Temple Grandin Event

Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to hear the amazing Temple Grandin speak at the LA Public Library (through ALOUD) as part of her tour for her newest book, The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum. For those who aren't familiar with Grandin, she herself is autistic, nonverbal until she was three and then diagnosed when she was much older. Grandin had to deal with extensive bullying and the low expectations of others as child, motivating her to prove to the world that she was intelligent and able to achieve independence. Grandin is responsible for designing a system that allows cows a more calming experience on their way to being slaughtered, as well as many other advances in animal science. She holds a PhD and teaches in Colorado. 

One thing I loved about Grandin's talk was that there was no moderator- it was delivered more in the style of a lecture, complete with a PowerPoint presentation. She had a lot of great insights for educators, including the point that autistic students need to be pushed outside of their comfort zone and given skills that will help them get jobs. Teachers and parents should utilize the areas the children are most interested in, using them as a bridge into social interactions and skill development. She encouraged school to increase their hands-on classes and to help "normal" students (her words...) to better understand the needs of those with Asperger's and autism. She is concerned about the impact of STEM learning on some autistic students, though, since that isn't necessarily the way their brains are wired to learn.


Grandin also talked a great deal about her belief in the autism spectrum's wide range. She believes that exhibiting some traits can actually be positive- she used the "techies of the Silicon Valley" as examples, saying that their attention to detail, ability to problem solve, and perfectionism have resulted in great accomplishments. She compared the spectrum to a sound board- there are many different areas that can either be turned up or turned down. The problem becomes when the combination, or the amplitude, is just too much for a person and interferes with their quality of life. Grandin herself takes antidepressants in order to help curb anxiety, something she says has helped her enormously. 

Grandin spoke a great deal about her specific experiences with autism, showing brain scans that were recently taken of her. She compared them to the scans of someone without autism and the results were astounding. She doesn't believe in a gene for autism, though, and says that diet and exercise can help control the condition. Grandin discussed the fact that she thinks through pictures and, up until recently, assumed that everyone with autism did as well. She thinks that people are either verbal, pattern, or visual thinkers and that schools need offer courses of study for all strengths. 

Grandin was insightful, humorous, and bluntly honest (some of her responses to audience questions were hilariously brutal). If you can ever manage to see her speak I highly recommend it. 


  1. I am going to see Temple Grandin speak next month in Philadelphia. I'm super excited. Have you seen the HBO movie about her?

  2. That sounds like a terrific talk. I would love to have heard it. I've seen a short piece on Granding on... PBS, I think it was. She is an amazing woman.

  3. Wow! What a cool opportunity. I read one of her other books and found it fascinating. I'd love to see her talk if I could.

  4. I love Temple Grandlin. She had a talk near where I live, but I happened to be out of town! I am determine to see her at some point. You should check out the movie about her (with Claire Danes). It is very good. Interestingly, the slaughter/cattle industry had more problems with her as a woman than because she was autistic.