Dr. Temple Grandin inspires crowd
|Dr. Grandin speaks with familiies after her talk at Monsanto Auditorium
Grandin’s notoriety and wit caused more than 400 people to wedge into Monsanto Auditorium on the University of Missouri campus on October 8, 2010 to hear her speak about how she personally beat the odds, and what others with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) can do to find success in their own lives.
During her talk titled Careers for Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Grandin said that as soon as she was diagnosed with autism, her mother enrolled her in a speech therapy class offered by two teachers in her community. There she began to acquire language skills. Her mother also hired a nanny for Temple and her brother and sister, who spent hours playing turn taking games with the children, helping Temple build social skills.
“My mother had normal expectations for me.” Said Grandin of her days as a child. “ She expected me to have manners at the dinner table and to be polite and to go to school. She also made me do stuff.”
As she spoke about her childhood, Grandin stated that she is a visual thinker. “I see things in pictures.” she said. “When I was a kid I assumed that everyone saw the world in the same way I did. I thought the other kids were stronger than me because they could wear clothes that I couldn’t stand because of my sensitivity to textures.”
Grandin credits her involvement in hand-on classes like art and home economics and her love of animals with helping her find and build upon her strengths. “Art class saved me in school.” She said.
She also found that working with horses provided needed respite from the teasing she endured at the hands of her classmates for being different.
“I could go be with the horses and I’d feel better.” She recalls.
Today, Grandin believes that children, especially those with autism, don’t have the same opportunities to build upon their strengths and to get away by themselves when they are overwhelmed. She cites an explosion in the use of the internet and cell phones as a problem because when kids spend time interacting with others through these devices, they are exposing themselves to more opportunities for bullying. To counteract today’s over indulgence in technology, Grandin suggests involving children with autism in hands-on activities such as sewing, drawing, working with animals, etc.
|Dr. Grandin with Drs. Sandy and Robert Hodge
“Through these activities kids can learn valuable life skills and develop social interactions with others who share their interests.” Grandin said.
Grandin believes that her experiences in art and working with animals, along with the support of her parents, aunt and science teacher, are what made her successful. Through these activities she discovered her own strengths and interests and was motivated to pursue a career as a scientist and livestock equipment designer.
While Temple knew what she wanted to for a living, getting a job was not easy. The field of animal science didn’t include many women, and because of her autism, Grandin didn’t have the social skills to sell herself. Her way around this dilemma - “Sell your work, not yourself.”
As Grandin spoke about securing a job, she recommended that individuals with ASD find a way to share what they are good at with the people in an organization who need those skills. She also encouraged individuals to be creative in seeking work and to look for work in unusual places.
When an individual with autism does secure a job that utilizes their interests and strengths, Grandin’s advice for keeping the job is, “Keep your mouth shut!”
According to Grandin, too many talented young adults with autism end up losing their job because they act inappropriately and are overly critical. Said Grandin of these individuals, “You can’t de-geek the geek, but you can make him a polite geek.”
Grandin’s advice seemed to resonate with the crowd she was speaking to. Following her talk, several parents and their children waited patiently in a long line for the opportunity to shake her hand and speak to her personally. A living example of the importance of early intervention and emotional support, Grandin received the attention, that would have made her cringe in earlier years, with enthusiasm.