Temple Grandin at TED 2010
|Born||August 29, 1947
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
|Institutions||Colorado State University|
|Alma mater||Franklin Pierce College
Arizona State University
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
|Known for||published works and work with the livestock industry|
Temple Grandin (born August 29, 1947) is a Doctor of Animal Science and professor at Colorado State University, bestselling author, and consultant to the livestock industry in animal behavior. As a person with high-functioning autism, Grandin is also widely noted for her work in autism advocacy and is the inventor of the hug machine designed to calm hypersensitive persons.
|Autism rights movement|
|Neurodiversity · Neurotypical · Sociological and cultural aspects|
|Aspies For Freedom · Autism National Committee · Autism Network International · Autistic Self Advocacy Network ·|
|Autistic Pride Day · Autreat|
|Judge Rotenberg Educational Center · Karen McCarron|
Grandin was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to Richard Grandin and Eustacia Cutler. She was diagnosed as autistic in 1951. Having been labeled and diagnosed with brain damage at age two, she was placed in a structured nursery school with what she considers to have been good teachers. Grandin's mother spoke to a doctor who suggested speech therapy, and she hired a nanny who spent hours playing turn-based games with Grandin and her sister.
At age four, Grandin began talking, and she began making progress. She considers herself lucky to have had supportive mentors from primary school onwards. However, Grandin has said that middle school and high school were the worst parts of her life. She was the "nerdy kid", the one whom everyone teased and picked on. She would be walking down the street and people would say "tape recorder", because she would repeat things over and over again. Grandin states that "I could laugh about it now, but back then it really hurt".
After graduating from Hampshire Country School, a boarding school for gifted children in Rindge, New Hampshire in 1966, Grandin went on to earn her bachelor's degree in psychology from Franklin Pierce College (also located in Rindge) in 1970, her master's degree in animal science from Arizona State University in 1975, and her PhD in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1989.
Grandin became well known after being described by Oliver Sacks in the title narrative of his book An Anthropologist on Mars (1995); the title is derived from Grandin's description of how she feels around neurotypical people. She first spoke in public about autism in the mid-1980s at the request of Ruth C. Sullivan, one of the founders of the Autism Society of America. Sullivan writes:
"I first met Temple in the mid-1980s ...[at the] annual [ASA] conference.... Standing on the periphery of the group was a tall young woman who was obviously interested in the discussions. She seemed shy and pleasant, but mostly she just listened.... I learned her name was Temple Grandin... It wasn't until later in the week that I realized she was someone with autism....I approached her and asked if she'd be willing to speak at the next year's [ASA] conference. She agreed....The next year... Temple first addressed an [ASA] audience.... people were standing at least three deep....The audience couldn't get enough of her. Here, for the first time, was someone who could tell us from her own experience what it was like to be extremely sound sensitive ("like being tied to the rail and the train's coming")... She was asked many questions: "Why does my son do so much spinning?" "Why does he hold his hands to his ears? "Why doesn't he look at me?" She spoke from her own experience, and her insight was impressive. There were tears in more than one set of eyes that day.... Temple quickly became a much sought-after speaker in the autism community."
Grandin has also been featured on major television programs, such as ABC's Primetime Live, the Today Show, and Larry King Live, and written up in Time magazine, People magazine, Forbes, and The New York Times. She was the subject of the Horizon documentary "The Woman Who Thinks Like A Cow," first broadcast by the BBC on June 8, 2006 and Nick News in the spring of 2006. She has also been a subject in the series First Person by Errol Morris. She is the focus of a semi-biographical HBO film, titled Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes as Grandin. The film was released in 2010.
Based on personal experience, Grandin advocates early intervention to address autism, and supportive teachers who can direct fixations of the child with autism in fruitful directions. She has described her hypersensitivity to noise and other sensory stimuli. She claims she is a primarily visual thinker and has said that language is her second language. Temple attributes her success as a humane livestock facility designer to her ability to recall detail, which is a characteristic of her visual memory. Grandin compares her memory to full-length movies in her head that can be replayed at will, allowing her to notice small details. She is also able to view her memories using slightly different contexts by changing the positions of the lighting and shadows. Her insight into the minds of cattle has taught her to value the changes in details to which animals are particularly sensitive, and to use her visualization skills to design thoughtful and humane animal-handling equipment. She was named a fellow of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers in 2009.
I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we've got to do it right. We've got to give those animals a decent life and we've got to give them a painless death. We owe the animal respect.
Grandin is considered a philosophical leader of both the animal welfare and autism advocacy movements. Both movements commonly cite her work regarding animal welfare, neurology, and philosophy. She knows all too well the anxiety of feeling threatened by everything in her surroundings, and of being dismissed and feared, which motivates her in her quest to promote humane livestock handling processes. Her business website has entire sections on how to improve standards in slaughter plants and livestock farms. In 2004 she won a "Proggy" award, in the "visionary" category, from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
One of her most important essays about animal welfare is "Animals are not Things," in which she posits that animals are technically property in our society, but the law ultimately gives them ethical protections or rights. She uses a screwdriver metaphor: a person can legally smash or grind up a screwdriver but a person cannot legally torture an animal.
Grandin says "the part of other people that has emotional relationships is not part of me" and she has neither married nor had children. She lives alone in Fort Collins, Colorado. Beyond her work in animal science and welfare and autism rights, her interests include horse riding, science fiction, movies, and biochemistry. She describes socializing with others as "boring" and has no interest in reading or watching entertainment about emotional issues or relationships.
She has noted in her autobiographical works that autism affects every aspect of her life. She has to wear comfortable clothes to counteract her sensory integration dysfunction and has structured her lifestyle to avoid sensory overload. She regularly takes anti-depressants and uses a squeeze-box (hug machine) that she invented at the age of 18 as a form of stress relief therapy.
Despite this anxiety, she has stated that, "If I could snap my fingers and become nonautistic I would not do so. Autism is part of who I am."