Lecturer Temple Grandin presents new book, "My Life with Autism" to MUB crowd

By Phoebe McPherson
On November 16, 2012

  • Temple Grandin spoke and signed copies of her book in the Granite State Room of the MUB on Wednesday, Nov. 14. Cameron Johnson/Staff

Over an hour before the lecture in the Granite State Room was to begin, students, faculty and community members waited in anticipation in a long line that wound its way through Union Court, nearly ending outside the Strafford Room. The Strafford Room and Union Court became overflow and simulcast areas because the crowd was just too big. Meanwhile, the guest speaker, Temple Grandin, sat signing her books.

 "I wanted to prove to people that I wasn't stupid," she said.

Grandin suffers from autism, Asperger's Disorder, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but she doesn't let that hold her back. In her lecture Wednesday, "My Life with Autism," Grandin highlighted parts of her life that she struggled with, the parts where she strived, and explained where she is headed now. She is currently a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and has written a number of books on both animals and her ways of thinking.

"My personal field of work has no academic entry," Grandin said.

She is a consultant in the field of animal science and livestock.

According to Grandin, animals are sensory, visual thinkers. She said she understands their anxiety and what they're going through as they approach their deaths at slaughterhouses. She designed curved corrals to calm their fear. All of her designs were hand-drawn.

"I think in pictures," she said.

She went on to explain that her own functioning is visual and sensory-based, like a constant movie playing in her mind. Grandin emphasized this idea by referencing math thinkers who see water turbulence patterns in Vincent Van Gogh paintings.

Grandin spoke bluntly about her childhood, saying others "called me tape recorder." High school was the worst time of her life, she said, but she attributes her success to her mother and numerous teachers who got her interested in science.

Grandin spoke of a young autistic boy who is now earning a Ph.D. at age 15 in math and astronomy. She used this example to inform the crowd about how she hoped to shed light on the education system as a whole.

"Schools are too single-minded," she said, addressing the students in the audience. "Avoid the interview ... You want to get a portfolio in their hand," she said.

In helping young children and other autistic children, Grandin said she believes that special interest groups are best. Anything from Boy Scouts to computing club, "put them together in the same projects," she said. Grandin was able to find comfort and relief from early childhood bullying in these kinds of after-school groups.  

"The world is in need of different kinds of minds to work together ... to complement each other," she said.

While concluding her speech, Grandin reminded the audience that while she is autistic, it's not something that controls her every day.

 "I don't want to get cured because I like the way I think," she said.

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