Temple Grandins unique perception of the world revolutionised the livestock industry6 Jun 2012
People with Autism have certain ways they view the world. When they don't behave like ‘normal' people they can be teased and ridiculed and put down.
I have seen this all take place, as my husband, Andrew, has Autism. I think it's sad that people cannot adjust their perception of what ‘normal' is and be flexible to how things are done in order to interact with people with autism - to learn, laugh and create relationships with them.
Temple Grandin is an American doctor of animal science and a consultant to the livestock industry on animal behaviour. She was listed in the Time 100 list of the 100 most influential people in the world in the "Heroes" category.
Temple was diagnosed with autism at age 2 in 1950. This diagnoses was labelled “brain damage”. Temple began talking at age 4 and sees herself as lucky to have had supportive mentors from primary school onwards. However, middle and high school were the worst parts of her life. She was the "nerdy kid" who got teased.
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, her master's degree in animal science and her doctoral degree in animal science [some ‘brain damage' huh??].
What I find most amazing about Temple Grandin is that she has been able to use her disability to help animals and that her gifted insight into how animals are feeling. They are the parallel struggles she faces with her autism that she is able to use to give voice to these animals. She knows the anxiety of feeling threatened by everything in her surroundings, and of being dismissed and feared, which motivates her work in humane livestock handling processes.
One of her notable essays about animal welfare is “Animals are not Things”. She compares the properties and rights of owning cows versus owning screwdrivers, summing up how both can be utilised to serve human purposes in many ways but, when it comes to inflicting pain, there is a vital distinction between such 'properties': a person can legally smash or grind up a screwdriver but cannot legally torture an animal.
Her insight into the advocacy of animals is outstanding and it is only by her own struggles that she could come up with this truth.
As a person with Autism, Temple struggles with hypersensitivity to noise and other sensory stimuli. She is primarily a visual thinker and has said that words are 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. Her insight into the minds of cattle due to her own hypersensitivity 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.
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Inspiring or what?
Do you have a special gift because of your disability that you would like to share?