Today’s post begins with Temple Grandin, the world’s most famous spokesperson for autism and ends with me trying to sell a cow. If you are new here, this is the pattern. I pick something in the shop and use it as a creative writing prompt. Often, the writing is humorous. But not today because Temple Grandin is serious about her purpose. Like many autistics, she’s a black and white kind of gal.
For those who don’t know, Temple Grandin is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. She first made a name for herself as an inventor who designed more humane animal chutes that minimize livestock mistreatment and injury. She holds a phD in animal science, along with many honorary degrees, was named to the Time Magazine 100 list of most influential people, and has authored more than a dozen books, including The Loving Push, published this year. She gave a TED Talk which you can watch here. Or watch the HBO biopic with Clare Danes playing Temple Grandin.
I saw her speak recently at an event sponsored by the Autism Society of Southeast Wisconsin. My reason for going was black and white: my youngest son is on the autism spectrum and I thought I could learn something to benefit him.
When she took the stage, Ms. Grandin spoke in a unique style. She repeats phrases over and over. Her voice is both shrill and gruff. Her manner is flat. She transitions abruptly from slide to slide. In other words, her autistic speech patterns are front and center.
Yet this is exactly why people flock to see her. First and foremost, she is an autistic superstar. She explains very simply that it is because of her autism, not in spite of her autism, that she is a success.
When she was young, kids teased her, calling her “tape recorder.” Besides being ostracized socially, she suffered terribly from sensory sensitivity in middle and high school, finding it near impossible to learn. She matter-of-factly explained that during her childhood, the primary emotion she felt was fear.
When it came to her mother, Ms. Grandin spoke reverently. Her mother refused to institutionalize Ms. Grandin. And while she acknowledged her daughter's anxiety, she also continuously stretched Ms. Grandin just outside her comfort zone. When Ms. Grandin was fifteen, “Mother told me I was going to visit my aunt on her cattle ranch and she gave me a choice. I could go for one week or I could go for the whole summer. ‘Not going’ was not a choice.”
Temple Grandin’s time on that cattle ranch changed her life. She realized she had an ability to experience a farm or a ranch from an animal’s perspective. She could sense where and why farm animals became upset. When it came time to problem-solve, Temple was able to draw upon a mental database of images that flashed in her mind like a film. In that sequence of images, Temple could spot problems and conceive solutions.
She loves to repeat her mantras. Over and over, she extolled the virtues of good manners, which she credits with providing her a way to overcome social deficiencies. Over and over, she said that when opportunity opens a door, it's up to us to walk through quickly before it shuts.
But this statement, which she made only once, puzzled me. She said, "I make sure I go back and forth between the worlds." Did she mean that she closes the distance between human and animal? Or that she is a self-designated ambassador between the autistic world and the neurotypical world? Or does she refer to the necessity of pushing society to go from devaluing autistics to recognizing and benefiting from autistics and their unusual cognitive gifts.
Whichever sentiment Temple Grandin meant to convey, we are listening with all ears.
Now, on to the cow:
New at Finder Not Keeper
This charming folk art steer, hand carved and hand painted, is about the size of a Tom Brady football, meaning a little smaller than a regular football. Click on the pic for more shopping info:
Lastly, if you made it all the way down to the bottom, you deserve a smile. How about a bovine smile that's been blurred out to protect the cow's identity? Thank you Google Street View. Click to read more here.