the capacity for speaking easily in front of hundreds of people, thus acting as a spokesperson for the many individuals whose autism makes it hard for them to reach out. His audiences consistently laugh and cry—Benjamin’s story touches their hearts, and the determination and ongoing hard work that has gone into overcoming his autism to such a degree is remarkable. On hearing about Benjamin’s life, people feel inspired to tackle their own challenges with renewed energy.
In addition to his autism presentations, Benjamin volunteers regularly, sharing his time and energy with others. At school, he regularly gives up a free period to attend “Circle of Friends”, meeting with those students who have severe special needs, helping them to feel more socially connected. In Benjamin’s words: “I enjoy helping kids who aren’t able to speak or move around like I can, and my non-special-needs friends who have joined me are especially caring people, and so the energy in the group is really happy. Even though I have autism, being in the group shows me how much more difficult things could be, and makes me appreciate my life as it is.” Benjamin actively recruits neuro-typical kids to join him in reaching out.
Benjamin also dedicates much of his spare time in school to assisting teachers. For example, during his junior year, he regularly acted as “coach’s assistant” for the freshman P.E. class, voluntarily giving up his free period to help out. With the support of the teacher, Benjamin taught the class about the importance of inclusion and showed them the joy that comes from embracing differences—he was open about explaining and expanding on these themes in response to students’ questions.