Have you ever had an autistic person tell you what it feels like to be autistic? Have you ever thought about what it might feel like to be a cow? Probably not but an autistic lady named Temple Grandin was the first person to give us insight into what it feels like to be autistic and because she used her visionary mind which didn't leave out any detail, Temple was able to understand what it was like to be a cow and shed some light on the workings of animal behavior. As a result of this, Temple was able to design a very humane corral for slaughter houses which made the process more efficient and less stressful for the animals.
In 1950, sixty years ago, Temple was diagnosed with autism around the age of two. She didn't speak until she was four. Imagine how stressful it would be for a mother whose child doesn't speak until four years old. But her mother persevered and through her dedication and the help of nannies and teachers, Temple was able to move forward in life and even in education. But people made fun of her and called her names such as "tape recorder" because she would repeat things over and over again. She hated social life and didn't understand the emotional side of people. She couldn't hug her mother or anyone for a matter of fact but she needed the sensation of a hug. So at eighteen years old she created a squeeze machine. We now call this a hug machine but Temple got the idea from her aunt's farm by watching the cattle being vaccinated in a squeeze chute. The squeeze chute calmed the cattle down so Temple created one for herself to calm her hypersensitivity.
Temple was the first person to explain what it felt like to be autistic. When she spoke at the ASA (Autism Society of America) conference people asked her many questions about their children that she was able to answer from her own experience. They wondered why their children were so sensitive to sound, why they would spin around in circles or roll on the ground, or why they wouldn't look at their parents or let them touch them. Temple understood questions like these and answered them giving great insight to parents and people everywhere. She explained to them in not only words but in books that she wrote, especially in her autobiography titled Emergence: Labeled Autistic, what it was like to be autistic and how sounds, bright lights and colors, or even touch could affect someone with autism. She also insisted that children with autism need many hours of care every day by an effective teacher. They need attention and can never be left alone by themselves to do nothing. They need to be always learning whether that is in how to take turns, basic manners, learning how to be self sufficient, how to handle a job, how to be on time or basic everyday situations , they need to be doing something.
Temple's mind is extraordinary. She thinks in pictures. Her language is in pictures. She considers English her second language which narrates the pictures in her mind. She could play memories over in her mind like a movie and remember every detail. Just like Google images. If you said something she would think of it in pictures but it wasn't just vague pictures they were specific pictures that she had categorized in her mind. She was a visionary thinker and this is what helped her step into the world of the cattle industry.
Temple understood the mind of animals. She says, "My theory is that there are similarities between my autistic mind and animal thinking." Fear was one similarity. Many animals main emotion is fear. For Temple when she was younger her main emotion was fear. She was always looking around and always very jittery trying to see if there was any danger to look out for. But animal thinking is sensory based. Temple could make herself think like an animal she was able to understand animal behavior. Just like she could understand autistic behavior and explain those reactions therefore helping those people live a better life, Temple was able to understand animal behavior, explain it and therefore help the cattle industry be more humane. Temple used her visionary mind to create a special corral design for the humane handling of cattle. This design made the process of cattle being handled and slaughtered less stressful for the animals and more humane. Her design was brilliant and she knew it inside and out because she was able to test run it in her head to prove that it worked.
Temple's achievements are remarkable. Along with her creations, designs and books she has a bachelor's degree in psychology a master's degree in animal science and a doctoral degree in animal science. Currently she is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. Temple Grandin is clearly an extraordinary women and a great inspiration to us all.