Posted by: Kelley Dees | February 17, 2011

The Endurance of Temple Grandin


Photography Credit: Rosalie Winard

Have you heard of Dr. Temple Grandin? Maybe you’ve seen her on The Today Show, Larry King Live, 48 Hours, and 20/20. Maybe you’ve read about her in Time magazine, People magazine, Forbes, and New York Times. Maybe you’ve even seen the full-length HBO film Temple Grandin (starring Claire Danes) that portrays the life of Dr. Grandin.

HBO Movie portraying the life of Temple Grandin

Dr. Grandin didn’t talk until she was three and a half years old, communicating her frustration instead by screaming, peeping, and humming. In 1950, she was diagnosed with autism and her parents were told she should be institutionalized. In her book Emergence: Labeled Autistic, she tells her story of “groping her way from the far side of darkness.” This book stunned the world because, until its publication, most professionals and parents assumed that an autism diagnosis was virtually a death sentence to achievement or productivity in life.

Dr. Grandin has become a prominent author and speaker on the subject of autism. Grandin says “I have read enough to know that there are still many parents, and yes, professionals too, who believe that ‘once autistic, always autistic.’ This dictum has meant sad and sorry lives for many children diagnosed, as I was in early life, as autistic. To these people, it is incomprehensible that the characteristics of autism can be modified and controlled. However, I feel strongly that I am living proof that they can” (from Emergence: Labeled Autistic).

Even though she was considered “weird” in her young school years, she eventually found a mentor, who recognized her interests and abilities. Dr. Grandin later developed her talents into a successful career as a livestock-handling equipment designer, one of very few in the world. She has designed the facilities in which half the cattle are handled in the United States, consulting for firms such as Burger King, McDonald’s, Swift, and others.

“The obstacles that Grandin has overcome in her life are simply inspiring,” said Kelley Dees, project coordinator of Wyoming AgrAbility. “I am pleased to have the opportunity to work with such a brilliant woman who is a hero to so many.”

Dr. Grandin presently works as a Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. She also speaks around the world on both autism and cattle handling.

Dr. Grandin will present “The Field of Animal Sciences” and “Animals, Autism, and Sensory-Based Thinking” at the University of Wyoming on Monday, February 28, 2011. Her appearance is sponsored by Wyoming AgrAbility, a program in the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service, with support from the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources and the Wyoming INstitute for Disabilities (WIND).

“Bringing Grandin to UW will help share and spread the importance of her work,” said Dees. “Her livestock handling innovations have revolutionized the way cattle are handled in the United States and in countries abroad. Her animal handling practices not only provide better meat quality, but, when done correctly, prevent the animal from feeling any pain.”

If you live in the area, we would love to see you at the event! For more information, see the poster here!

This information is provided courtesy of the Wyoming AgrAbility Project. For more information, visit our website or call toll-free at 866-395-4986.

Biographical information on Dr. Temple Grandin was adapted from that on her official autism website.

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