From a parent’s point of view Dr. Temple Grandin is more than just another person with autism. She’s an example of what people with autism can accomplish. Not only has she learned how to deal with the world through the confinements of autism, she has written books, and she has had a tremendous impact as an inventor of devices and facilities for the humane handling and treatment of livestock. She has had career success. She shows that people with autism can succeed on many levels. And that gives us parents hope that our children can do the same.
Probably the most well known person with autism, Temple Grandin has given the scientific community, and everyone else, an inside view of how the mind of an autistic individual works. And as of 2010 her fame has grown with the HBO movie about her life with Claire Danes playing the lead part. Temple’s books such as Thinking in Pictures, The Way I See It, and Emergence: Labeled Autistic are groundbreaking. No need to speculate on how the autistic mind works; Temple tells us how it works. Many doctors have attempted to explore autism and explain it, but nobody can tell it like somebody who’s living it. And that’s what has made her so valuable to the autistic community and certainly to parents who strive to learn more about their child’s ASD. It’s a bit ironic that Temple became a doctor herself.
Temple has “always had a deep connection with animals.” It seems that many people with autism connect well with animals, but Temple professes to a deep connection. She cares so much for animals, especially cows, that she devotes quite a bit of time to them. About 1/3 of all livestock handling facilities in use around the world were invented by her. She has a PhD in animal science. Temple writes about animals and autism mostly, and many of her books combine the two.
A large amount of Temple Grandin’s time is also spent speaking at autism conferences. Usually she’s the keynote speaker.
For those of you interested in how she was as a young child Temple was born August 29, 1947 in Boston, Massachusetts. At age two and a half she had no speech and no interest in people. In fact, as she notes, “I was my mother’s first child, and I was like a little wild animal. Between nonstop tantrums and a penchant for smearing feces, I was a terrible two-year-old.”
In Thinking in Pictures (page 8) Temple Grandin says, “Being autistic, I don’t naturally assimilate information that most people take for granted. Instead, I store information in my head as if it were on a CD-ROM disc. When I recall something I have learned, I replay the video in my imagination.”
She also has this advice for teachers: “Teachers who work with autistic children need to understand associative thought patterns. An autistic child will often use a word in an inappropriate manner. Sometimes these uses have a logical associative meaning and other times they don’t.” In the book she goes on in more detail.
With the way Dr. Spock logically thought things through it should be no surprise that Temple Grandin was a fan of Star Trek from the beginning. She could relate to Leonard Nemoy’s character. In Star Trek: The Next Generation she easily related to Lieutenant Commander Data, the android who had an extremely logical thought process as well.
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