Episode 70 – Unstoppable advocate with Autism with Miyah Sundermeyer
This is one of those episodes I love to experience because I get to discuss a topic about which I know little. Miyah Sundermeyer was diagnosed as a person who happens to be autistic. She received her diagnosis at age 11. As with many of us who happen to be persons with disabilities, the immediate reaction of medical experts and others was that Miyah could not grow up to accomplish anything. Well, she is currently working on her PHD. You will hear about her life as a person on the autistic spectrum among other things about the spectrum.
Miyah works for George State helping to raise awareness concerning autism. By any standards, she is successful, growing and she is making a difference.
About the Guest:
Miyah Sundermeyer is a Minnesota native and spent the first 21 years prior to moving to Atlanta in 2003. In 2010, she earned her associate’s degree in psychology from Georgia Perimeter College before transferring her credits top Georgia State University in where she earned her bachelor’s in psychology. She was hired at Georgia State at the Center for Leadership in Disability where she has helped gather information on autism resources across GA as well as many other roles. All the while, working to raise Autism Awareness and Acceptance through her podcast “Hello World with Miyah and public speaking.
About the Host:
Michael Hingson is a New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, and Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. Michael, blind since birth, survived the 9/11 attacks with the help of his guide dog Roselle. This story is the subject of his best-selling book, Thunder Dog.
Michael gives over 100 presentations around the world each year speaking to influential groups such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Federal Express, Scripps College, Rutgers University, Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross just to name a few. He is Ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind and also serves as Ambassador for the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.
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Michael Hingson 00:00
Access Cast and accessiBe Initiative presents Unstoppable Mindset. The podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Hi, I’m Michael Hingson, Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe and the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust. Thanks for joining me on my podcast as we explore our own blinding fears of inclusion unacceptance and our resistance to change. We will discover the idea that no matter the situation, or the people we encounter, our own fears, and prejudices often are our strongest barriers to moving forward. The unstoppable mindset podcast is sponsored by accessiBe, that’s a c c e s s i capital B e. Visit www.accessibe.com to learn how you can make your website accessible for persons with disabilities. And to help make the internet fully inclusive by the year 2025. Glad you dropped by we’re happy to meet you and to have you here with us.
Michael Hingson 01:20
Welcome to another episode of unstoppable mindset. Glad to have you wherever you are. And I want to introduce you to Miyah Sundermeyer , who is our guest this week. Miyah has all sorts of interesting things that we get to discuss. She does a lot addressing the concept of autism. And we’re going to find out why as well as other things. And she has asked me some questions about September 11 2001. And I’m curious to learn about her interest in that as well. So we’ll get there. Anyway. Miyah, welcome to unstoppable mindset. How are you?
Miyah Sundermeyer 01:55
And the words of my hero and network Dr. Temple Grandin? It’s really great to be here.
Michael Hingson 02:02
I have I have heard her and we’re glad to have you here. Tell me a little bit about maybe your early life, your childhood and some of that stuff. Let’s start. Let’s start at the beginning, as Lewis Carroll would say, oh, yeah,
Miyah Sundermeyer 02:14
now you’re making me think of the sound of music. Let’s go.
Michael Hingson 02:19
There you go. So we’ll start with dough.
Miyah Sundermeyer 02:24
And so anyway, I don’t want to dry dive off topic too much. But anyway, Mr. Hingson. So my early childhood, I was born, when I was born, as it was my understanding that I was first of all stuck in the womb, and then they got me out. I had swallowed a great deal of placenta. And so there caused some a neck that caused anoxia that caused the brain damage. And so my mom and I looked at each other they when they looked at the doctor, and he spanked the fluid out of me. And so I nearly died at childbirth. But the doctors saved my life. And then what? Well, and then I started to develop according to my late aunt, I mean, she died in 2019. I lived with her for a while and she and I had a mother and daughter relationship. But that was in my 20s. At that was in most of my 20s. But when she would come and meet with my parents, and she’d meet with me, she said that other people in the room would try to talk to me, and they thought that I was deaf. So and then as I began to develop into a toddler, my mom noticed that I was staring into space. I wasn’t interested in toys. And she also noticed that I would script waiting, I would copy lines from movies and TV shows and commercials. And she specifically remembers the Burger King commercial, where I said, where the old lady says, Where’s the beef?
Michael Hingson 03:53
Where’s the beef? Yeah.
Miyah Sundermeyer 03:55
And so my mom caught that caught me, say, where’s the beef? And I do recall she said that, I think should they were outside grilling outside of a house that we were renting at the time. And I just ran upstairs and I blurted it out and my mom thought it was funny. I went where’s the beef. And so that was the sign right there. And then my mom had started to wonder as to whether or not I was somewhere on the autism spectrum. But keep in mind, this was back in the 80s. And back then autism was looked at very differently. And this was even before that movie Rain Man, which by the way, is not my favorite film.
Michael Hingson 04:36
Understand. So he did a good job of acting, but I understand what you’re saying.
Miyah Sundermeyer 04:41
Yeah, well, I just didn’t like the idea that they were putting autism into a box. Yeah. And, you know, they just, it was just one person on the spectrum. And I mean, he was, I mean, Raymond wasn’t a real character, but it’s my understanding that he was based on another individual and spectrum who was known as a savant. And the thing is, the thing is there’s studies suggesting that there’s only 1% of the autistic population, that even suggests that you would have the Savant type syndrome. So,
Michael Hingson 05:14
anyway, so go ahead and continue. So you, you really weren’t like Rain Man, which is understandable.
Miyah Sundermeyer 05:23
No, no, it’s my understanding. According to my parents, I was two years old. I just thought it was a normal kid back when I was two. But, you know, I just, I just, I got in trouble a lot with with some of our babysitters, because I was just so hyper. And nobody understood that. At the same time, my mom took me to a series of doctors. And I didn’t even think there was anything wrong with me. I thought that it was a normal routine. And I thought that every child went through that. I remember also going to a special preschool, and the special preschool, they had IQ testing. And they had me play with special blocks. But at the same time, when they would observe me one on one, I’d want to play with the blocks, but then the specialists but I was grabbed my fingers and stopped me from putting the blocks together. And I hated that. I just, I didn’t know why.
Michael Hingson 06:26
Why, why was that, that they stopped you from putting the blocks together?
Miyah Sundermeyer 06:29
Well, they were using a special, I think they were trying to run tests on me think they were doing IQ type tests and things like that. And so I could, so I didn’t understand that what they were doing was they were running some tests on me to test my IQ. And they were also trying to figure out why it was Piper at the same time. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the autistic traits. Even though back then my mom tried talking to the doctors about actually our family doctors, you know what, I think my daughter might have autism. And they laughed at her because because autism back in the 80s was looked at like Rain Man, and was also looked at, as if everyone on the spectrum was just very, very proud. Even though, even though it was coming out that Dr. Temple Grandin, I mean, she, I mean, by the 80s, she was already beginning to share her story in meetings and conferences across America, and eventually the part of the world. So there’s just nobody was making a connection.
Michael Hingson 07:37
So when did they finally decide that that autism was a part of your life?
Miyah Sundermeyer 07:43
That wasn’t until I was 11, I was first diagnosed with ADHD, and I was placed on medication before that. And then I was continuing to go to the doctors, but they didn’t officially diagnosed me as an autistic, or a person on the spectrum until I was 11 years old. And back then they preferred it to me as PDD NOS or which was pervasive developmental delays, hyphen, none other specified. That helps, yeah, and back then they referred to me as a woman with high functioning autism are a female with high functioning autism, which is rare. So and then I was placed into special education for the rest of my, the rest of my high school from sixth grade all the way up to 12th grade. And, you know, that’s just that was a big mess. Let me tell you how so well, first of all, it started with I hated studying, I hated sitting still and doing homework, I wanted to goof off all the time. And I think which is normal for any kid. Every day, every night, my mom would struggle to get me to sit down and do my homework. And I would sit and have a fit because I hated the studying. And then on top of all that I I would fail at my grades. I mean, I would fail at my exams, because I wasn’t wasn’t studious. But then they put me in a special education. And I had, we had all the IQ tests, and they just basically told my mom don’t waste any time with her. She’ll never amount to anything. So
Michael Hingson 09:23
I mentioned before we started recording that you could go hear one of my speeches, which talks in great detail about September 11 than the fact is that part of that speech, discusses that went and was discovered that I was blinded about four months, the doctor said that my parents should put me in a home because no blind child could ever grow up and amount to anything. So we’re not alone in that, are we?
Miyah Sundermeyer 09:50
No, we’re not. And it’s just amazing what these teach these doctors and these special education teachers. I don’t know where they get these ideas from I don’t know where or they get this idea that just because everyone’s disabled, it doesn’t mean they’re going to fit into a box according to the DSM manuals.
Michael Hingson 10:08
Well, the, the fact is that no matter what they choose to believe or not, they are still reflections of society. And unfortunately, people with disabilities are still not really included, understood, or really educated about in a lot of the professions is slowly getting better. But even back in the 80s, much less back in the 1950s, when I was born and grew up, it still was, and to a large degree, today still is a problem. So we we deal with it. So tell me a little bit about the autism spectrum. I don’t know a lot about that. And I don’t know how many of our listeners do Can you give us a little bit of an insight as to what it is, where you fit on it and how that whole process works.
Miyah Sundermeyer 10:59
So the autism spectrum is very, very broad. If you have people on the spectrum, like myself, who can articulate we can dress ourselves, we can hold down jobs, we can go to college, we can get married. And I mean, me, I’m in a relationship right now. And you know, I have my own place. And I’ve got a bachelor’s degree and getting ready to go back at some point and get my doctorate, I’m planning on developmental psychology. But you also have other people on the spectrum that can talk. But they have other challenges. I mean, I don’t like to say, the functioning label, we don’t like to say that we don’t say, high functioning, low functioning, if people on the Hill, you know, we’re a little more moderate, and they can talk. But socially and emotionally, their brain doesn’t develop as quickly. I mean, I had some challenges on my own, and that my brain didn’t start developing until I was much older. And for them, some of them actually develop the social skills of a child or social skills of a child or up to the level of a teenager. And yes, they can dress themselves, but they have very poor social skills. And then they have other challenges, like some of them have underlying conditions. Some of them have cerebral palsy, but it doesn’t mean like, they’re not limited from everything, they just have to work around their, their challenges or their disabilities. And some of them have to have coaching and mentoring. And, you know, they can, I mean, they can do it, but some of them need more, more coaching and mentoring. I mean, I still needed coaching and mentoring like everybody else. And then you have other people on the spectrum, the more the severe end, they can’t articulate it all. And they refer to them as nonverbal. Or some other self advocates refer to them as people who don’t use formal language. I mean, they can talk but they use hollow phrases, meaning that they say one word phrases, like, like, they’ll like, they’ll say something like, oh, or Oh, are the, they’ll just quote a line from a TV show. And then there are other people on the spectrum that just cannot articulate at all, they cannot use the one word phrases, and then some of them, they just, they can’t dress themselves, they can’t be themselves. Some of those people ended up in group homes and those situations, I mean, it’s not that they’re fully broken, it’s just that they can’t take care of themselves. But for them, they would have to use a communicative device or use some sort of a sign language and that they have to have the extra help. But actually, what actually what they have a brain, actually, they’re very, very intelligent. But they have you have to unlock that brain. And you have to teach them how to type because they have, they have thoughts like everyone else. And then you have people on the spectrum that have severe sensory input, meaning that they can’t sit stay on certain sounds and they can’t stand certain colors or they can’t stand certain smells. Some of them have the cannot control their bodies, they cannot control their body movements. And then some of them they just, they just they cannot they cannot use the toilet by themselves. So it really ranges and
Michael Hingson 14:34
several years ago, I delivered a speech somewhere and I don’t recall exactly was I think it was some sort of association of nurses and there was also someone else who spoke who was on the autism spectrum. And she said at the beginning in describing herself, that she tended to react to loud sounds and about 10 minutes into the speech. For some reason the microphone own started giving feedback. Something was too loud or whatever. And she reacted to that was a pretty for me graphic illustration and helped me understand part of of the whole process. But she she said up front that she tended to react to loud sounds and it was just the way it was.
Miyah Sundermeyer 15:21
Yeah. So by the way was this woman was this woman Dr. Temple Grandin say No, it wasn’t
Michael Hingson 15:27
Temple Grandin, I have heard her speak also. But this wasn’t Temple Grandin. This was with somebody else, and I can’t remember who it was.
Miyah Sundermeyer 15:37
So why No, there was a Donna Williams from Australia, she had severe sensory disorders for temple said she could not stand up, she could not stand looking at fluorescent light bulbs. Actually, there’s some people on the spectrum that have was it visual inputs, that I can’t remember how it temporally phrased it. But according to one of her book, I think it was the way I see it, I read it in thinking in pictures that you walk under some of the fluorescent bulbs. And according to the way the brain processes information, the lights will flicker like a strobe light. So people on the spectrum that cannot stand that. And there are people on the spectrum that cannot even handle LED lights. And for I’m not one of those people. For me. I don’t like micro microphone input either. I just I hate it. And then it’s funny, you mentioned temple and we’re talking about sensory input, she was doing an interview and she kept imitating the sound of, of a microphone input. And it hurt my ears every time she did it. Like I thought to myself temple stop doing that.
Michael Hingson 16:53
So this person, as I said, reacted when the squealing of the feedback happened. And it took her about a minute or a minute and a half to recover and be able to continue. They dealt with the issue of feedback. And the rest of the speech was fine. But it it makes sense that different people react in different ways. And that’s, of course, what the whole idea of innocence, the spectrum is about. It’s very difficult to sit there and say, people fit in one box and that you are somewhere on the spectrum. And somebody else might be at the same place on the spectrum as you but it doesn’t mean that they necessarily react the same way you do.
Miyah Sundermeyer 17:37
Yeah, there’s also speculation out there. That’s why it’s called. That’s why you have neurodivergent because there’s a saying that no two snowflakes are alike, right. And there’s also another saying out there that goes up. Just because you meet one autistic, that means that you meet one autistic. And I mean, Dr. Temple and I have very, very different types of disabilities. For her, she cannot stand the feeling of stretchy clothes. And I agree with that on her. But you cannot walk in front of her while she is giving a talk. And actually I blogged for future horizons. And I’ve had a chance to go to some of her talks there put on by future horizons. I kept getting up to use the bathroom. And this was just before the pandemic. And you know, I kept walking and then temple called me out in front of everyone. She goes, you really don’t need to be texting. Because I was sitting there tweeting about the event. And I thought I’m talking to you talking to me. And she goes, No, you walked out of here twice. And then she also said don’t worry, you’ll thank me later. And then she brought up one of her own life memories of a of a POS that slammed down a container of deodorant and I said you always do and she goes, Do you need to sit back? And I’m sorry? She said, Do you need to go sit in the back? And I just kept on talking. I just she just kept on talking and what were you doing anyway? And then I explained to her, Well, why don’t you just explain to her what I was doing? Why it was nice. I’m not texting, I’m tweeting. I’m promoting your event and I told her what I do. And she goes, Well, what did you say? So in the first place, and then me I said temple temple I was waiting for you to get done talking. So but yeah, I’ve had her on my podcast a couple times. And I mean, I’ve known her since 2014. And I’ve presented alongside her before so
Michael Hingson 19:36
we were at the same event but we didn’t get actually to meet. She spoke over lunch and I was near the back of the room just coincidentally so we never did really get a chance to but I was hoping to have an opportunity to do that. But she had to leave right away so we didn’t get to do it, unfortunately.
Miyah Sundermeyer 19:53
Well, she’s very, very nice and I think you too would hit it off. I’d love to meet her. I She would be a great guest on your show.
Michael Hingson 20:02
Well, we’d love to explore that. And if you can help us make contact, we’d love to have her on. I mean, she’s a person who is extremely well known. Would would love to meet her in person. And I don’t even I can probably go back and research. Where was that? I heard her. Very fascinating speaker. Needless to say,
Miyah Sundermeyer 20:23
yeah. She’s so funny, too. I mean, she just ranted. It’s like she’s randomly funny, too.
Michael Hingson 20:30
Yeah. Well, and and that’s okay. People are as they are. So you describing the whole idea of autism? And I realize they’re not related. But how does autism and the way people function and behave different? Or how does it compare with, say, people with Down syndrome?
Miyah Sundermeyer 20:52
Well, for a person with Down syndrome, I don’t really know much about it. I don’t know much about what Down Syndrome does. But for Down syndrome, it is genetic, and that I believe that autism is genetic, too. But for Down syndrome, you have the extra chromosome, as far as I know. But I also understand that people who are downs, also have other medical conditions that are underlying, and it’s my understanding that people who have Down Syndrome don’t live very long as their lifespans are shorter. And I suspect as they get older, they deal with issues such as specific types of Alzheimer’s disease. And so I think most of the people who are Down’s and then they’ve died in their 30s.
Michael Hingson 21:48
I wonder about the the the intelligence level or the intelligence differences, because I know that clearly, people with autism, as you pointed out, can be extremely intelligent, it isn’t really a lack of intelligence in any way. I don’t know enough about Down syndrome either. To understand that,
Miyah Sundermeyer 22:05
well, there are, but there, there are advocacy group movements right now for people who are downs. In fact, there’s a whole movement in the college setting called inclusive post secondary education, that allows people with Down’s people who are downs that the DSM manual would refer to as an intellectual disability. And you know, for an autistic, I prefer it as I have a developmental disability, yes. But for a person with Down syndrome, they’re considered to have intellectual disabilities, but they have specific curriculums now with Inclusive post secondary education. And they, they let the individuals take special class, regular college classes and be with their peers. And right at the moment, they’re trying to go from just the individuals audit, auditing classes to taking college courses. But they’re also trying to get them out into the world and get them into internships, where they get to do things that their normal peers do. And they’re also doing other types of programs for people on the spectrum. In college settings, too. They’re trying to come up with a special accommodations, because there’s a large number of people on the spectrum right now that have been struggling with college because of accommodation issues, or executive functioning issues. And myself included, because I’m getting ready to I’m getting ready to go back to take some Postback classes this fall, and I’m looking for accommodations because I want I want some internships and I want to get into research and I want to build up some skill sets in that area and learn how to talk with my professors.
Michael Hingson 23:53
Well, Han, you are clearly an intelligent individual who knows what they need to have in the way of accommodations. And clearly, as we understand all being from the community of persons with disabilities, reasonable accommodations are appropriate. So is autism considered an intellectual disability in any way?
Miyah Sundermeyer 24:16
No, not that I know of. I mean, usually, you usually if you had an intellectual disability, there would probably be a dual diagnosis, you probably have someone on the spectrum, but they would also have a diagnosis if they had fetal alcohol syndrome combined with autism. Or they would have Down syndrome, which would be the intellectual disabilities and then autism, which would be the developmental disabilities. So it just really depends on how the child develops in the womb.
Michael Hingson 24:47
So you, I think, have talked a little bit about the concept of raising awareness of autism and being autistic as opposed to acceptance. Tell me about If you would,
Miyah Sundermeyer 25:01
well, actually, I believe in standing right in the middle, I believe in except in raising autism awareness and acceptance, because I think that they’re both important. And I do not believe that raising awareness through organizations like Autism Speaks, and OT, and it was at the Autism Society of America, I do not believe that. That’s the best way to educate people. I just think that, that way to raise awareness and acceptance are just way too big. I just think that that awareness should be more at the community level. I mean, it starts in our homeowners associations, it starts in our town halls, and it starts in our schools. It starts with our parents. And it can start by having little townhall meetings or little meetings through your homeowners association. And it starts with community building and connecting with each other. That’s where the awareness starts. And then you have the acceptance part, again, at the community level, where you have families and you have individuals and you have you have employers that work in the community, that that that could also teach with Teach the individual social skills and soft skills and work skills and get these individuals employed. Because right now, what we have is just way too big. And right now there’s a lot of misunderstanding about autism. And because of that we have individuals out there that are 90% either unemployed or underemployed.
Michael Hingson 26:43
That’s true across all disabilities to a very large degree. I know for many years, we who happen to be blind have felt that the unemployment rate among unplayable blind people is in the 70% Roughly range. And it isn’t because we can’t work. It’s because people think we can’t work. And I suspect that it’s the same for you.
Miyah Sundermeyer 27:03
Yeah, because a lot of people think that we don’t, because we’re autistic, they think that we don’t understand something.
Michael Hingson 27:11
Yeah. And that’s not necessarily true at all. Well, I’m curious about something if I, if I might, and that is that we have heard over the past several years, parents talk about not vaccinating their children because they might become autistic or that autism is caused by vaccinations and so on. And that there’s been a great increase in spike in autism because of vaccinations and so on. Where do you fit into that?
Miyah Sundermeyer 27:41
So, again, I was already I already started to share showing symptoms of autism when I was developing as an infant. Because again, when I was young, my family thought that I was deaf, when it was really part of the autism, because I was probably as a baby, I was hyper, probably very hyper focused on some color, or hyper focused on something in the room as my eyesight was developing. And so I probably wasn’t even paying attention to my late aunt Lois. So there’s that. But as far as the vaccination goes, I do not think that that’s autism at all. I think that that there’s some sort of a disorder that mimics autism, but it’s not autism, like look at lions disease. And I’m not saying that there’s lions disease in the vaccinations, but lions disease mimics autism, I think that they could also be some sort of an allergic reaction that causes damage to the brain and somehow mimics autism, but I don’t think that’s autism. Or maybe they were already autistic. But perhaps there was a Mercury, there was something in the vaccinations that caused some sort of allergic reaction. And that probably aggravated I mean, I don’t know, I haven’t done the research. Yeah. Just off the top of my head. So I don’t know. Well, the
Michael Hingson 29:06
other thing that comes to mind is that maybe the vaccinations don’t have anything to do with it at all. It isn’t now we are doing a much better job of diagnosing autism, and that in fact, that is caused a lot of the increase in the number of people who are diagnosed with having autism.
Miyah Sundermeyer 29:27
Yeah, that’s another really good speculation. I think that one’s pretty good, too. It’s just that I know that Dr. Andrew, was it. Andrew Wakefield is the one that claims to have caught the that had discovered that there was mercury in the vaccinations. But his theory since since got ruled out, and I believe he was caught with plagiarism. I’m not sure. It’s not good. Yeah. So I mean, his theory was ruled out. The thing is, they’re people that are still believing his theories and they’re still fighting back. Wow,
Michael Hingson 30:05
it’s too bad that, that there tends to be a lot of that. And unfortunately, we also try to find things to blame one thing or another on when we plain just don’t know enough to really understand we don’t have all the answers yet. That’s what science is about. And that’s why it’s also an evolving process. Yeah.
Miyah Sundermeyer 30:27
And science is a slow process, you know, you know, it’s funny, you know, there’s, you look at the media, and they’re, they put all this information out there, like green tea makes you healthier. And you know, then you look, and then you look at back at those short articles, or green tea makes you sleep better. And then you click on the, on the online articles to your local paper. And then you find out that, that there’s that there are other research papers that were much different than what the media have put it out there to be said,
Michael Hingson 31:06
yeah, there are a lot of misconceptions that are put out by people all over the place who don’t really understand. And unfortunately, a lot of it comes from the media. But we live in a society today where basically everything gets dumped into the world, for people to see. And there are always people who believe it. And so the result is that a lot of things get spread that maybe it would be better to wait and see. Exactly. We hear about climate change today. And there are a huge number of people who just don’t believe it, or it’s the natural scheme of things, and there’s nothing we can do about it. But a lot of people who just plain don’t believe in the idea of climate change. There’s way too much evidence that says that it really is something that maybe we do have some control over and that greenhouse gas emissions should be addressed. And we should deal with some of those things.
Miyah Sundermeyer 32:06
Yeah. And then there’s situations where you have wildfires. I know that I understand that people can still be conservative and be careful. But I heard that isn’t out there in California, there’s some areas that get dry. And sometimes you have these brush fires and these forest fires that are caused by heat lightning, because the ground is so dry in California, is that true? Oh, it’s
Michael Hingson 32:29
absolutely true. There are there any number of things that cause the wildfires out here, there are also in reality, a number of them that are caused by power lines that touch something and ignite a spark. And we’re not doing enough fast enough to upgrade the infrastructure. But yeah, there is what he lightning can do. It is very dry. And so it’s not magic to imagine that some of the fires can be created by the some of these things. And that’s probably been true all along. But now, we want to find other ways to blame things rather than looking at the issues and how do we address them? Yeah, exact autism and autism is the same thing. Is it caused by something we do? I don’t know that I’ve seen evidence of that. Is blindness caused by something we do? Well, some some people who have become blind, certainly became blind because of medical issues. Premature babies were given oxygen, pure oxygen environments and their retinas tended to malformed. And it took a while for medical science to recognize that too much oxygen might not be a good thing after all. So it’s, again an evolutionary process.
Miyah Sundermeyer 33:51
Yeah, well, you know, we were, you know, I’m a big Little House on the Prairie fan. And for years, Laura’s sister Laura Ingalls Wilder sister, Mary Ingalls. And I’m not just talking about the TV show, ladies and gentlemen, talking about the real historical figure Mary eagles are so first they thought she had gotten she ended up becoming blind, because she had scarlet fever. But then they discovered later on that there was some other disease in their eyes, and it just caused her eyesight to dim and then she lost it completely. And she was blind the rest of her life. Yeah. So and then there was Helen Keller, I think she saw at one point and then she became what was it blind, deaf and mute?
Michael Hingson 34:36
Correct? Yeah. But clearly had a lot of intelligence and learn to function in the world in which she lived and and hopefully helped a lot of other people grow. How to many people quote Helen Keller, but they don’t really go back and intellectually understand that because of of who she was and what she did. Those quotes are meaningful and ought to be taken to heart. And it doesn’t mean that we’re less capable. It means that we do things in a different way. Have you ever heard? Have you ever heard people use the term differently abled?
Miyah Sundermeyer 35:17
No, I haven’t. But that would make sense. But I’ve used the term human detour system because I was tired of the word disabled. So I decided to call it the human detour system, by learning how to focus on your abilities, and really building on those strengths and working around the things that you can never do, which, which are your disabilities, because that way you don’t let the you don’t let your disability steal your life and let that ruin your joy. So
Michael Hingson 35:46
well. And the reason I asked the question is, I personally don’t value the concept of, quote, differently abled and have quotation because I don’t think that we’re differently abled, we may do things in a different way. But hey, there are lots of sighted people who do things differently because they’re left handed does that make them differently abled, it only means that there may use some alternatives to what most people do. And the same if you’re blind or have any other kind of disability. And I agree with you, I don’t like the term disability. But I think that the community overall has tried to address that by saying you don’t call people disabled people. You call them persons with disabilities. Now, for my part, I believe society in general, every single person on this planet has a disability. And people have heard me say this on the podcast. But I believe that sighted people have the disability that they’re like dependent. And Thomas Edison invented the electric light bulb, to allow people to mostly cover up and ignore their disability of being like dependent until the time that there’s a power failure. And then they have to run through the flashlights and the candles, but it doesn’t change the fact that they have a disability.
Miyah Sundermeyer 36:58
No, it doesn’t. I mean, sure, it doesn’t change the fact I mean, just because I live on my own, I take the bus everywhere, it doesn’t change the fact that I have a disability, you’re right, I have my moments where things get too overwhelming. And I just for an autistic, sometimes things get to be too overwhelming. Like there are people there are people on the spectrum today that are scared to disclose the fact that they’re autistic, because there are people that are scared to accept us. And there are people on the spectrum that like to do something called masking, which is a form of trying to blend in so people don’t bully us. People don’t judge us like other people on the spectrum that will love. They won’t fit, they won’t to stamp meaning they won’t rock back and forth. They won’t fidget when they’re out in society. And so each day, they will go out and try to pretend to be normal, and just basically blend in like a chameleon. And then by the time they get home, they are mentally and physically exhausted. And over time that burnout builds up. Yes. So and
Michael Hingson 38:08
I think there are a lot of people with various disabilities who probably somewhat work the same way. Or they just plain resent the disability. And it oftentimes takes a long time, if at all that people recognize it’s nothing wrong with being different. There’s nothing wrong with having this so called disability. And I agree with you, I wish there were a better term. But it is the term that we have. And society is great at changing definitions. I mean, look at diversity. We should be included in diversity, but we’re not because that is anyone with a disability. The conversation tends not to include us they talk about race and gender and sexual orientation. Disabilities generally aren’t included.
Miyah Sundermeyer 38:56
Yeah, yeah. And it’s just like, people don’t understand that, you know, they, they think that we’re whining. And we’re not, we’re saying, Hey, we’re disabilities are part of diversity, too.
Michael Hingson 39:09
Yeah. And so it’s important that people start to recognize that it’s okay. Now, I and I mentioned speeches that I given that we have on the podcast, if you listen to the second show, on our podcast, you will hear me deliver a speech that I love to call moving from diversity to inclusion, because I won’t accept that you can be partially inclusive, either you are inclusive, or you’re not. And if you’re inclusive, then you need to, and you must include disabilities otherwise you’re not inclusive.
Miyah Sundermeyer 39:42
Yeah, exactly. So when did you start your podcast
Michael Hingson 39:46
started at last September, actually. So we’ve done 38 shows so far, we were given a we actually made Editor’s Choice for podcasts magazine in February of 2022 total Surprise, but excited by that. That’s awesome. So yes, it’s kind of exciting. You mentioned September 11. What is your interest in what did you bring up the concept of September 11?
Miyah Sundermeyer 40:12
Well, I just want to I read that you’re a survivor? Oh, yeah, you’re the first person I have talked to that has actually been in those buildings. I mean, actually, I take that back. I have friends, I have friends up in the DC area. And they didn’t see the Pentagon get blown up. But they said that they were on their way to work. And everything shut down. And because the the Metro in DC was shut down, they spent three hours walking home. Well, I wanted to talk to you about your experiences, because you’re the first person I have met, that that was actually in those attacks and 911 what you know, is a part of my life, just like it’s a part of everyone’s life.
Michael Hingson 40:59
And how did you how did you react to September 11? What What was it like for you?
Miyah Sundermeyer 41:04
So 911 For me, it was very interesting. And I remember I was I was staying at a hospital with a friend and she was a teenager, it was a teenage pregnancy. And she was a girl I grew up with. And so I was in the hospital supporting her and her mom with a new baby. And the baby, the baby’s father was there. And I remember getting up the next morning, and I was planning on moving to the same area that my friend and her boyfriend and her mom were and they were going to help they were going to start helping me the next day as well as the kids settled in with that new baby. But anyway, I went downstairs, I had breakfast, and I was waiting for the gift shop to open when a few nurses came in. And they started talking about somebody trying to take over America. And I said what’s going on? And one of the nurses kind of brushed me off she went, then she walked away. And I said, Did I just hear you say that someone’s trying to take over America. And I heard well, then the Pentagon just got bombs. And at first I blew it off. And I walked out of the cafeteria and I went over to the gift shop which was not open. And I looked and there was a waiting area by the the emergency room. And I walked over, I walked over there and I saw smoke on TV and I said what’s going on? And someone said, Bob, and then I heard there was a plane that slammed into the World Trade Centers. And so I sat there trying to take in the same and I was watching as a both of the Twin Towers were on fire. It was just a very unrealistic situation. And, of course, I was so zoned out by it, that I completely. I completely missed the south tower collapse. And I thought I thought what’s going on, I just thought there was a lot of smoke. And then someone said that the cell tower has collapsed. That’s why you’re seeing all the smoke. And then all of a sudden I saw one tower Tandy standing, that was the North Tower. And I first thought, well, at least there’s one tower left. And then I was able to go to the gift shop and buy and buy that present for my friend and go back upstairs. But they were just turning on the radio. And I just hopped back in the elevator and I thought, yeah, I think the SEC, yeah, I think the North Tower was going to fall. So I went upstairs, told my friend turn on the TV. And as I was, as I was turning on the TV, there, you know, there was this, there was the North Tower falling. And I remember just I remember being very, I remember feeling very sick after that. I mean, I almost threw up when I saw the second one fall
Michael Hingson 43:56
so much less, much less the Pentagon, but of course I will I don’t know actually did they? Did they show much on the news about the Pentagon? Because when I heard about it, I spoke I had been speaking with my wife after both towers fell. So of course the Pentagon was a different thing. But I don’t know how much they actually showed us the Pentagon on the news.
Miyah Sundermeyer 44:18
Oh, they went back and forth. But I just remember seeing more of the footage of the World Trade Centers than I remember everybody in the hospital. I mean, they were trying to get my friend out of the hospital that everybody. Everybody was focused on the attacks, even when everybody was at the hospital working.
Michael Hingson 44:39
Yeah, everyone, of course, got focused on this because it’s something that we had never experienced before. Yeah. And it became a, needless to say, a very intense thing. And I agree with most people, you’ll always remember where you were on September 11. I was in the eighth grade. Read when President Kennedy was shot, it’s the same sort of thing, because I remember that I was in my whole class was taking a test in our Constitution and government class in the eighth grade. And Mr. Brown was reading me the questions quietly while everyone else was taking the written tests. And of course, my job was to answer them. And my seventh grade teacher, Mr. Ren Zullo, came in and just quietly spoke to Mr. Brown. And I heard it that President Kennedy was just shot, turn the TV on. And of course, it wasn’t long than before he died, the flags went to half staff, and everyone was sent home. So when there are major events like that, yeah, we do remember where we are. And then the issue is, how do we deal with them? And that’s what ultimately is, is what we have to discuss regularly and think about is, how do we deal with events like this when they occur?
Miyah Sundermeyer 46:04
Yeah. So me when I saw the World Trade Centers fall, it was very hard for me, you know, when they fell, because it was hard for me to even imagine that there were people in there when they fell. And so I thought, I thought too, that maybe everybody had gotten out, but they did.
Michael Hingson 46:20
Yeah, they didn’t. The people. And by the way, mostly that was the people who were above the impact points of the airplanes. I think about 90%, as I heard about it from a police officer, 90% of the people we lost were above where the planes hit. So there were very few people, relatively speaking, who were below who didn’t make it out. But it doesn’t matter. There were still people who didn’t. And we should remember and honor those people always.
Miyah Sundermeyer 46:49
Yeah, I remember seeing video footage on the news, if they were family members that were in denial, this isn’t there. They were showing pictures of their loved ones. This is my husband is missing. And you know, just seeing just seeing the reaction of them. You know, you know, that whole grief process? Can you find my loved ones, please? Can you find my loved ones?
Michael Hingson 47:13
So one of my stories of September 11, is that two weeks later? Was it two weeks? I think it was I was in the city meeting with someone. And my wife called and said that she had just gotten a call from someone who was looking for me. And the way the phone call went was that when my wife answered, the guy asked if this was the hingson residence, and of course, she said yes. And he said, Well, I’m I’m trying to find Michael Hinkson. Is this where he lives? And she said, Yes. And he was very uncomfortable. And he said, Well, is Is he okay? And she said, Well, yes. Why are you asking? It turns out that he worked for 9x, which is, of course, now part of Verizon. And he had been on the pile, which it was back then that is the the, the remains of the towers, they were looking for bodies and looking for people and so on. And he found a plaque with my name on it. He took it home, he polished it up. And then he started trying to find me on any of the lists. wasn’t on any of the the list of people who’d passed at least as far as they knew, as far as he knew. Anyway, somehow he eventually tracked us down. And so while I was in the city, I did meet him and he gave me the plaque and so on, and we got a chance to meet and visit. But I can almost well I can understand people saying, well, would you help me find my loved one because at the at least at the beginning, and for some time, it wasn’t necessarily very clear who totally survived and didn’t survive. Really? Did
Miyah Sundermeyer 49:13
they ever find anybody alive under the rubble, not after
Michael Hingson 49:17
the first day or two. But there were a couple of people who were, for example, in the stairwell of one of the towers, who, if you will rode the stairwell down, there was I think, a police officer. And there was a woman that I believe a day or two days later, they were digging through and eventually I think she yelled and they were able to pull her out. So there were a couple. So it’s one of those kinds of events where you just never know. And that’s why people do a lot of searching after events like this because you don’t know who might be surviving and who might not be surviving.
Miyah Sundermeyer 49:59
Yeah, So you were mentioning that 911 wasn’t as just walking down the stairs, trying to get out wasn’t as scary for you?
Michael Hingson 50:07
Well, for me, and again, this is something we’ve talked about, but I’ll, I’ll I’ll answer your question. I spent a lot of time, once I was working in the World Trade Center, exploring it, I was the Mid Atlantic region sales manager for a computer company. So it was my job to run an office to run our facility in New York. And my position was to do that I needed to make sure that I knew everything I could about where things were around the World Trade Center, how to get from place to place, what were the emergency evacuation procedures, what were the fire safety procedures, and so on. And I spent a lot of time over weeks learning that which really created a mindset for me, that told me that I knew what to do in an emergency. And so as a result, when it happened, that mindset kicked in. We’re actually now working on a book to talk about that. Because what I’ve realized as a public speaker who’s been traveling and speaking about September 11, now for 20 plus years, what I’ve not done is begun to teach people, how they can learn to not let fear as I call it, blind them, but rather use fear as a powerful tool to help and control their fears. So it’s something that we’re working toward. And I think that that is that same fear is the same sort of thing that all of us as persons with disabilities face from so many people who are just afraid, or why don’t want to end up like them. In one sense, I think at some level, they realize disabilities is an equal opportunity, contributor to people’s lives, and they could become a person with a disability in some way. I know. And, and the problem is that, so if you do, do you have the strength? Or will you find that you have the strength to learn to do things in a different way? And that’s what people are so uncomfortable about?
Miyah Sundermeyer 52:17
Yeah, now had I had I been in the towers that day, I probably would, if I wasn’t, that wasn’t super high up, like at the top, like, looking out, I think, if I would have seen the scene, the South Tower on fire, I wouldn’t, you know, I would have seen the explosion, I would have been gone, I would have ran down those stairs, and I would have gotten out of there.
Michael Hingson 52:38
Sure. Running wouldn’t necessarily have worked because the stairs were pretty crowded. And in fact, when people started to panic on the stairs, we worked to, to try to keep them quiet, or at least to calm them down. To recognize that we all were in this together, we’re all going to work to get out together. And a number of us had those kinds of things that we had to work on during the trip down. For me when the plane hit, we were 18 floors below where the plane hit and tower one. So I was on the 78th floor, but no one near me physically in the building at all, no one on our side of the building knew what happened. Because the plane hit on the other side of the building 18 floors above us. So if I had known an aircraft hit the building, I think I can say it wouldn’t have made a difference, because I still knew that we had to use the skills and knowledge that we had to get out. But I love information. There were a couple of times that people could have told us. One was when firefighters were coming up. And then when we got down to the bottom, we met someone from the FBI and in both cases, they didn’t want to talk about what happened and I can understand that they don’t know me they don’t know what would throw somebody into panic. But again, my situation would be different than yours. And you you might even just because of autism be more prone to panic or not. I don’t know. But you know that’s Well that’s
Miyah Sundermeyer 54:08
no for me it would have been fight or flight. Yeah, so But So how long did it take you to get down the stairs was I read? How long did it take you to get down the stairs with your coworker?
Michael Hingson 54:20
Well from the time the plane hit until we got outside it was an hour.
Miyah Sundermeyer 54:25
So it took you an hour to get down. Wow. Yep, I know. So read that. The the sprinkler systems were going off down the stairwells as well.
Michael Hingson 54:36
They’re probably later on there were the sprinkler systems were on at the bottom when we got got there. But when we were going down the stairs the sprinklers weren’t on where we were. And I don’t know I assume that there were sprinklers in the stairs. But this I don’t know whether there were but the sprinkler systems at the bottom of the stairwell were on there. He formed a barrier between the exit to the stairwell and the lobby of the World Trade Center towers. And you can imagine why that was they wanted to make sure that if fire broke out in the lobby, it wouldn’t get into the stairwell. Or if it did get into the stairwell in the air currents took it down, that the fire wouldn’t get out into the lobby. So there was a goodly amount of water that was falling from the sprinklers.
Miyah Sundermeyer 55:26
Yeah. And then, you know, sounds like you got out, Nick time to?
Michael Hingson 55:30
Well, I got out from tower one at 945. So we had a little bit of time to get away. But at the same time, we ended up very close to tower to when it collapsed. So we were about 100 yards away. So we ended up having to face it.
Miyah Sundermeyer 55:47
You had to face all that, from what I read you the face all the dust, what do you do to cover your faces?
Michael Hingson 55:52
Nothing for a little while, but then somebody was passing out some masks later on. And we got some.
Miyah Sundermeyer 55:57
Yep. And how long did it take before you got out of that area out of Ground Zero?
Michael Hingson 56:03
Probably by the time we really got up to Canal Street, or in that area, which was a little bit away from ground zero. It was about 1115 or 1130. I think by the time we got there, and then then later we got further up north. Yeah. Well, you know, the thing is that we all react differently to different situations. But we tend to have a lot more power to be able to deal with things, if we truly try to know. And my point is, I wasn’t going to rely on people who had signs or red signs. I needed to know what to do. And I will always take input, but I needed to know what to do. And that created a much more firm conviction in my mind that there wasn’t a need to be afraid. And I did use a lot of input from both guide dog Roselle at the time, and from the comments of other people that gave me more information going down the stairs. And I think that’s something that no matter who we are, those are the kinds of things that we need to do.
Miyah Sundermeyer 57:16
Yeah. Well, I’m glad you got out of there safely. I mean, what, like I said, I’m really glad that you didn’t end up caught up in the towers fell.
Michael Hingson 57:25
Yeah, me. Me too. Well, I’m glad that you are, are doing well. And you’re going off to get your PhD, huh? Yeah, well,
Miyah Sundermeyer 57:33
right now I’m going I mean, I was planning on going to school back during 911. I just didn’t know how I was going to do undergrad back at 19. I had just advocated to get out of special ed. And I was not going to do another transition program. Because I didn’t like how the special education teachers were telling me that I needed to do this directions, all because of the DSM and telling me that everything at every dream I wanted was unrealistic. And so they kept shooting it down. And so they tried to put me under a conservatorship or they tried to get my parents to and my parents didn’t agree with that. So they told me I could pretty much call the shots. And so at the end of that school year 2001, I just said, Hey, I’m getting out of here, I’m going to find a way to go to college. So but I, I mean, I tend to to go back a few times and take some learning support classes, after doing what they call is the compass exam, which is it’s an interest exam for you that you can take a two year school, versus the, the AC T or the SCT, which they steered me away from. And so I went, I went that route instead ay ay, ay, I did the two year education first over a five years, from 23 to 28. And then I transferred my credits over to Georgia State. And I went off and on, off and on. And then I reached I finally got my Bachelor’s in 2020. And luckily, I was able to graduate outside on my football field due to COVID, which was a big dream of mine. But
Michael Hingson 59:15
it’s good for you.
Miyah Sundermeyer 59:17
But now I’m getting ready to take some Postback classes. And I want to I need to be talking to advisors, anybody I can because I’m fascinated and I have a background that just most of my classes seem to seem to geared towards developmental type psychology and psychology is my baby. So that’s what I want to get my doctorate in, is developmental psychology and I want to go into research and I’d also like to teach so
Michael Hingson 59:44
I, and I don’t say this lightly, but I’ll bet you’ll be good at it. You’re clearly very articulate, you know what you want to do, and that’s as good as it gets.
Miyah Sundermeyer 59:53
Yep, yep. But, but along the way, I mean, because I didn’t have along the way at my undergrad. I didn’t have mathematical background, I didn’t really have much of an academic background because I was in Special Ed and I hated studying. So when I moved to Atlanta from Minnesota at the age of 20, at the age of 21, my aunt told me that, okay, do you want to flip burgers the rest of your life? Or do you want to go back to school? So about so nearly 20 years ago, I moved down here and started learning how to do math. So math is one of my favorite subjects. Nobody understands why. Well, I spent a lot of time getting exposed to it. That’s why
Michael Hingson 1:00:34
it doesn’t matter. It is. And that’s, that’s the big issue. But yeah, you do have an explanation for it. So that’s pretty cool. Well, Maya, we have been talking for now a little bit over an hour. So I am going to suggest that what we ought to do is to keep in touch. And when you have more adventures about your education talked about, we should get you to come back on the podcast again.
Miyah Sundermeyer 1:00:55
Yep, I will come back and talk about my education, especially as I talked about my progress for that. And then I really need to have temple back on the show. However, I really like to see her in person again, I miss seeing temple. So
Michael Hingson 1:01:11
well, if you talk with her, see if she would love to chat and explore coming on unstoppable mindset. All right, well, thank
Miyah Sundermeyer 1:01:18
you much. Well, I
Michael Hingson 1:01:19
appreciate it. And if people want to reach out to you, is there a way that they can contact you and you have a website or anything or whatever?
Miyah Sundermeyer 1:01:27
Yeah. Well, so I’m a podcast host myself that said that. Yeah. And I’m currently on a podcast tour. And you are number four on the tour. So I’ve HelloWorld with Miyah, and that’s helloworldwithMiyah. podbean.com. That’s Hello, world with Miyah dot pod bean.com.
Michael Hingson 1:01:45
Hello, world with miyah dot pod bean.com. Okay,
Miyah Sundermeyer 1:01:50
yeah. And I have two applications. I am calling for proposals. I’m always looking for guests to be on the show. And I am also on a podcast tour right now. So if you know anyone that has any slots that are open, I would love to be on your show. So
Michael Hingson 1:02:07
great. Well, we can introduce you to people and make some of that happen.
Miyah Sundermeyer 1:02:11
All right. Well, thank you so much.
Michael Hingson 1:02:13
Well, thank you. And I appreciate everyone who is listening to this today. Miyah is certainly one of those people that I want to grow up to be like, I can just say that.
Miyah Sundermeyer 1:02:27
But whoever for two years, I have a young face, but I’m about 40 now.
Michael Hingson 1:02:31
There you go. Well, I want to thank you again. And thank you all for listening. If you’d like to reach out to me, we’d love to hear your thoughts about the episode. You can email me at Michaelhi M I C H A E L H I at accessibe A C C E S S I B E .com. You can also go to our podcast page, which is www dot Michael hingson .com slash podcast Michael Hingson is M I C H A E L H I N G S O N. And if you go to Michael hingson.com/podcast. Or if you’re listening to this at some other location, please give us a five star rating. We appreciate the ratings. And I hope that you’ll give us a five star one for this episode. So again, thank you all for listening. Wherever you are in Miyah, thank you for listening. Are you all you listen to thank you for being here.
Miyah Sundermeyer 1:03:21
All right, thank you much.
Michael Hingson 1:03:22
Michael Hingson 1:03:28
You have been listening to the Unstoppable Mindset podcast. Thanks for dropping by. I hope that you’ll join us again next week, and in future weeks for upcoming episodes. To subscribe to our podcast and to learn about upcoming episodes, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com slash podcast. Michael Hingson is spelled m i c h a e l h i n g s o n. While you’re on the site., please use the form there to recommend people who we ought to interview in upcoming editions of the show. And also, we ask you and urge you to invite your friends to join us in the future. If you know of any one or any organization needing a speaker for an event, please email me at speaker at Michael hingson.com. I appreciate it very much. To learn more about the concept of blinded by fear, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com forward slash blinded by fear and while you’re there, feel free to pick up a copy of my free eBook entitled blinded by fear. The unstoppable mindset podcast is provided by access cast an initiative of accessiBe and is sponsored by accessiBe. Please visit www.accessibe.com. accessiBe is spelled a c c e s s i b e. There you can learn all about how you can make your website inclusive for all persons with disabilities and how you can help make the internet fully inclusive by 2025. Thanks again for listening. Please come back and visit us again next week.