Temple Grandin

Author Temple Grandin: Develop Strengths in Treating Autism

“When I was young, I thought everybody processed information the way I did. I didn’t know I was different,” said best-selling author Temple Grandin, professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University and an autism advocate. “I was not allowed to become a recluse.”

Diagnosed with autism at the age of 4 when the condition was considered a form of brain damage, Grandin reflected on her experience on Nov. 11 during the discussion and book signing as part of the 10th Anniversary lecture series for Georgia State University College of Law’s Center for Law, Health and Society.

Grandin, an expert in the field of animal science, pioneered practices for the humane handling of cattle and other livestock. Her life became the subject of the 2010 Emmy-award winning HBO film, “Temple Grandin,” starring Claire Danes.

The autism spectrum is big – at one end there is Albert Einstein and at the other are people who can’t dress themselves, Grandin said, but diversity in cognitive styles can encourage collaborative problem solving to today’s real world issues.

As an example, Grandin explained, “my thinking is bottom up. I think visually. I have no working memory. I have to write things down. I don’t remember sequence. I could not learn computer programing. I think in photo realistic pictures.” This kind of thinking helped in her pioneering design work for handling cattle.

For those with autism, Grandin stressed the importance of developing strengths also offered ideas of where education falls short. Pulling from her experience, Grandin said she was stretched out of her comfort zone and learned she needed to make transitions slowly.

“Kids today do not have enough free play,” Grandin said. “Taking hand-on classes out of schools is really bad. Hands-on classes such as welding, sewing, cooking and auto shop teach resourceful thinking and problem solving.” They can also help children on the spectrum find their strengths to enable them to support themselves as adults.

“The world needs both the visual thinkers and the detail thinkers,” Grandin said.

“It’s fitting that we’re culminating our 10th Anniversary events with Temple Grandin,” said Leslie Wolf, professor of law and the center’s director. “She is a national leading voice relevant to the center’s unique capacity for problem solving. Grandin reminds us in her books, presentations and life not just to accept cognitive diversity but to value it to maximize our ability to solve problems in the world.”