Zoom Autism Magazine Issue 3 Spring 2015 - Page 35

ZOOM: Tell us, WHO is Jennifer Cook O’Toole? JENNIFER: I am a work in progress. We all are works in progress. ZOOM: You are kind of known for your red hair. You have often said that autism is like having red hair. What do you mean by that? JENNIFER I do say all the time that autism is like having red hair. It’s a little unexpected and just makes you stand out. I did not ask for red hair; it is just how I showed up into this world. But I learned to just kind of go with it, and when I did, my red hair began to work for me, not against. I did musical theater when I was younger, and people might not have remembered my name when they saw me in a show, but they would remember that girl with red hair. I stood out. I believe much more than a blonde or brunette, when you have red hair, it becomes part of your identity. But there is also a flip side. I can get a sunburn through a window! It has happened danced for 20 years, sang for 15 and played the violin for 12! Or here is a fun bit about me. You know how Temple Grandin says that she thinks in pictures? Well, I think in words. I see the actual text. It is a concrete representation of the general concept to me. For example, if you say BLUE, I don’t see the color in my mind; I see the actual letters B-L-U-E. Ever seen the incredible PBS Kids TV show WordWorld? It is genius. It’s a preschool show in which words come alive, and it stars animals whose bodies are made up of the letters that spell the words they are. One of the main characters is DUCK. Duck is, well, a duck! Yellow, with a beak, web feet, but his body is made up of the letters D-U-C-K. The show is brilliant! That is how I think. My dad was a litigator, debating the meaning of every word, and I think I got my love of words from him. I know I did. I absolutely LOVE grammar. I even have a framed picture of a sentence Autism is like having red hair. It’s a little unexpected and just makes you stand out . before, and I am sure it will happen again! The point is that there comes a time when you have to make a choice. Am I going to accept the fact that I have red hair or not? ZOOM: Tell us something no one else knows about you! diagram hanging on my wall. I mean, who does that? ME, that’s who! To me, grammar, diagramming sentences, parts of speech, and etymology are all like unraveling a melody and seeing the staff and all the notes that make it up. That is what I do. I unravel big concepts and break them up into smaller parts. JENNIFER: Hmmm ... how about the fact that I Zoom Autism Through Many Lenses 35