Respected, celebrated and accomplished beyond expectation, Dr. Temple Grandin has made significant impact on the way autism is viewed today.
By the time Grandin was four, she had been diagnosed with autism and pressured to be institutionalized, which during that time period seemed like the only logical solution to disorders like autism and Asperger's.
By 1990, Grandin had earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Franklin Pierce College, a master's degree in animal science from Arizona State University and a doctoral degree in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
A professor of animal science at Colorado University for over 20 years, Grandin continues to use her photo realistic mind and memory to contribute to both the scientific and autistic world, and still speaks internationally as an advocate for the treatment, education and support of autistic children and adults.
“The Autistic Brain,” a slideshow presented by Grandin, demonstrated how the autistic mind differs from others, the types of autism and why those minds are necessary to our world today.
Professor Grandin calls for teaching hands on activities, specialized skills and resourceful thinking in and out of the classroom, especially where children on the spectrum are concerned.
Early intervention must happen to find a child's favorite interest as well as any special abilities and strengths. Building on such strengths can be the key to success.
Grandin is allowed to see things most people can't see, and has developed her talents into a flourishing career as a livestock-handling equipment designer, one of very few in the world.
“I have read enough to know that there are still many parents, and yes, professionals too, who believe that ‘once autistic, always autistic.’ This dictum has meant sad and sorry lives for many children diagnosed, as I was in early life, as autistic. To these people, it is incomprehensible that the characteristics of autism can be modified and controlled. However, I feel strongly that I am living proof that they can,” Grandin states in the book Emergence: Labeled Autistic.
Although considered “strange” in her young school years, Temple found a mentor through her education, who recognized her deep interests and expertise with a variety of sciences.
Grandin also believes, from experience, that a strong background in manners is important, and can teach and instill certain social skills autistic people lack.
“We have to stretch these kids,” Professor Grandin said. “I'm a big believer in tuning into the kid's interests. Get them involved in something they have shown interest in.”
Dr. Grandin’s unique ability to scientifically understand animal behavior and her innovations in the livestock field have revolutionized food-animal welfare.
Half of our country's cattle handled in the United States are handled through Grandin's designs and facilities, consulting for firms such as Burger King, McDonald’s, Swift and others. She is also author to Animals Make us Human, Animals in Translation, a book in which Grandin proves her special understanding of what animals desire, fear, think and feel.
Grandin argues that the world needs unique minds such as those with autism. Careers that combine engineering and art, such as welding and computer programing.
“Autism is part of who I am, but being a college professor comes first,” stated the doctor of animal science.
Temple suggested that parents are being too tolerant of bullying, laziness, and is concerned that autistic children are getting too hung up on the label given to them along with their diagnosis.
“I had worked cleaning horse stalls, painting signs, interning at research labs, and had a sewing job all before I entered college,” Grandin said. "You need to have a ton of work experience before you graduate college. I'm seeing college graduates without any work skills. You need to get up in the morning, and you have to get it done.”
In attendance was the Bridges to Adelphi program, which helps students with Asperger's, autism and other social anxiety disorders. Bridges aims to enhance the quality of college life for students with non-verbal learning disabilities through aid in organizational, time management, social and independent living skills.
Student members of Bridges as well as other members of the audience were given the opportunity to ask Temple questions once the slideshow ended. Questions ranged from advice for helping autistic children in and out of the classroom to how to handle criticism and confrontation from others off the spectrum.
“This presentation really speaks to students and their families about what they can do to be successful,” said Mark Nagler, director of Bridges to Adelphi.
Dr. Grandin has been author to many insightful books that have helped readers understand the autistic brain, including Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships, Thinking in Pictures and her best-selling book The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger’s.
Emergence: Labeled Autistic is Temple's story of “groping her way from the far side of darkness.” A book that proved parents and most professionals wrong.
Her fascinating life, with all its challenges and successes, has been brought to the big screen. Acclaimed 2010 HBO biopic, Temple Grandin, was winner of six Emmy awards and a Golden Globe. Her accomplishments as a speaker, author and advocate earned her a place among TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2010. She has been featured on NPR (National Public Radio), major television programs, such as the BBC special, "The Woman Who Thinks Like a Cow," and has been written about in many national publications, including People magazine, Forbes, U.S. News and World Report and The New York Times.
Dr. Grandin is currently in the process of revising her academic research and journals and hopes to continue advocating for autism.