Temple Grandin is a world-renowned autism spokesperson and livestock industry expert on animal behavior. She recently spoke at the Landon Lecture Series at K-State University to discuss her thoughts on how educators can help students who are diagnosed with autism.
Grandin is herself a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. She says there are common denominators of success for unique minds, including an early exposure to career interests.
“I got introduced to beef cattle when I was 15 when I went to my aunt’s ranch,” she said. “Also, learning how to work at an early age: when I was 13, my mother got me a sewing job; when I was 15, I was cleaning eight horse stalls every day and running a horse barn.
“Learning how to work,” she continued. “And, I had a great science teacher. This is where mentors really turn a student around.”
Grandin says early intervention is the bright spot for children diagnosed with autism, but she finds the addiction to video games troubling.
“I’m seeing smart kids getting addicted to video games and they’re playing video games on Social Security when they need to be working in the maintenance shop at Cargill,” she exclaimed. “That’s where they need to be,” she paused while the audience applause. “And you know what they’re going to find? That working in that maintenance shop is a whole lot more fun than video games.”
Grandin says working on construction projects affected the way she thinks because she had to sell a job, design it, supervise its construction, start it up, and make it work.
“We gotta get that job done. And if some smart kid is in the basement playing video games, we’ve not gotten the job done. When you’re in construction, you gotta get the job done.”
Grandin, who showed signs of autism at an early age, self-describes her unique thought process as thinking in pictures.
Grandin is also an accomplished livestock equipment designer and a successful animal welfare advocate. She has published several books and given many talks about animal welfare and the autistic brain.