Friday, October 31, 2014

Have you heard about Temple Grandin before?

I promised to put Temple Grandin story up before the end of October, so this is it...

Sometime in 2010, I stumbled on a movie called “Temple Grandin”. The movie was a biography of a woman, Temple Grandin, living with autism. It was inspiring for me, mostly because as a support worker in a centre for children with autism, it stirred up hope in my heart for the children I worked with at the time. It was proof that there was hope for recovery, as the story was about a living person who in spite of the limitations of autism was a doctor of animal science, a consultant to the livestock industry on animal behaviour, an engineer, and an autism advocate.

Fast forward to 2012, a parent asked me if there was anybody on d spectrum that she could read about. One name came readily to my mind; Temple Grandin. So here I am sharing the story of this amazing woman living with autism, and has been able to make the most of life in spite of the disorder and its effects.


                                                      Image gotten from wikipedia.com

Temple Grandin was born on August 29, 1947 in Boston, Massachusetts, to Eustacia Cutler and Richard Grandin. When she was two years old, she was diagnosed with autism.  Her mother placed her in a structured nursery school. Temple Grandin suffered delayed speech, which is a typical sign of autism. After a doctor suggested speech therapy to her mother, she hired a nanny who spent hours playing turn-taking games with Temple and her sister. She eventually started talking at age four.

Temple went on to primary school, where she says she had supportive mentors. She had a rough experience in middle school and high school because of her poor communication skills. She recounts that it hurt her then when other students ridiculed her. They referred to her as “tape recorder” because she used to repeat herself constantly.

Temple Grandin went on Franklin Pierce College, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 1970. She later obtained a master’s degree in animal science from Arizona State University in 1975. In 1989, she earned a PhD in animal science from the University of Illinois.

Although Grandin was initially diagnosed with Brain damage, her mother decided to find the help she needed. Now she is considered one of the most successful people with autism. She is an inventor, as she invented the “hug box” which is a device that can be used to calm a hypersensitive person, usually a person with autism, by providing deep pressure to the person. She has authored many books including Thinking in pictures: My life with autism, The Autistic Brain: Thinking across the spectrum, The Way I see it: A Personal look at Autism & Asperger's, Emergence: Labeled Autistic, Sensory Challenges and Answers, Different not less: Inspiring Stories of Achievement and successful employment from adults with Autism, Asperger's, and ADHD, and so many other books on autism. She has also written books as an animal scientist, such as; Animals make us human, Genetics and Behaviour of Domestic Animals, Improving animal welfare: A Practical Approach, Livestock Handling and Transport, and many more books. She has also authored many articles along these lines.

According to her biography on her website, Temple Grandin “is a designer of livestock handling facilities and a Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. Facilities she has designed are located in the United States, Canada, Europe, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries. In North America, almost half of the cattle are handled in a center track restrainer system that she designed for meat plants. Curved chute and race systems she has designed for cattle are used worldwide and her writings on the flight zone and other principles of grazing animal behavior have helped many people to reduce stress on their animals during handling. She has also developed an objective scoring system for assessing handling of cattle and pigs at meat plants. This scoring system is being used by many large corporations to improve animal welfare. Other areas of research are: cattle temperament, environmental enrichment for pigs, reducing dark cutters and bruises, bull fertility, training procedures, and effective stunning methods for cattle and pigs at meat plants.”

Temple is an autism advocate, and she is very much involved in autism awareness. She talks about her own experiences and challenges as a person living with autism. She talks about her anxieties, sensory processing difficulties, challenges with social interaction, and most importantly how pictures and not words are her primary language. These are similar to the experiences our own children with autism (as parents and care-givers) face.

   Image gotten from www.biography.com

For me, Temple Grandin’s story gives me hope and inspires me. As long as I don’t give up on any child, and as long as I give my best to each child; the limitations that autism present can be made to work to the child’s advantage. I hope Temple’s story does the same for you.