Temple Grandin: A Real Inspiration for People with Autism

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Yesterday I had the pleasure of hearing Temple Grandin speak. Thank you to Community Health Connections for bringing her to Pittsburgh.  I have attended Temple’s talks a half dozen times over the past 20 years, and each time I am amazed at how she continues to develop her skills. 

As arguably the world’s most accomplished adult with autism, Temple spoke with minimal notes and a high level PowerPoint presentation for almost two hours.  She was funny, irreverent, passionate and articulate.  How awesome is that, given that once she was a non-verbal, temper-driven child who sought solace in her relatives’ cattle brander to comfort herself? 

While pacing back and forth and waving her arms at times, Temple covered a good number of subjects:

  • How imprecise and meaningless labels are in helping those with autism
  • How “brains with problems” have sensory issues that sometimes look like “bad behavior. Maybe it’s those flickering lights, memory of the sound of a fire alarm or an itchy t-shirt.
  • How medical problems such as constipation, toothaches and yeast infections can also cause behavior problems.
  • Helpful accommodations for those with visual and auditory processing problems such as using colored paper or tinted/prism lenses, incandescent instead of fluorescent light bulbs, and wearing a hat.
  • Why we have to return to the practice of expecting even our most disabled children to take turns and do chores. Play board games and walk the dog, she advised.
  • Why hobbies and clubs are essential for learning social interactions. Chess, rockets, video games give kids something to talk to each other about.
  • Why she prefers aerobic exercise, deep pressure, special diets and omega 3 fats to medications with untold side effects. She is now taking probiotics and EFAs in addition to her “old-fashioned” meds for anxiety. 
  • The differences among the different classes of drugs, and why she is opposed to labeling and drugging very young children.
  • Possible successful careers for individuals at both ends of the spectrum.

Temple believes that too many of today’s teens and young adults with Asperger’s  are unemployed and unemployable because they have not had the advantages she did.  While she hated what she calls her “Miss Manners” lessons, she now recognizes their role in teaching her not to swear, make fun of overweight people, dress neatly, and chew with her mouth shut.  She related that she was over 30 before she understood why she had to so something to please others.

If you are unfamiliar with Temple’s story, I strongly recommend reading Emergence: Labeled Autistic, her early story, and Thinking in Pictures, written later in life.  Her latest biography is The Way I See It:  A Personal Look at Autism & Asperger’s.  Her love of animals, which led to her career as the world’s foremost animal handler, is palpable in her Animals in Transition and her newest book, Animals Make Us Human.  More information on these and her work are available at www.grandin.com.

Thank you, Temple for all you do to help those with autism.  Giving you a copy of my book EnVISIONing a Bright Future, and shaking your hand yesterday was a real thrill.  After I unthinkingly and spontaneously extended my hand, I did not know whether to withdraw it quickly or wait.  When she took it and gave me a hearty shake, I thought, “WOW!” What a long road she has traveled!

 

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One Response to “Temple Grandin: A Real Inspiration for People with Autism”

  1. Purple Giraffe Speech, Inc. Says:

    Enjoyed your post!

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