Grandy Miller has many special interests including unusual Halloween costumes

Grandy as a fire alarm

Some of Grandy’s cool Halloween costumes include dressing as a microwave, a deck, a fire alarm, and this year a tornado.

By Ron Sandison

When Grandy was three years old, his mother Brittany Miller noticed that he had an unusual interest in fans and light switches. These were the only things that peaked Grandy’s interest at the McDonald’s Playland.

“I found it odd that in a room full of slides, climbing structures, and other children that Grandy refused to focus on anything else but the fan above his head. So I googled ‘three year old obsessed with fans’ and that is when I learned about autism. After reading more about autism I began to realize that Grandy exhibited ‘red flags’ like speech delay and trouble sleeping through the night,” Brittany shares.

In February 2014, a few days before his 4th birthday, Grandy received a formal diagnosis of autism. This diagnosis has impacted every part of Brittany’s life.

“My greatest challenge raising a son with autism has been peoples’ lack of understanding. People have no idea how much autism effects everything a person does right down to the things they eat! Because of this lack of knowledge people are very quick to judge and make assumptions about my son’s behavior which puts him at risk for bullying and ridicule from strangers.”

Grandy has never told his mom a lie. Everything he says is literal. He has no concept of how to make up a story or alibi. If Brittany asks him, “What are you doing,” he will tell her what he is doing even if, it is something he knows he isn’t allowed to do. Brittany shares, “I know that when I ask Grandy a question he will always tell the truth!”

Grandy has Splinter Skill Savant Syndrome which means that unlike the savants you see that are solely gifted in music or math, Grandy’s areas of expertise splinters off into different areas. As a splinter skill savant Grandy has the ability to quickly become an expert on anything that sparks his interests.

When Grandy was 3 years old, he was obsessed with shapes and could identify any shape up to 12 sides and also draw them in 3D. At age 4 it was microwaves and he could tell you every electronic part and its function.

Once Grandy learns all that he can about his area of interest he moves on to something else.

“Last year Grandy was interested in fire alarms. He could tell you every make and model number of every fire alarm even the vintage ones and also identify them by their siren too. His ability to learn and store information is a true gift.”

After a fire drill, Grandy became interested in fire alarms. He came home talking about how the fire alarm went off and from that moment on he would draw them and watch YouTube videos about them. Grandy traveled with his mom to Connecticut to have his 7th birthday party at the Honeywell fire alarm factory. This vacation was a number of first for Grandy. He had never been on an airplane and also never meet so many people.

“I think I was more nervous than he was about the entire trip but Grandy did an amazing job. That trip impacted his life by giving him experiences that I alone couldn’t have given him. The way he was able to communicate with other people (that genuinely liked and knew about fire alarms) was amazing. When you’re seven years old and your main interest in life is fire alarms, its hard to find friends your age that can relate to you,” Brittany shares.

Another special interest for Grandy is Halloween. Due to his speech delay Grandy wasn’t able to verbalize the custom he wanted until age 4. Some of his cool Halloween costumes include dressing up as a microwave, a deck, a fire alarm, and this year a tornado. Grandy specifically asked to be a “TORNADO” this year for Halloween based on his newest interest in the weather.

“Grandy’s interests change every few months. Currently he is obsessed with the weather and knowing what cities are in every state. I have been using Google lately when he wants to know the names of the cities in a state like Idaho!”

Brittany uses Grandy’s special interests to help him make friends and learn, “The best way to teach Grandy is to incorporate his interests into his learning. I taught Grandy how to tell time by making a cardboard clock and using pictures of tiny microwaves on it that coincided with each number. I did the same thing when teaching him how to match pictures and colors by printing out and coloring pictures of fire alarms and having him match them. By using microwaves and fire alarms I was able to engage him in learning.”

Grandy has the ability to get people interested in what he is. He was a hit when he brought a fire alarm for show and tell. Most of his peers had never touched a fire alarm before. Making friends is still difficult for Grandy and while Brittany encourages him to engage with others, she can only push him so far. Even the news media picked up his interest in fire alarms. See the video here.

“We attend family gatherings, birthday parties, and play dates and all of those things are ‘practice’ for him when it comes to learning to make friends. I have noticed that slowly Grandy is starting to engage with other children.”

Brittany encourages parents whose child is diagnosed with autism.

Grandy 2

“You are about to see the world in a way you have never seen it. You will lose some friends, but gain an entire community of autism parents that even though they just met you, will be your child’s biggest fans. You are your child’s best advocate. Therapists and teachers aren’t always right and you know your child better than anyone. It’s okay to cry when you think of your child’s future; the unknown is a very scary. Having a child with autism you will cry more (happy and sad tears), sleep less (more opportunity to see the world), and you will create a bond with your child that the entire world will be able to see.”

You can contact Brittany Miller at goaliegirl47@yahoo.com and Facebook fan page.

Brittany Miller writes for the Huffington Post and The Mighty.

Here are some other links which feature Grandy.

Why my son with autism loves unconventional Halloween Costumes
Muskegon Boy Named Honorary Alarm Technician for Knowledge of Fire Alarms
USA Today – Muskegon Boy with Autism Finds Key to Giving

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Ron Sandison works full time in the medical field and is a professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry. He is an advisory board member of Autism Society Faith Initiative of Autism Society of America and a Board Member for the Art of Autism. Sandison has a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University and is the author of A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom published by Charisma House. He has memorized over 10,000 Scriptures including 22 complete books of the New Testament and over 5,000 quotes.

He frequently guest speaks at colleges, conferences, autism centers, and churches. Ron and his wife, Kristen, reside in Rochester Hills, MI, with a baby daughter, Makayla Marie born on March 20, 2016. You can contact Ron at his website www.spectruminclusion.com or email him at sandison456@hotmail.com.

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