An evening with Temple Grandin
Dylan Haviland – Special to the Southern News
It was late at night and the auditorium in Engleman Hall bustled with activity. Members of the Board of Education and students alike conversed excitedly over the event. Then with a persona of composure and confidence one of the audience members rose up and paced slowly to the front.
The figure was garbed in southern horse riding apparel, with intricate designs sewn onto the shoulders and breast. Within a moment that member of the crowd now brought everyone’s undivided attention to her, it was clear that Temple Grandin had the auditorium in her grasp.
Dr. Temple Grandin’s list of achievements and accolades are only a pinprick on her contributions to society. Named in 2010 by Time magazine as one of the top 100 people that affect the world, Grandin is a professor at several colleges and works in the fields of autism treatments and rights.
Being diagnosed herself with high functioning autism at a young age, Temple Grandin knows first-hand how to address the issues and misconceptions in modern day society towards autism.
“Autism is a big spectrum, you know Einstein had a speech delay at age three. He would be considered autistic today,” said Grandin. “Often times it is very difficult for teachers to switch gears between the different spectrums. As education students I want you to think about what would happen to little Albert today. Would he be addicted to video games somewhere?”
While exercising witty humor with the crowd, Grandin wanted the audience to seriously consider how our society has viewed people with autism. Her conception of autism as a spectrum set out to educate people that autism is not always so black and white. That the autistic mind is unique to every individual, impacting social skills with one person while math performance with another for example.
Stressing early intervention as being key to Autism treatment, Grandin encouraged parents of autistic children to push out of the comfort zones. “The thing we have to start doing with these kids is begin to stretch them, I am seeing these kids becoming too over sheltered, said Grandin. “I am seeing fully verbal 10-year-olds coming up to me in conferences and a mom does all the talking. All about the stretching. Making choices and being an independent person and going out of one’s comfort zone.”
“My 21-year-old brother Stefano, who was diagnosed with high functioning autism at three would always be in the house, he would never leave,” said Caterina Poletti, freshman special education major. “My family encouraged him that he would have to get out of his comfort zone. So at one point we made him go to the mall with some of my friends and me to get food. With each outing he started learning how to make more friends and how to be active in the community.”
Grandin emphasized children and adults with autism to go out into the world and to not be afraid at taking chances in life. She encouraged everyone to always showcase their talents, and to be proud of their achievements, “Sell your skill, not yourself,” said Grandin. She mentioned building a portfolio to show to companies that are now hiring people in the autism spectrum because of their acute sense for detail.
The professor went into detail how autism can play hand in hand with sensory issues. As with the spectrum analogy, Grandin explained how people in with autism may also have an extreme sensitivity to touch and sound. She encouraged Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) a treatment program that deals with behavioral and sensory issues in autism.
ABA involves methods such as the squeeze machine which uses pressure to relieve touch sensitive children. “I can tell you ABA is not rocket science,” said Grandin. “And trust me I have seen rocket science!”
“My brother was told that he would never be able to read past a three grade level and now he is getting ready to learn how to drive and in process of making a movie with the group he is involved in. He is becoming more than what he was diagnosed to be,” said Poletti.
Photo Credit: Derek Torrellas