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Temple Grandin

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Temple Grandin is one of the world’s leading experts in the design and construction of livestock handling facilities. Temple is also a recovered autistic. Throughout her life, Temple experienced much physical, emotional, and psychological pain because of her condition. An individual with autism is looked upon as helpless, but, with much determination, Temple Grandin proved to be all but helpless.

Temple Grandin was born in 1947 to her nineteen year old mother. When Temple was six months old, her mother noticed that she was no longer a cuddly baby, but that she was irritated by the human touch and angered at attempts for communication. In Temple’s toddler years, she isolated herself completely. This aloneness led Temple to fixate on, or obsess about specific things. Temple always had a certain fixation in her mind, which put away her desire for learning to communicate verbally. All of Temple’s family saw her as different and could not get used to her one-track mind or her outrageously angered actions.

“Autism is a type of pervasive developmental disorder. It interferes with a person’s ability to communicate with and relate to others. Autism is a lifelong condition that results in some degree of social isolation. Autism affects how a person perceives and processes sensory information. Signs of autism almost always develop before a child is 3 years old, although the condition is frequently not diagnosed until later. Typically, parents first become concerned when they notice their toddler does not respond or interact like other children of the same age. Toddlers with autism do not usually babble or talk normally, and may seem to have hearing problems. The severity of autism varies. Some individuals need assistance in almost all aspects of their daily lives, while others are able to function at a very high level and can even attend school in a regular classroom. Although it is difficult to determine, studies show that below-normal intelligence occurs in about 70% of autistic children. In addition, the social functioning of autistic children is less than what is expected for their intelligence quotient levels.” -MSN Encarta Encyclopedia

The nature of autism is very difficult to deal with, and requires patience, effort, and focus. Temple’s school days were very difficult, and many teachers did not want to deal with her condition. Temple entered seventh grade at Cherry Hill Girls School, a large, private day school in Norwich, Connecticut. In Temple’s elementary school days, classes were comprised of about fifteen students and one teacher; now, Temple was traumatically overwhelmed with confusion from overpopulated rooms and noisy crowds. Temple’s gift came through in creative classes such as art, sciences, and workshop. Because of Temple’s autism, she could not focus on or understand anything not related to visual learning.

Through conflict at Cherry Hill Girls School, Temple was expelled. Temple’s parents looked into a school named Mountain Country School in Vermont, where she began attending in January of 1960. This new school was much smaller, and easier for Temple to comprehend, thus easing her frustration and confusion. It was here that Temple found Mr. Carlock, a teacher. Mr. Carlock always challenged Temple by channeling her fixations into constructive projects; he did not see any labels on Temple because of her condition. Mr. Carlock reassured Temple of her worth and heightened her desire to study.

As years went on at Mountain Country School, Temple discovered her gift and love for building objects. Temple learned of the Ames Distorted Room, and began studying it and building models of it. Temple fixated on the angles and shapes involved in building this structure. While visiting her aunt’s ranch, Temple was encouraged to do things such as rebuilding the roof of the pump house, repairing the railing on a fence, and helping with the cattle in the squeeze chute- a device for holding animals for branding or vaccination. Temple wrote, “Doing physical labor eased my nerve attacks, and I was fascinated by the workings of the squeeze chute.” Autistics often need pressure on the skin because it soothes the nerve endings. Temple began to study the squeeze chute. She recognized the amount of pressure it must put forth and thought that she might benefit from it.

Temple Grandin learned to channel her fixations into construction. Temple’s mind began to open, and its wonder and ingenuity was revealed. From the time that Temple discovered the squeeze chute, she has been building structures just like it to aid people with autism. “Temple Grandin is now a designer of livestock handling facilities and an Associate Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. Facilities she has designed are located in the United States, Canada, Europe, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries. In North America, almost half of the cattle are handled in a center track restrainer system that she designed for meat plants. Curved chute and race systems she has designed for cattle are used worldwide and her writings on the flight zone and other principles of grazing animal behavior have helped many people to reduce stress on their animals during handling.”

“Temple Grandin obtained her B.A. at Frankin Pierce College and her M.S. in Animal Science at Arizona State University. Dr. Grandin received her Ph.D in Animal Science from the University of Illinois in 1989. Today she teaches courses on livestock behavior and facility design at Colorado State University and consults with the livestock industry on facility design, livestock handling, and animal welfare.” – www.grandin.com/temple.html

Autism is a condition that must be cared for with patience and encouragement. Temple Grandin overcame her disability and is successful in all that she does. Temple’s success is, in part, attributed to the people in her childhood that believed in and challenged her.

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