August 14, 2013 12:00AM
Dr. Temple Grandin gave a very personal presentation to Pittsburg State University faculty members Wednesday. Grandin, considered the most accomplished and best-known adult with autism, spoke at PSU’s faculty development day in advance of the beginning of the semester on Aug. 19.
Grandin described her own experience growing up with autism and talked about how she and others like her see the world differently. She suggested specific actions teachers can take to help students with similar challenges.
“Art saved me,” Grandin said of her early school years. She said it was important for her and for others with autism to have jobs to do with their hands.
“One of the worst things schools have done is to take out the hands-on vocational classes,” Grandin said.
In her presentation, Grandin said that autism is a broad term and individuals fall at widely different points along its spectrum. At one end, she said, are people like Einstein. At the other extreme, are others who are profoundly affected.
Now a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, Grandin said she didn’t speak until she was four. In 1950, she was diagnosed with autism and experts suggested she should be institutionalized. In her book, “Emergence: Labeled Autistic,” Grandin recounts “groping her way from the far side of darkness.”
Grandin was not institutionalized and with the help of her parents and mentors along the way, she built a successful career as an educator, author and designer of livestock-handling equipment. It is estimated she has designed the facilities in which half the cattle in the U.S. are handled. She has consulted for firms such as Burger King, McDonald’s, Swift, and others.
HBO brought Grandin’s story to the screen with the full-length film, “Temple Grandin,” starring Claire Danes. She has been featured on National Public Radio and several television programs, including the BBC special, “The Woman Who Thinks Like a Cow,” ABC’s “Primetime Live,” “The Today Show,” “Larry King Live,” “48 Hours,” and “20/20.” Time magazine included Grandin in its 2010 list of the world’s most influential people and she has been the subject of articles in People, Forbes, US News and World Report, and The New York Times. Bravo did a half-hour show on her life and she was featured in the best-selling book, “Anthropologist from Mars.”
Grandin’s books include “Autism and Asperger's Syndrome,” “Thinking in Pictures,” “Emergence: Labeled Autistic,” “Developing Talents,” “Animals In Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior,” “Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships: Decoding Social Mysteries Through the Unique Perspectives of Autism,” “Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals,” “The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger's,” and her latest, “Different ... Not Less.”
Following her presentation to faculty, Grandin spoke to area livestock producers and that evening at a public presentation on autism at Memorial Auditorium.
Grandin’s visit was sponsored by PSU’s Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology. The event was made possible by support from the Helen S. Boylan Foundation.